Date: 1st September 2009 at 8:22am
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Liverpool are 2 – 0 down to Aston Villa and not looking like they can pull anything out of the hat. At that moment I think back to the line up and subs list read out before the game and try to think of anyone we have in reserve to come on and make an impact. To my dismay Reira is the only name I can pick to be a hero off the bench. The bench that day consisted of Cavalieri (GK), Ayala (CB), Kelly(CB/RB), Dossena (LB), Reira (LM), Babel (LM/S) and Voronin (AM/S).
A second glance at the bench allowed me to think back to Babel’s first season at Liverpool when he was a revelation coming off the bench and changing games. Dossena had his impact moments against Real Madrid and Man U last season with two well taken goals. Besides that we looked pretty short on the ground.

Looking at a potential starting lineup, when everyone is fit, of


Johnson Carrager Skrtel Aurelio



Kuyt Gerrard Yossi


that leaves us with a bench that looks something like:

After making that list I start to reconsider my optimism about our title chances this season. Is this the best we can put out? The answer is yes it is.

An objective analysis of this list reveals that there is actually significant ability, quality and potential on that bench. Ability would refer to Reira and Cavalieri, quality would refer to Agger and potential would refer to Insua and N’gog. I have intentionally left out the controversial Babel, Lucas and Voronin. I think we have debated that issue to death.

In comparison to the subs benches of our closest rivals it is easy to be critical.

Chelsea Man U Arsenal

Hilario Foster Fabianski
Alex Evans Djourou
Ivanovic O’Shea Gibbs
Ballack Anderson Nasri
Zhirkov Giggs Diaby
J. Cole Park Eboue/Wilshere
Kalou Owen Eduardo

Of our rivals it is a close call between Arsenal and Chelsea for the best bench. Chelsea can call on talented and experienced players. Arsenal has quality and pace throughout. A look at the Man U bench though doesn’t fill me with much fear. Man for man it would not rate any better than our bench. They have average players in O’Shea and Park. Anderson is much in the Lucas category of player who has to deliver now or it will be never. Then there is a dodgy keeper and a decent young centre back. On top of that they can call on Giggs and Owen. Both advanced in years but both have the ability to occasionally, or should I say rarely, produce some quality.

It is interesting to note that Chelsea and Arsenal have used two very different approaches to building their respective benches. Chelsea is able to attract and retain top quality players on their bench by paying huge transfer fees and massive salaries. They have a player in Ballack rumoured to be “earning” more than £130,000 per week and another in Zhirkov who cost in the region of £18 Million. Liverpool’s best player and captain actually earns his wage which is somewhere in the same region as Ballack’s and Rafa has been slammed throughout the media for buy a starting (and starring) right back for £17million. Arsenal has used a combination of buying exceptionally talented youngsters for big money and grooming them for their bench and starting line up. Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal since 1996 and is only now bringing in players from the Arsenal youth structures which goes to show the time needed with this approach.

Both approaches have their merits. Chelsea can at anytime call up a player from the bench and know they are getting a proven performer. Arsenal can bring on any player from their bench confident that the player knows their system, plays to their style and is in sync with the team.

Fortunately the championship is not won by the bench. But our depth is a definite concern. Rafa’s youth recruitment drive has been on the go for a few seasons already. So far the only player to make the step up is Insua but I think we can be hopeful for the future with the likes of Nemeth, Pacheco, Plessis, Spearing and Kelly coming through. It is worth remembering how long it has taken for Arsenal to bring through young players. The beauty of the youth policy is that in a few more seasons the players who will come out of the academy and reserves will have been educated to play the football that Rafa wants. They will fit better into the system.

I’m not holding out for us to get to the point where we can pay for big talents to sit on our bench. We passed up the opportunity for Arab money a while ago. Much has been made about Liverpool’s need for a 20 goal a season striker to sit onthe bench. I simply do not believe we can afford to buy and pay a salary for such a player. Man U turned down the opportunity to buy Tevez for that very reason. In fact in the Premier League only Man City and Tottenham are able to name proven quality strikers on their benches. It’s unjustifiable unless you can count on a constant stream of new capital. We shall leave that to the Chelseas, Man Citys and Reals of this world.

