A Summer on the Brink

August 3, 2010

Forget Gulliem Balague’s A Season on the Brink that told the incredible story of Rafa’s first season at Liverpool and the Champions League glory that followed. In the past few days Liverpool’s assumed disastrous summer could somehow turn around in an incredible way. The following month, and especially next 10 days may be the most important period in the club’s history for a long time.

Just weeks ago Gerrard and Torres were assumed casualties to the debt and poor season. Then the signing of Joe Cole, followed by quick succession of Gerrard recommitting to the club brought a few of the more optimistic heads out of sand. Now with the news that Insua’s deal has collapsed, Fabio Aurelio resigning, and some Spanish striker named Fernando Torres claiming he is happy at Liverpool the feeling around the club has certainly turned around quickly.

Even more positive news is that at least one bidder is making a serious offer to buy the club. Kenny Huang, known for his sports-related business exploits across the world(including helping to engineer the move of Yao Ming to the NBA) has taken an interest in Liverpool, and is presumably backed strongly by Chinese investors.  Many outlets are reporting Huang has given the Liverpool board a 10 day “take it or leave it” bid. This would allow him time to invest in the club before the closing of the transfer window. There’s been no more telling sign that he is extremely serious than him going straight to RBS to discuss the situation. It sounds hostile, but that may be what it takes to finally force the Americans to lower their valuation of the club.

Kenny Huang, Thanks to Soccernet

It’s hard to get overly optimistic about the situation with the past years of ownership and potential new owners turmoil. I can admit I know nothing except what outlets are reporting about Huang, and he is certainly a businessman and not just a fan, but almost any possible way to replace Hicks & Gillett would be welcomed. Also, it’s certainly far from a done deal. Liverpool have denied any board meetings discussing Huang and the latest developments.

But we do know it’ll be up to the panel of five to deal with the bid(Hicks, Gillett, Broughton, Purslow, and Ayre) and possibly, if reports are to  be believed, five other offers. Whether the bids are a fabricated story to stall or bids that were forced by the aggressiveness of Huang is uncertain, but regardless things are heating up very quickly.

From no left-backs, to two. From no Gerrard and Torres to both. And the dream of H&G out of the club and a new owner with serious ambition and funds taking charge, things are looking up. Many things still have to fall in place, and there is still the precarious month of August to go. As we all know these things change almost hourly, let alone what could change in a month, but for now it’s great to see how things may be shifting in Liverpool’s favor.


Joe Cole arrives, but at what price?

July 21, 2010
The signing of Joe Cole has lifted many Liverpool fans around the world out of the gloom. Despite not making the Champions League, despite the ownership situation, Liverpool have managed to sign one of the more admired players in the Premier League. It could certainly be considered a statement of intent by the club to the fans and to the players, but like many good things there always seem to be a catch.

Cole training (Courtesy of Liverpoolfc.tv)

I’m a big fan of Joe Cole like the majority of fans of the Premier League. His ability to create opportunities and consistently unlock defenses is worth its weight in gold, especially as more and more Premier League teams opt to play with deep, narrow back fours and physically imposing defensive midfielders. An answer to the very restricting tactics is something Liverpool have struggled to find during the Rafalution.

Luis Garcia, who is a cult legend at the club, was that special kind of player. His flair for the dramatic earned him the name King Luis while his inconsistency often overshadowed the plaudits from his magical moments. Chelsea’s new signing Yossi Benayoun played a similar role at the club though he never reached the peaks of Garcia, but nor did he reach the lows.  But as big of moments as those players had they were still very much roleplayers in a squad dominated by Gerrard and later Torres. I believe Joe Cole is a player in a higher quality tier than Yossi and Garcia and with his addition the attacking play is not a burden for just Torres and Gerrard anymore. Add what Liverpool fans saw from Maxi when he began to settle and it’s certainly one of the more intimidating attacking sides Liverpool have put out in a while, and that’s not including the dependable and clutch Dirk Kuyt.

But as I alluded to earlier, there is a catch(or possibly several).

The rumor is Cole will be making around 90,000 pounds a week. As many know Liverpool’s financial situation is not just poor, but approaching  closer and closer to the point of implosion. This 90,000 pounds is not a massive wage for a player of Joe Cole’s quality assuming he has a clean slate in the past nor if the club is in a stable financial state, but neither of those are true in this situation.

