I must say I don’t mind Liverpool. The City of Liverpool itself is a hallmark, for its history and culture, and the club generally follows this lead. So this Gooner, unlike some others, doesn’t hate them. I cannot really bring myself to hate a club that allowed Sir Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes, or more contemporarily Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk to flourish and prosper. And they denied our good friends a Champions League win before we had the right to call ourselves European Champions.
How Arsenal is today is reminiscent of Liverpool’s state several years ago.
We haven’t been in the top four since 15/16 season, and in this sense are akin to Liverpool c. 2010-2017. In that period, they seldom finished in the top four, bar a late title challenge in 13/14 (where they smashed us 5-1 at Anfield). They also lost a Europa League final in that period, to our own current head coach no less, and were someway behind ourselves, Man United, Man City, Chelsea and even Spurs in some ways.
But they managed to go from 8th under their previous manager Brendan Rodgers, to European Champions and narrowly missing out to Pep and Man City in 18/19. The manner in which they did this is telling, which is why they’re seen as a template.
However, is the comparison – whilst understandable – completely valid? How can we learn from the Anfield Reds? And what from their resurgence can we inculcate in ourselves?
Liverpool like us has an American owner. Fenway Sports Group (FSG), like KSE, is a holding body owning many US and global sports sides.
They, like KSE for us, employ a self-sustaining model, and whilst they have inputted monies into the club, it’s largely to clear debts incurred under the previous owners. Incidentally, they were fellow Americans, in Hicks and Gillett.
The Anfield stand expansion wasn’t bankrolled by them, and neither have their top signings.
What they have provided though is a template for where they want the club to go.
Appointing Klopp, after his spell at Dortmund, was key. He is a world class manager and given his CL win and PL challenge, it definitely has borne fruit.
Liverpool’s revenues are also peaking, and surely in 18/19, only the Manchester clubs will have earned more.
Points to learn
What we can learn is that the owners are ambitious, eager, and have shown the intent to challenge and win.
Are there any caveats?
We should be objective and see that KSE has made positive developments. The appointments of Sanhelli and Mislintat showed a new direction, and whilst Mislintat left we’re supposedly in the hunt for Edu as our new technical director. Our structure is reforming in a good manner, and aligning with Liverpool and Manchester City’s organisations.
And whilst our revenues are depressed due to no CL football, we haven’t incurred the debts that Liverpool did under Hicks and Gillett. There was a severe risk of administration under their tenure, even though they did have some on the pitch success with the 2012 League Cup under legend Sir Kenny, and by reaching the 2007 CL final. FSG arguably, for this reason alone, has had to have more intimate bolstering of the club’s finances than KSE has with us. Kroenke bought into a stable club, which has persisted until the common day. It’s like a person buying a house in good condition. Only the very basic maintenance is required for it to remain viable. Compare that to a house bought with mould, mildew, or cracked doors. More work is clearly needed. FSG bought the Hicks/Gillett debts and have restored their mouldy house to fine condition. KSE’s well-maintained house is still such, though with some minor internal fittings, and a change of housekeeper (or manager).
My view may not be a common one amongst Gooners, though KSE’s work at Arsenal should be appraised in a more balanced manner. However, FSG has made Liverpool the European Champions, with only the league title left as a holy grail.
Much is said of the Coutinho sale to Barcelona, and how the monies received allowed them to buy van Dijk from Southampton.
But what Liverpool has is a template of how they wish to play and compete.
Klopp’s style – heavy metal football – relies on high tempo, energy, good passing, and a strong commitment and mentality.
Signings like Firmino, Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, Robertson, and Allison, all lend to this. Allison is a modern keeper in that he can play adeptly from the back and shot-stop, and along with Ederson at Man City was the best keeper in 18/19.
A clear identity mixing proven quality, emergent talent, and established PL players, has made them European Champions. All of this has come via Klopp and his evident playing philosophy.
Lessons to learn
A clear team identity, with incomings and outgoings facilitating this.
We need the same – and it’s up to KSE and Emery to provide and implement this.
We do have sellable assets.
