By Guest Writer Chris Royle.
If anything similar to the last few transfer windows at Liverpool, if Benitez wants to strengthen the squad then he will have to fund any new signings with player sales. This topic always raises the questions at Anfield on who should be sold, which results in the same names being batted about. The likes of Ryan Babel, Lucas Leiva, Phillip Degen, Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun will no doubt be mentioned at possible player who could fund new signings at Liverpool.
Benitez will need to weight up his need to sign new faces with his need to improve on last season dismal performances, however if last season is anything to go on selling can be more detrimental to the team than buying can be.
This time last season after narrowly finishing runner up in the league no one could have envisioned what was about to happen to the team by three departures. The most high profile sale was Xabi Alonso, Benitez’s insistence to pursue the signing of Gareth Barry, for the second summer running, even after arguably Alonso’s best season in a Liverpool shirt was enough to unsettle the Spaniard and inevitably Real Madrid came calling. If loosing a player of Alonso’s calibre, who can dictate the pace of a game and has such a broad passing range is a crucial player in the way a team plays, Benitez needed to have a replacement lined up. In all honestly Benitez didn’t get his number one target, Alberto Aquilani wasn’t Benitez’s first choice replacement for Alonso, Gareth Barry was, but once again due to there being no funds in place for a quick signing to be made, Manchester City stepped in and signed up Barry for £12 million.
Benitez was then left in a difficult situation, after signing Glen Johnson for £17 million, which still to this day every Liverpool fan, is left wondering how this £17 million came out of this end of season budget considering the sale of Robbie Keane, which was not reinvested and also the fact that the majority of the Peter Crouch sale to Portsmouth was written off in the Johnson deal, Benitez was not given the full £35 million but had a much smaller amount to spend on a replacement. Barry would have been ideal; £12 million would have been a much smaller price to pay than the player Benitez opted to bring in. In all honesty if Benitez was asked about mistakes, I think he would put the signing of Alberto Aquilani right up there. Not that the lad is a bad player, he is starting to look like he can play and would offer much more attacking options than Alonso did, but the fact Benitez signed Aquilani to fill the void left by Alonso in the middle of the park and that Benitez signed him knowing that he would be unable to make any sort of impact until midway through October at the earliest was poor judgement. By this time Liverpool were practically out of the hunt for the title and with the team playing poorly Benitez was reluctant to introduce an injury hit new signing into the mix.
In Benitez’s defence, the Italian cost £20m, which is to be paid over a number of seasons and based on appearances so if he doesn’t make it at Liverpool the apparent £20 million paid isn’t close to the figure Liverpool have actually spent on him. However this isn’t a good enough excuse to buy a player who wont be ready to play until half way through a season, surely there was a ready made, fit replacement for Alonso who was ready to step up to the mark and take over from what Alonso achieved at Liverpool.
Lucas Leiva was given the responsibility by Benitez to step into Alonso’s shoes, but he has nowhere near the ability to step up to the plate and act as a replacement for Alonso, sure he is able to step in for a game or two, but to take up the role over a full season, is a difficult ask for a player who was initially bought as an attacking midfielder, similar to the role Aquilani plays. There are only a handful of players who have the ability to play a number of roles, to take an attacking midfielder and ask them to sit back and defend will inevitably result in errors. Despite Lucas’s improvements as a player, he is still not the player needed in the middle of the park on a regular basis over a long season.
The second sale, one of which many reds didn’t see being a problem was allowing Alvaro Arbeloa to leave. The versatile full back was a virtual ever present until Benitez decided he was surplus to requirements. The decision to sign a much more attacking full back in Glen Johnson, based on more emphasis on attacking at home, based on the amount of draws Liverpool racked up the season before, which effectively cost them the title backfired, basically because the one thing Arbeloa offered and the most important thing a defender can is the ability to defend. Sure he made mistakes when he was at Liverpool, but if you balance out the extra goals scored against the goals conceded, which looks better?
The final major outgoing was Sami Hyypia. This in mine and a lot of other people’s opinion was the biggest mistake of last summer, the legendary centre half has been a symbolic figure at Anfield for almost a decade, to allow Hyypia to move on was a poor piece of judgement on Benitez’s part. It can be understandable that Hyypia wanted first team football because quite simply he still has a lot to offer a team, but if you look at the whole picture, with the injuries Liverpool suffered in defence at times this season Sami Hyypia would have played potentially as many if not more games that the previous season. His experience would have undoubtedly prevented a number of goals the team conceded and his presence has been sorely missed. His replacement Sotirios Kyrgiakos albeit a solid defender doesn’t have Hyypia’s presence and sheer defensive skills to match what Hyypia offered when he was in the team. I firmly believe if Hyypia, Alonso and Arbeloa were still in the team then the seventh place finish would not have happened.
What do Liverpool fans think about the players Benitez sold last summer? Did he make a mistake letting those three leave Anfield? Please leave your comments below…
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