He did make 38 appearances last year(many as a sub) which is reasonable at a club like Chelsea when he wasn’t considered a key figure. For reference Lampard had 50, Drogba had 44, Terry had 46, and Yossi had 39 at Liverpool. However if you combine Cole’s total number of appearances in 2006/2007 and 2008/2009 he had just 40. Anything less than 30 starts this season and that 90,000 pound wage is going to look awfully steep and comparisons to Harry Kewell will surface.

Kewell had severe injuries issues at Liverpool

While I’d like to not harp on the salary (you have to spend money to make money after all and an interesting piece by Kuper suggests it helping with winning, too) it’s an issue that can not be overlooked because of the state of the club and the recent selling of Insua(though, oddly Insua was still training at Melwood as of yesterday). Insua had a tough season last year. He was a part of a porous backline and certainly looked behind the speed of the game, most noticeably being caught out of position when the ball was lost. But Insua is still only 21 years old, he’s already been capped for Argentina, and when comparing him to other players in his age group and position not many stack up to his ability. He was an unpolished young foreign left-back thrown into a flat back-four(home and away) in over 40 matches. The learning curve was always going to be very steep.

Just look at another left-back that had a similar situation. Gareth Bale has looked just as overwhelmed at the left-back position as Insua, but was capable of playing another position and had a fantastic season in a higher-up position where there was less defensive responsibility. To expect an entire campaign of impeccable positioning and awareness(especially in a flat back-four away from home) from a 21-year-old is simply asking too much.

Insua looks bound for Italy

But that’s only half the issue and the other part gets us back to Cole. Assuming the transfer goes through Insua is going to Fiorentina for either 3.8m+ incentives or a fee around 5m based on which sources one believes. Hicks and Purslow have stated on numerous occasions that player sells do not go toward the debt but rather into the transfer and wage kitty. Now there can be two views on this:

1) Hicks and Purslow are not telling the truth and Insua was sold because he was viewed as expendable in comparison to the rest of the squad. Never mind that Insua was probably worth around double the rumored price of the transfer.

2) That the money for Insua does go into that kitty.

Let’s assume #2.

As much of an admirer of Joe Cole as I am with the timing of these two deals it looks as if the Insua money went directly toward signing Cole. If we assume it was 5 million pounds for Insua and it’s roughly 5 million for Cole not including incentives or a signing bonus it’s almost a swap. That sounds nice looking at it(Insua for Cole), though remember Insua has his whole career ahead of him and he could have been sold for much more now and possibly even more later if he continued to improve.

But finances and a lack of left-backs aren’t the only reason I’m not jumping through the roof over the signing.

It’s tough to understand why purchasing Cole was worthy of selling the team’s only current first-team left-back and one of its brightest players for the future in exchange for a player that adds a higher quality to an area of the field that has some semblance of depth.

There’s no mistaking that players like Gerrard and Carragher are excited to see a quality addition like Cole to the squad. I’m sure their trip to South Africa together played a big part in him signing with Liverpool. Torres must like the addition as well. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a smooth transition.

Joe Cole has made it clear in the past that he wants to play in the center behind the striker(s). He feels its his best position and it certainly had to play a role in deciding what club he signed for. Unfortunately,  Steven Gerrard and Aquilani thrive in that same spot. Assuming Gerrard stays(which he has recently stated he would) I think it would be madness to separate him from Torres(again, assuming he stays). That leaves Joe Cole on the left where Liverpool currently have Babel, Jovanovic, and Reira. That’s not to say Cole isn’t a quality above those players, he obviously is. I personally  don’t have too much faith in Babel or Reira, but at least they are warm bodies and already on the book.

Now if Cole were to play in his preferred position Gerrard would then need to be moved. Two spots would be available and that’s on the right and in the central midfield pairing. Benitez got arguably the best season out of Gerrard from the right, but it seemed like every week there was discontent about his role by a number of sources including Gerrard. Plus Kuyt and Maxi both are more than capable in that area of the field.

The other solution would be to move Gerrard into a central midfield pairing. This especially worries me.

Gerrard is a special, special player. There are very few that I put in his elite category, but his casual tactical discipline and ambitious play on the ball are not ideal for a central midfielder.

And that’s not even mentioning Aquilani. A lot of money was spent on Alberto and he will most likely slip even further down the pecking order with the arrival of Cole.

Hodgson has quite the task ahead of him

I do want to make it clear that I think Cole signing is a great statement of intent by the club. I’ve always wanted to see a player with the skill-set of Cole at Liverpool. The issue comes with looking at the current financial situation of the club combined with the other issues plaguing the squad.

