Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

No double may be OK for Liverpool

There will be no need to make any room in the trophy case at Anfield this spring, as Liverpool dropped the FA Cup Final to Chelsea on Saturday, 2-1.

That result may not be the worse thing to happen to the squad in the long run.

Adding a second piece of gaudy silverware this season – Liverpool picked up the Carling Cup back in February – may have blinded the team to the fact that there is still considerable work to be done before the Reds can regain their place as one of England’s Big Four.

Liverpool currently sits ninth in the Premier League table with two games to go. Win those last two and they could reach as high as seventh, well out of a Champions League spot, again, and the much-needed money (an estimated $45 million or more) that comes along with it for next season.

It some ways it would be a bit of a miracle to finish as high as seventh as Liverpool has only won four league matches out of 17 since the calendar flipped to 2012.

“We have been two different teams this season,” Steven Gerrard told The Guardian after Saturday’s defeat. “We haven’t been good enough in the league, and we have done exceptionally well in the cups. We need to find a better level of consistency because there are no excuses for our performances in the league. We have to take responsibility for that. With the players we have in that dressing room, we could have done better. But we are Liverpool. We will bounce back. We will strengthen in the summer and come back fighting again. That’s what Liverpool Football Club does.”

That all sounds good, and it what you would expect to hear from the team’s longtime captain, but is it realistic? If Manchester United can’t compete dollar-for-dollar with Manchester City’s oil money, how can Liverpool expect to? (Although that could just be more gamesmanship from Sir Alex Ferguson).

Principal owner John Henry certainly offers hope. Henry’s Fenway Sports Group (which also owns the Boston Red Sox) bought the club from previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillete when Liverpool was just a day away from entering administration. But Fenway Sports Group doesn’t have bottomless pockets and still face some hard realities.

Anfield only seats 45,000 (compared to Arsenal’s 60,000+ at the Emirates and Manchester United’s 76,000+ at Old Trafford), has fewer of the amenities that lure corporate clients and the city of Liverpool is not exactly London.

Just like Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner, who also owns Premier League side Aston Villa, Henry is starting to have to deal with people who don’t understand the concept of multi-tasking as Henry is facing some criticism as the Red Sox have gotten off to a slow start this season.

“He’s had the appearance of being distracted, absent, focused elsewhere,” Boston Globe columnist told The New York Times in an article a few weeks back.

Where have we heard that before?

To climb back near the top of the table, the club is going to have a do a better job of acquiring players, which is one of the reasons that the club fired Damien Comolli, its director of soccer, a few weeks ago. Comolli oversaw a spending spree of $175 million on players over the past year-and-a-half that clearly hasn’t paid off on the pitch. (A good start would be to not spend $55.8 million on someone like Andy Carroll).

While Liverpool has been linked to Fulham’s Clint Dempsey – and there’s no doubt the Texan looks good in Red – we have to wonder if that would be a case of buying high. Dempsey scored his 17th Premier League goal of the season on Sunday (he has 23 in all competitions) and there is little question his value (and cost) will never be higher.And at age 29, what are the odds that Dempsey will get better over the next four to five years?

With the season coming to a close next weekend, patience seems to be the only course of action.

“The club has had some investment (under Fenway) and it will take time for that to work,” Christian Purslow, the club’s former managing director, said in published reports. “I think everybody’s disappointed with the league performance, but it’s year one. One thing I will say about American owners is the idea that there is some emotional connection is obviously rubbish. It’s an investment game, Liverpool is an investment and the value of that investment will hang largely on two key planks in the strategy they would have put in place when they bought the club.”

Staying patient while a club lays out a long-term plan for success? We know we’ve heard that one before.

We just don’t know how we keep finding ourselves in those situations as a fan.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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