Bellerin, Holding, Torreira, Leno, Guendouzi, Aubameyang, and Lacazette would be players who could earn money in the market.
Should we sell them? At this point, no. And not without a defined plan and strategy, as Liverpool did with Coutinho.
It’s imperative that if we did sell a top player, we readily identify replacements with the money we receive. If not, then it would worsen us and definitely not make us compete to the level required.
As for fitting a style, well much is said of Emery’s lack of style. Though it is clear that he wants technical players, who are hard-working and can be strong both on and off the ball. We will see if such a style emerges or not in the coming seasons.
Klopp achieved much at Borussia Dortmund. He won the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal (the German FA Cup equivalent), and reached the CL final (losing to Bayern Munich).
He’s also attained heights at Liverpool – with a recent sixth club CL win.
As aforementioned, everyone knows how Klopp plays. Let’s say, given his nationality, that it’s like Rammstein. Heavy-metal, from Germany.
Unai Emery though, contrary to what most think, does have an identity. He made comments that he’s a “chameleon” in that he wants to be adaptable. I find this a bit mixed, in that it seems more reactive than proactive. However, we have seen he is tactically flexible, and this is something required in the contemporary game.
He may not as principled as Klopp, or Wenger was for that matter. But he does have a style, if not as self-evident as other managers.
With knowing who Klopp is and how he manages, Liverpool took him on as a man who was looking to establish himself at a high stage with a global football club. This has given FSG the buy-in to support him, and the emergent vision which is finally paying off now.
Emery is a good fit in the post-Wenger era, in which the club needed a man who could be tactically flexible and bring about a new physical and mental dimension. We’re seeing this in a limited sense, and maybe like with Klopp we need to give Emery time to build his vision and style.
Lessons to learn
Emery needs backing, from both the board and the fans. The EL final and top four bottlings were disappointing, naturally. However, Klopp has been given time to build and we need to give the same to Emery.
The side that beat Spurs in the CL final had a mix of players signed under both Rodgers and Klopp. Though the Klopp signings out-numbered the Rodgers signings, it must be said. Many of the pre-Klopp signings were on the bench, and Henderson was signed by club legend Sir “King” Kenny Dalglish.
For us in the EL final, it was a mix of Emery/Wenger players, though the Emery players were in the minority. Of the starting XI, only Sokratis and Torreira didn’t play under Wenger. All were either signed or introduced under Wenger’s tenure. Guendouzi was on the bench, Lichtsteiner didn’t start, and Leno too was on the bench. Denis Suarez evidently didn’t feature, and he certainly wasn’t a Wenger signing.
Emery does then need to “get in his own players” as it were – and reform the side in his image.
Perhaps only then can we judge him to the fullest capacity.
The newer players have also shown much of the same errors and mental failings as the Wenger signings. That said, Leno, Sokratis, Torreira, and Guendouzi, have been amongst the club’s best performers in the 18/19 season. The best however were Wenger players, like Lacazette, Ramsey and Aubameyang. It’s fair to give Emery another season at least to improve the defence and overall position of the side. In fairness, only faults in the latter part of the season cost us top four and the Europa League.
There are some parallels between Liverpool pre-Klopp and Arsenal now.
Both had lost their way somewhat, and both clubs have large, demanding, and hungry fanbases. Liverpool fans in that era were under no illusions of how far they had sunk, and neither are we now.
Arsenal is closing the gap off the pitch, though on the pitch is another matter.
I feel the biggest lesson we can learn from Liverpool is holding a strategy to compete – and then fulfilling this successfully.
We know we cannot win on the basis of City, or United. So like Sanhelli and Venketasham said in the video, we need to work smart and be proactive.
The building blocks are there – and we just need to hope that the club does have such a plan.
Though if it ends in a CL win in a few years, or even a league title, I’d take it. Well, who wouldn’t amongst us?
Arsenal is reforming, slowly but surely, but the Anfield Reds have shown us lessons we can utilise. Whether Sanhelli, Venteksham, or Emery, can implement them to our own situation remains to be seen.