Left-backs are an absolute must buy as soon as possible. Remember Liverpool only have a few friendlies left, and the club is already operating on a short schedule because of the World Cup and the Europa League qualifier. Another striker must also be considered, and possibly a midfielder if Mascherano goes.

Assuming a quality left-back is brought in and the rest of the team is held together the squad does look very capable of retaking a spot in the top four. But this Cole signing must only be the first step in the process of squad rebuilding and not one of the final phases. I would have been ecstatic if the news of the signing happened after a left-back was signed. When I look back I hope the timing is the only thing that prevented me from being overjoyed, and that there were sufficient reinforcements waiting in the wings.

I know there is a plan. It would be naive of me to assume there wasn’t one. I’m just wondering if the plan was made by the manager or the man who has no real background in the sport and is trying to attract owners to the club.

But hey, at the very least he won’t be scoring against Liverpool anymore.

Kop Talk: Yeah, Royyyyy!

July 5, 2010

(Pardon my absence,  folks: I’ve been mourning the heart-stomping defeat of Ghana. But, I’m back now. You can step away from the ledge.)

Like the lot of you, the World Cup has consumed most of my being since June 11. After a slow start to the tournament, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that it hasn’t turned into one of the most exhilarating World Cups in a while. That said, it’s been easy to get wrapped up in all the drama in South Africa and forget about the non-World Cup side of football.

But despite all the international excitement, it’s hard to ignore the headline, “Roy Hodgson takes over at Anfield,” which is why it’s more than necessary I squeeze a Kop Talk in amidst all the World Cup fever.

When the rumors were swirling around that Mr. Hodgson may replace Rafa Benitez at the helm of Liverpool, I was skeptical. Even when it became official I still wasn’t sure he was the right man for the job, and here’s why.

I was afraid the signing was largely based on Hodgson’s dream run with Fulham this past year to the Europa League finals. While I’d never shake a stick at a run to a European final, I was of the opinion that Fulham’s journey there seemed so spectacular in light of their own expectations.

When Liverpool were in the semi-finals of the same tournament, most of the Reds’ faithful were shrugging and saying, “We’ll win this thing – though, we should still be in the Champions League.” That’s because a mammoth club like Liverpool expects that much. It seemed that Fulham, inversely, were stoked to to be there because, no disrespect, they’re a much less prestigious club that doesn’t find themselves in European football too often.

I was afraid that Europa League run wasn’t at all expected, so it seemed dazzling in the eyes of the Fulham faithful and the managerial staff at Liverpool alike. I was afraid the run was being overrated and thus too was Hodgson.

However, after hearing his initial interview as front man at the club, I’ve not only calmed down quite a bit, I’m actually excited to have Roy at the reins. One of the most admirable things about Hodgson is he brings no smoke and mirrors with him. He can always be counted to save the excuses and deliver his honest opinion. Surely this approach can help address some of the teams more pressing problems and get ‘Pool back to their deserved pedestal.

When interviewed, he didn’t showcase some forced, phony abundance of excitement to be appointed Liverpool boss. Not that he isn’t thrilled to be there, but it’s Roy Hodgson – he’s been around the game for a couple years and knows he has a lot of work ahead of him. Instead, he focused on being up front. He called upon the fans to support him in a harmonious effort to get their Reds back to the top of English football.

Maybe most importantly, King Roy (too early?) proclaimed the first item on his long agenda is to keep two guys around you may have heard of – Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. If that doesn’t get the Liverpool masses behind the man, I’m not sure what will. Granted, a lot of work will have to be done to keep the two superstars, but it’s nice to see where his priorities lie.

He’s also already started glancing his way around the transfer market to shore up some holes in the squad that may have been responsible for the team’s seventh place finish last year.

The most calming thing about appointing Hodgson may be his resume. He’s been in the managing business for years and brings an abundance of experience with him to Anfield. While at Fulham, he rescued the Cottagers from certain relegation. The following year he brought them to seventh position on the table and into European competition. And this past year coached them through to the Europa League finals in a season that was highlighted with some high-profile wins including a 3-1 victory of his now very own Liverpool (and 4-1 over Juventus and 3-0 over United, anyone?).

If nothing else, I foresee Hodgson’s experience will provide a stabilizing force at Liverpool, which is something the club needs. Even if the current of the transfer market doesn’t flow our way this summer, I still can’t see Hodgson doing any worse than Benitez last year. I’m not shooting for a “on par with Rafa” year – I think few are – but I think things will only go up with the seasoned Hodgson.

