Liverpool have been the leading most exponents of premium British talent for the past couple of years now joining the mantle shared by the likes of Manchester United, Aston Villa and Spurs.
They’ve spent expensively on establishing a home-grown core with their squad yet several of their signings have yet to warrant their massive valuations as each has struggled to establish themselves as definite starters.
These individuals – players like Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing – were indispensable at their previous clubs, displaying form that looked as good to watch as it read on the statistical analysis sheets. It’s strange then that their forms rapidly deteriorated as if leaking out onto the paper as they signed their Liverpool contracts.
With all due respect to the former possessors of the three aforementioned players, their respective clubs – whilst sharing a league – do not hope to be chasing the same glories of a side like Liverpool: Blackpool, during their time in the Premiership, were fighting relegation, Villa are also experiencing a period of recovery whilst Sunderland often consider a top 10 finish as a positive season.
Anyone linked with Liverpool – and even those not linked with the club – realise the prestige and history behind it as the most successful club in British history. It’s obvious where Liverpool want to be – up there amongst the Chelseas, Manchester Uniteds and Manchester Citys where they ‘belong’, therefore Liverpool need to be fighting for Premierships, FA Cups and Champion’s League berths. With this in mind, the sheer weight of expectation can cause players, who have yet to contest at this exclusive level, to become anxious having previously never been within this circle. Perceptibly, this seems to be affecting the British players in the Liverpool team who resemble small fish in a big pond which is contrary to what they were prior to joining.
At their previous clubs, these players were their finest; icons in their own right as Steven Gerrard is to the reds – whether it be after years of loyal and productive servitude or born and bred through the youth ranks. There they were appreciated endlessly by everybody associated with their clubs and, whether they endured good or bad games, fans were always full of praise and constructive criticism toward them.
They were huge personalities with massive influence whereas at Liverpool, they now have to start from scratch in appeasing a whole new organisation that doesn’t entirely welcome them. Liverpool acquired these players based on form without considering that what may have seemed a great player with unlimited ability at a smaller club, may not reflect in the same fashion at a club with vastly greater means.
Take Henderson, for example: he galloped around the pitch, chasing down balls and providing a creative spark whilst in the North East. He was great to watch, no doubt helping Sunderland reach their rapidly-increasing status of today. Still, Sunderland, as many domestic clubs do, play a high tempo brand of football that encourages tenacity, directness and wing play. The same can be said of teams like Villa, Blackpool and Andy Carroll’s boyhood club, Newcastle United.
Liverpool aren’t famed for this same trademark, though former boss, Kenny Dalglish, tried to incorporate it more to accommodate their British signings. Liverpool, impacted by many foreign influences over the years, play a far more advanced continental possession-heavy game; a game that none of the British incomers have been made accustom to yet. This same style will only become more dominant within the club now that Rodgers has taken over too.
So many of the Brits, who are graded more on work rate than technical ability, find the difference a bit of a culture shock as they struggle to adapt to type of movement, positional awareness and passing accuracy a team needs to compete amongst the daunting echelons of the top tier of the league.
In the end, Rodgers will have to decide between keeping the faith that these players, who were acquired before his time, will come good or cashing in at a substantial loss in order to continue working on his vision. Currently it seems as if only the British players are being mooted with moves away from the club. It will be interesting to see whether Liverpool continue their structure of buying locally after seeing the result of recent procurements.
image: © kong niffe