Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Seeing Red. Liverpool post-loss to Newcastle United.

From "why always me" to "what else can I do when I do not get the ball where I should?"
This appears in the Monday November 3, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.

Seeing red.
by rick olivares

Agony thy name is Liverpool.

Dangerously low on confidence and sorely lacking in quality, the Reds have succumbed to a 1-nil loss to resurgent Newcastle United at St. James Park last Saturday.

It is unpleasant business calling out a team and taking them to task. More so when you’re asking for the manager’s head. You want to not say that but you try to justify all that by saying, “If this were a business or even the corporate world, then he’d be on the hot seat.” And rightfully and in all honesty, that is where Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is right now.

After 10 league games, his team, after falling short on the final day of the previous season, sits 12 points adrift of the league leader, Chelsea. Worse, they have only accrued 14 points out of a possible 30. They are at seventh place and seemingly in freefall.

In some ways, this year is similar to the 2012-13 season, Rodgers’ first in Anfield, where the team started out with a 2-5-3 record after 10 matches. Forgotten in that miserable campaign was how the Reds flirted with the relegation zone sometime that year. They aren’t there yet as this year, the Reds are 4-2-4. If you root for the club, you hope they don’t because I do not see how they can fight their way out of a hole this year. They have never won or gained a point after falling behind a goal this campaign.

Let’s back track and see how the team fared in Rodgers’ three years:

2012-13 season
Record: 16-13-9
Finish: Seventh place
New players who helped
Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea)
Philippe Coutinho (Internazionale)

New players who were not a factor but still with the club:
Fabio Borini (Roma)
Joe Allen (Swansea)

Key players who left
Dirk Kuyt went to Fenerbahce
Maxi Rodriguez to Newell’s Old Boys

Total expenditures:
Spent close to £48,000,000

2013-14 season
Record: 26-6-6
Finish: second place and qualification for UCL
New players who helped:
Simon Mignolet (Sunderland)
Kolo Toure (Manchester City)
Mamadou Sakho (Paris Saint Germain)

Key player who left:
Jamie Carragher who retired

Total expenditures:
Spent about £54,000,000

2014-15 season

New players in:
Rickie Lambert
Adam Lallana
Dejan Lovren
Emre Can
Lazar Markovic
Divock Origi
Alberto Moreno
Mario Balotelli
Javier Manquillo (loan)

Two biggest losses: Luis Suarez and Daniel Agger
In the doghouse: Luis Enrique and Mamadou Sakho

Total expenditures: a whopping £116,550,000

You’ve spent that much and this is all you have to show? Southampton, who they fleeced for three key players is at second place, four points behind Chelsea. Even Rodgers’ old club, Swansea are atop the Reds, in sixth place at the moment.

During the pre-season, knowing that Luis Suarez was gone, I wondered why didn’t the team try to land players like Angel Di Maria (Argentina and Real Madrid and is now with Manchester United), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain and formerly with Sunderland), or Andres Guardado (PSV Eindhoven), Enner Valencia the Ecuadorian striker who played for Pachuca in Mexico and parlayed a great World Cup stint into a slot with West Ham where he is helping them tremendously.

These are players with motors for legs. With industry and conviction in their pace and heart. Those are qualities sorely lacking in Liverpool. Coutinho, Lallana, and Raheem Sterling have them but they cannot do it alone. The canny Coutinho has power in his boots but needs to be stronger as he is routinely knocked down. Lallana has pace and heart but isn’t a threat. Sterling is a wonderful talent but he is needs more seasoning.

Balotelli does not have the pace and work ethic up front. He’s got a great touch. If Liverpool has Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings in the middle, I have no doubt Balotelli would succeed. But the Reds have no one of Pirlo’s imperiousness at center.

It would be wrong to point to the Italian as the sole culprit for LFC’s troubles. Daniel Sturridge being out for a lengthy spell has contributed to that. His pace and power up front would ease the pressure on Balotelli and Sterling who often find themselves swarmed by defenders with no support. They cannot defend set pieces and the back four remains in shambles (and you wonder why Daniel Agger was let go when he has been their best defender for years). Furthermore, the team generally hasn’t played well – Jordan Henderson has had no influence in the last couple of games. Joe Allen has one good play in a game but is mostly invisible. And there’s more! They even had trouble beating Queens Park Rangers that is in the relegation zone! Teams, especially Newcastle, have sat deep where they can their defense and disposes Sterling and company of the ball before launching a swift counter for which Liverpool have no answers as well.

It is rather unfortunate that the club will have to look at the transfer window to address their weaknesses. And are the cries of anguish, panic, and for change unrealistic or being pessimistic? Real Madrid is on deck with Chelsea and old foe, Jose Mourinho are salivating in the wings (never mind if the match is at Anfield that hasn’t been a fortress at all this season). I hope for the best but also expect the worst. All we have seen are glimmers of hope. But they have been flashes and nothing more than that. Is it fair to demand consistency?

Yes, it is unpleasant to point it out. If Balotelli is going to be sent away in the transfer window then the onus is on Rodgers to for a top four finish. Anything less then it’s time for a change. Three years and a whole lot of money is more than enough.

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