As I put it, I’m completely swept away with World Cup fever; however, I can’t wait for that first kick of the ball in August to not only see how Roy Hodgson fairs as a Liverpool man, but to see what familiar faces are left in the squad.

Until next time, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Kop Talk: Mr. Benitez, are you walking out that door? – By: Julian Kersh

May 17, 2010

With a daunting summer ahead of myself and other Liverpool FC supporters, I reflect.

You see, I have to reflect because I’m far too stubborn and optimistic when it comes to my Reds. My reflection, on the other hand, will tell me straight up, and that handsome guy staring back at me is telling me Benitez is out, and not just him.

At this point, not even Pepe Reina could save Benitez. See what I did there? Rafa had a train wreck of a year. After falling two points short of that long awaited EPL title last year, he quickly found himself trying to keep his head above water when his main goal became securing a spot in the Champion’s League.

Three positions later, he finished up the season in seventh position, the club’s worst finish since 1999. Even worse, the Red’s coach couldn’t help but be red-faced after he calmly and consistently guaranteed a fourth place finish when things were looking grim.

And for me, that’s not even the sealer. I really see him going out the door because he looked bored on the sidelines in the second half of the season. If he weren’t sitting across from Sir Alex, Ancelotti, Wenger, Mancini or Moyes, he looked bored – like he wouldn’t give two shits about the result if it didn’t have an effect on his job.

It doesn’t help that he’s linked with a new job every week. Since late 2009 reports have seen him linked to Juventus, and since Real Madrid and Inter Milan’s names have come up. It looks very plausible that Jose Mourinho will end up taking over the disappointing Real (which is why the Inter spot is rumored to be open), but that still leaves the Juve spot.

Will it comes down to finances? Possibly. Having lost some 54 million this season and already staring down another 350 million in debt, LFC may not be able to afford a new coach. But if Benitez walks away rather than waiting on the axe to fall, we could see a new man sitting in Anfield’s throne.

I’d just hope Benitez has the decency to walk away. I’m sure he almost knows for sure where he’ll be next year, and knowing the financial state of the club, and if he has any more care for its wellbeing, surely he’d walk away and not force LFC to pay him the rest of the contract if they’re forced to fire him.

I like Benitez – always have. I like having a Spaniard over on the sideline in a league managed mainly by a gang of United Kingdomers and Italians. I like his gestures. He has particular favorite of mine where he extends an arm toward the pitch and seems to be stirring some sort of stew with four fingers. I like that he’s always scribbling notes. I mean, for all I know they say “I hope I can make it home to catch the new ‘Inbetweeners’” or “Rafa, I bet you we concede a stoppage time goal… I’m not taking that one,” but I still like that quality in him. Heck, I even like his goatee.

Where does that leave me? I’m not really sure how I feel about it. Why am I writing this then? That’s a fair question – I suppose it’s a way of airing my concerns and venting a bit. I think this is where I lie: Even though on many occasion I’ve looked into ordering an “In Rafa We Trust” T-shirt, I wouldn’t hate seeing Mr. Benitez leaving Anfield. It’d be a bittersweet departure, but I’d wish his the best with the next club he manages.

For me, I just think the Reds are in need of a radical change, and the best place to do that is in the manager’s seat, because I don’t want to see any of our boys leaving – which I’ll get to next time around.

Until next time, crack yourself a Carlsberg.

(PS – A long overdue revision to previous Kop Talk: “It’s Easy Being a Liverpool Fan” is in order. Remember when Yossi Benayoun’s goal was disallowed at Atlético Madrid when he was ruled offside on an undeniably incorrect call? I most certainly do. I don’t know which reason is more responsible for me remembering. Was it because I immediately jotted the incident down knowing its significance, or because that moment still wakes me in the middle of the night in a cold sweat? Whichever, that blatantly awful call kept us out of the Europa League final – a shot at a piece of silverware that could have changed the look of next year’s squad more than we’ll never know. Yep, it’s easy all right.)

Kop Talk: “It’s Easy Being a Liverpool Fan” – By: Julian Kersh

April 23, 2010

A few times in recent months, that damn phrase has come up to me… “It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

I’ve had friends report some barely casual Manchester United fan (or guy in a Manchester United jersey) throwing the accusation toward them while reaching for another Busch Lite. And I, myself, had a run-in with those meaningless words one day in the least likely of places from the least likely of people – the Department of Communication and Journalism parking lot on campus from a Fulham fan.

