HomeFeatured ArticlesKonoplyanka Madness Proof Liverpool Missing Transfer Plan

Konoplyanka Madness Proof Liverpool Missing Transfer Plan

As Brendan Rodgers takes the podium for the post-match presser after Sunday’s clash with West Brom, he’ll know what’s in store for him and he’ll be ready to handle it.  We’ll get the thin smile with sparkling white veneers as he patiently explains just how hard the club worked to bring in the right players but they just couldn’t be had at this time.  It’s a difficult window, you see, and as much as the club would have loved to strengthen, the right quality just couldn’t be brought aboard.

Konoplyanka Madness

He’ll go through this routine because he’s a good company man, because he sees the value in showing a unified front, even when there is dissent rippling behind the curtains.  Because blasting upper management for yet another mishandled transfer window (definitely the second, arguably the third out of his four at the club) won’t help the players win matches.  Because it certainly won’t win him any favours when he sits down to discuss a new contract this coming summer.

Maybe that will be the time he makes his play.  When he’s able to show how a lack of squad depth has handicapped his side’s progress for a second consecutive season.  That turning to the bench and seeing Jordan Rossiter and Brad Smith makes earning a Champions League place a minor miracle (no disrespect intended to the up and coming youngsters).  That the lessons of summer 2012 being forgotten means he needs full control at the helm of the Big Red Ship.

Working in Rodgers’s favour, the court of public opinion has overwhelmingly ruled that the fall man here is none other than Ian Ayre.  Ayre was the club’s man on the ground in Ukraine, of course, but he’s also a man forever incapable of earning total trust from his fellow Liverpudlians.  Such is the price for breaking bread with the club’s criminal former owners.  Indeed, at this moment there are youtube parodies ruing his failed expedition (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwDL7VQ30Z8) and his Wikipedia entry notes he carries a degree in “How Not to Negotiate.”

The problem, as I see it, isn’t that Ayre lacks skills as a negotiator, his catalogue of commercial partnerships is impressive for any club executive.  The problem is that the world of football transfers is not, actually, governed by the same rules as the business world.  To wit, I don’t believe Liverpool’s recent agreement with Dunkin’ Donuts was furiously slapped together ahead of a totally arbitrary 11pm deadline while real and fake reporters tweeted out real and fake updates.

Really though, the failure to sign Konoplyanka is not why Ayre should be restricted to negotiating strictly on the commercial side of operations.  The fact that a stubborn billionaire’s refusal to sign a piece of paper 10 minutes before a deadline could ruin Liverpool’s transfer window is a damning indictment unto itself.  Where was The Plan?

The club, in an effort to learn from the disastrous signings of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing, has been very vocal in how it is selectively choosing transfer targets.  Sometimes this has worked, as we saw last winter.  But how much can one window cover for the errors in three more?  See, that “successful” window had already been labeled necessary atonement for the previous summer.   Then, the Reds effectively set a baseline for negotiations over both Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey before watching Tottenham seal both deals.  The result was Liverpool essentially out of contention for anything before the first leaves hit the ground.  You would have imagined such a bitter lesson would not easily be forgotten, but lessons have clearly not been learned.

The club’s attempts to acquire another top-shelf attacker to complement the existing arsenal date back to last summer and carry a familiar thread through their failures.  Henrik Mkhitaryan ended up signing for Borussia Dortmund at a fee similar to the one Liverpool offered, while Willian headed to Chelsea after Liverpool revealed his price tag.  The Pensioners repeated the trick this winter with Mohamed Salah, swooping in for the Egyptian while Liverpool tried to save a few million pounds.

Now, I’m normally not one to support frivolous spending, but the club’s naiveté is becoming a recurring problem.  Liverpool hasn’t hosted Champions League football in five years now and the truth is that most foreigners find London a more attractive prospective home than Liverpool (sorry Scousers, it’s their loss!).  The Reds, at this stage, actually can’t afford to be so frugal in their transfer dealings if they want to secure targets attracting interest from other major clubs.  It’s as if while the club has been haggling with the bartender, the guy in the Porsche just came in, bought the girl a drink, and took her home.

At some point, you imagine Rodgers will grow weary of the club heading home alone every night and demand a greater influence in transfer activities.  The time to do so isn’t right now, however much January’s mistakes may sting.  The real time will be this summer, when the tables will turn and Rodgers will be the one in need of wooing before he puts pen to paper.  Then, he should recall this moment of last-minute insanity as proof that the transfer committee, as currently constructed, is failing in its job of carrying out a Plan of any sort.

A fan of all things footy, Matt has written on everything from tactics to socio-cultural aspects of the beautiful game. You can check out more of his work at sites such as InBedWithMaradona and AnfieldAsylum.
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