So where does that leave Liverpool bid to win number 19 and end Man U’ dominance and charge towards our record number of championships?

For now we must make do with what we have. But will it be enough?


7 responses to “On the Sidelines”

  1. Manny says:

    Liverpool’s first XI are definitely world beaters but as you point out MoKo, the bench is not likely to send shudders through the rest of the Premier League. The bottom line is that we cannot afford to have a decent bench. Chelsea, Man City and to an extent Spurs do have the financial resources to have 16 to 20 quality players in the team.

    If we are to make do with what we have this means Rafa needs to bring in affordable yet decent replacements on the bench. We won’t talk about Babel, Lucas and Voronin because as you say, that has been debated to death! But in my opinion the only decent subs we have are Agger, Insua and Riera, these are players who won’t look out of place starting in a big game. Thats two defenders and a left winger. The biggest problem we have on the bench is that there isn’t a decent striker who can come in for Torres. I know that we can play positional musical chairs and move Kuyt up front, Yossi to the right and Riera to the left, but I would still love to see someone who can just step in for Torres wthout Liverpool having to switch around other personnel. I am very keen to see Pacheco play in the first team for this exact reason. This may be controversial but had we signed Owen I think that would’ve been good business for us. Anyone know where Viduka is? He may be another option.

  2. Ron says:

    I know MoKo will disagree with you there Manny about the need for another striker to cover for Torres as MoKo believes N’gog is good enough for the job.

    I would love to see another quality striker on the bench but truth be told, there are not many strikers who would be willing to sit on the bench knowing that they will NEVER start as long as Torres is fit. JAK (Just Ask Keane!)

    With regards to Pacheco, I want to see him get runs for the first team but he is way behind the pecking order as he is a second striker and not an out and out striker. The man I wanted to see this season was Nemeth but he has now been loaned out to Greece for the season so hopefully he will be a regular there and get some much needed game time.

    There is no denying that our bench is thin but we have to make do with what we have. Let us just hope that we do not suffer any serious injuries this season or else we are f*****!

  3. MoKo says:

    Don’t get me wrong I would welcome a second top notch striker to Liverpool with wide open arms. I just don’t see how it’s possible with our resources. At the same time it’s not a pressing need as we can make a plan as Manny refers to the musical chairs. It’s not ideal but it is a plan.

    I am an advocate for N’gog. I feel he must just develop some more strength and pick up 2 go-to moves he’ll do just fine.

    Babel can also play striker. His pace will always cause problems and though we don’t see it often he is a decent finisher. He must just work on how he receives the ball. He negates all his pace by constantly stopping the ball when he receives it. He must learn to push the ball.

    But in general our bench could be a little better. and the difference isn’t necessarily getting new players in but turning the ones we have into the players we need. A lot of the players on that bench should really be giving more to the team.

  4. Manny says:

    Thats a solid point MoKo, the players on the bench all have the raw talent to be really good players.

    From what I have read about Rafa though, the man is said to be quite good at developing players and one wonders why it is that some of our bench players have just not developed at all.

  5. Drew says:

    When Aquilani comes back, we will still have the same depth, bc Lucas is shite. It’s hard to find players that are willing to sit on the bench for the betterment of the team. I’d prob throw on Spearing and Riera. Babel has been crap so far, Ayala is too yound and defensive. I may think about Voronin. Did well against Villa setting up that goal

  6. MoKo says:

    When i did research for this article I was quite surprised to find that the Man U bench was as “weak” as it is. they don’t have the quality on the bench that Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City can boast but one quality theydo have is they are pretty much all dependable for a decent performance.

    Our bench isn’t able to offer that to Rafa. I don’t think he can ever be sure what he’s gonna get from a sub coming on. One week it will be a match winning performance the next i will be absolutely nothing.

  7. Alex says:

    Greetings to all LFC fans.
    Our bench is not all that impressive compared to that of Chelsea and Man City but is @ par with arsenal and better than man.u. If we have almost the same bench like man u, then how come that they seem to do more with what they have than us?
    I would also prefare to see Spearing instead of Lucas, Jay shd be given chance b4 he changes his mind……..