I noticed the FFC sticker on the guy’s car and made the mistake of trying to strike up a causal conversation about the EPL, since those opportunities are pretty rare in Auburn, AL. As soon as he uttered those words, I was ready to put a brick through that back windshield of his.

“It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

I wonder where people come up with this assumption, especially those who clearly show little to zero consistent attention to the English Premier League. I’ll grant you, maybe if this were the mid-80s I could stomach such comments with cocky laugh and a “Jog on!” but not now…

What exactly makes it so easy to be an LFC supporter? That’s an honest question. I’m not being rhetorical. If you have an answer, please, leave it below! Barring our Champion’s League trophy of 2005, where’s the success? I’m not shaking a stick at the 2006 FA Cup, but that certainly wasn’t what we were aiming for that year. So again, show me what makes it so easy to wear my Gerrard jersey under my work shirt on game days and my LFC dress socks that stick out of my tennis shoes.

The club has seen more than its fair share of success during its 118 years, but I’m puzzled as to what makes life easy for a modern Liverpool FC fan, especially this season. Let’s look back at what’s unraveled during the 2009-2010 season that’s been all green pastures and pink cupcakes for our boys in Red… allegedly.

– Third game of the season we lose 1-3 to Aston Villa. It was a sign of a rough year, because if you could have been able to watch the game but see none of the goals, you’d expect the opposite scoreline. Lucas scores an own goal in the 34th to get them ahead. The game ends with Liverpool on 70 percent of possession and three times the shots of Villa. We hit the post, did everything we could, but it was one of those nights (and foreshadowing of the season’s motif) that no matter what we did, we’d come up short.

“It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

– We lose to Sunderland 1-0 because Darren Bent strikes a beach ball for the goal. No, I’m not saying he scored off a delicate, floating shot. He literally struck a beach ball with his shot and the deflection caromed past Reina into the net.

“It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

– Let’s hop over to the Champion’s League. We concede not one, not two, but three 90th+ minute goals in the group stage. Two of those grab wins for Fiorentina and Lyon at Anfield, and the second by Lyon steals them a tie in France. Gooooooooooood morning, Europa League!

“It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

– Are you an LFC fan? Love conceding stoppage time goals? Stoke City scores a 90th minute goal in their home stadium Jan.16 to steal our points, making it a draw and setting up low confidence for away games.

“It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

– In keeping with 90th-minute fun for the Reds, we give up a penalty in the 90th minute in the FA Cup to Reading. They of course convert and equalize, and go ahead in overtime to advance.

“It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

– Arsenal game ends in a 1-2 loss. It was very tough and could have gone either way if replayed. But that’s before you factor in Cesc Fabregas’ BLATANT handball in the dying minute. The result should have been a red card, potentially a penalty, and if nothing else, Stevie G is firing on frame from exactly 18 yards out. What was the actual result? Nothing, no call on one of the clearest hand balls of the season.

“It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

– Aquilani, who has shown promising intelligence and attacking flare the few times he’s been able to step on the pitch with 100 percent fitness, has been injured and ill the entire season, never giving him a consistent streak of time to get settled in. $30 million has sat on the bench.

“It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

– And the easiest part of our season! Injuries to Benayoun, Aurelio, Skrtl, Insua, Johnson, Gerrard and Torres. At least five of them are regular starters. What was Torres’ form when he wasn’t battling injury? When he came back for his first game since early January to battle the Rovers on February 28, he scored the first of eight goals in seven games before he went out with injury again. Even prior to his severe injury in January, El Niño was hindered from top form by nagging ailments.

“It’s easy being a Liverpool fan.”

(Oh, let’s keep an eye on Benayoun’s alleged offside against Atlético Madrid and see if it comes back to keep the Reds out of the Europa League final. He was onside by a good two steps when the player’s foot touches the ball to play him through, and the assistant took his sweet time deciding to make the incorrect call.

“It’s easy being…” Eh, you get it by now.)

With our finances seemingly stabilized for the time being (at least headed on the right track now), the future looks bright. I’m confident the two stars of Anfield will stay in the rightful home, and the Reds will be back battling for multiple trophies next year.

You could tell me to stop whining and say, “That’s football.” Sometimes you have a bad run. Sometimes the goal seems to be six inches smaller for your team. But when you look at everything that has gone against Liverpool this season, it’s more than just “football.” I’ll be the first to admit we’ve put together some ghastly performances, but between the numerous injuries, stoppage time goals, crucial moments falling the other way and beach balls, it’s certainly not easy being a modern Liverpool fan.

Kop Talk: Are the Reds losing the faith? – By: Julian Kersh

April 8, 2010

This past week seems to be one of, if not the, lowest points in Liverpool’s season. Forget the deflation in the camp after an unprecedented drop-out in the Champions League group stage. And don’t even mention Reading, I repeat, Reading reducing our silver ware hopes to a lone glimmer when they knocked us out of the FA Cup.

This week has been the deepest, darkest pits for Liverpool’s morale.

Let’s flash back to the weekend when Liverpool drew 1-1 at Birmingham City. That’s a fine result on its own, but in light of their quest for Champions League qualification, it was like a shotgun blast to their knees.

Somehow, the score line wasn’t the must gut-wrenching part of the fixture.

When Mr. Benitez decided to pull Fernando Torres off the pitch in the 60th minute, everyone scratched their head, including Steven Gerrard. No, literally – he did.

Torres was confused, Gerrard was confused, and the Liverpool faithful were confused.

Now, I could dedicate an entire post to that moment and want it meant for the game, but I’ll try to keep it short.

I’ve read arguments that David Ngog coming on provided fresh legs that opened up our game, and we consequently turned up the pressure on Birmingham. But two of his clear cut chances came from him waiting on brilliant balls into the box. His legs had nothing to do with them, and nine times out of 10, you’d fancy Torres to stick them in the back of the ole onion bag.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The boost that comes to the squad when El Niño is on the pitch is something that irreplaceable, and certainly can’t be replicated by Ngog trotting onto the field (Disclaimer: I don’t dislike Ngog. I think he’s a young guy who has shown some very positive things, and I’m eager to see him develop over the next couple of seasons, but El Niño he is not, and never will be). Whether fit or not, playing at the top of his game or whiffing balls, he still raises the confidence of the Reds around him. Hell, I feel more confident about myself watching the game from my couch with Fernando on the pitch.

When you’re in a must-win situation, I just find it hard to justify pulling off who I believe to be one of the top three strikers in the world at the 60th minute mark when he’s showing no signs of injury.

After that decision, I think Rafa should sit down with Bruce Arena, and he can pat that moron on the back for his brilliant decision to come out against Ghana in a 4-5-1 during the 2006 World Cup when they absolutely had to leave the grounds with three points.

As denting as this was to the team psyche, now the articles are popping up with the team admitting their doubts.

Torres is admitting the summer sales of his fellow Spaniards Xavi Alonso and Arbeloa crippled the team mentally. He’s also saying, in a roundabout way, that his team isn’t good enough and new signings are a necessity for success next year.

Now if I haven’t heard two things more boosting to team morale! What fabulous indications of the atmosphere around the training grounds!

Even worse, and much worse, mind you, is Rafa Benitez backing these statements! Yes, Rafa is supporting comments about his squad not being good enough and the summer transfers hurting the team. He’s not only backing Torres in these comments, but he’s admitting his own faults!

This is unheard of, and is either signs of the fall of LFC, or of the Apocalypse. Wait, those are one in the same, aren’t they?

Rafa never let’s his deflector shield down. He’s always shields up. Until last week, he was still guaranteeing fourth spot. He’s always guaranteeing results and sticking to his guns on questionable line-up decisions.

This stubbornness, while annoying at times, is actually comforting, I’ve come to realize. It must be great, as a player, to have a boss like that who, no matter how he really feels, will never show signs of discouragement or lack of faith in his guys.

So for Rafa to pop up this week with this bleak outlook and negative reflection of his own career at Anfield, it’s truly saddening.

It’s particularly sad when he admits to banking on signing talent over the summer, but he also admits the funds aren’t there for such enlistments. Well, that said, I’m glad we decided to turn down a $110 million investment at the beginning of the week.

Maybe Benitez is siding with Torres on these issues to improve their relationship, to be buddy-buddy with the world-class forward in attempts to do anything possible to boost chances of him sticking around at Anfield.

I hope that’s the case, because to see the boys losing confidence at this stage in the season is going to close the door on that tiny glimmer of hope they hold in their hands.

I’m still not conceding fourth spot for them, and I’ll tell you exactly why next week.

Why next week? Because I’m tired of typing, reflecting on the week has depressed me for the moment, and I will have saved myself a lot of work if Clint Dempsey and Fulham find some way to steal a result at Anfield on Sunday.

Until then, you’ll never walk alone.