22 August 2015

Open letter to Liverpool (Scousers, Liverputians, Mugsmashers, what have you...)

Hey, Liverputians! Your season is off to a smashing start, what with those swaggering wins over Stoke and Bournemouth sending you top of the table already. It's a sterling opportunity, I'm sure, for you to rise to historic levels of greatness not seen since the early 1990s. To let the opportunity slip would bite, I'm sure. It's early days, of course, what with just two results under our belts, but it's not too early to make a meal out of our meeting on Monday. Let's face facts, though, shall we? We're both once-great clubs perhaps more obsessed with history than we are satisfied with the present. With that in mind, we each have an early opportunity to send a signal of intent regarding our ambitions in the Prem. Let's get to it, shall we?

Now, I'll admit right off that I'm not sure what to make of your ambitions of late. Are you Tottenham 2.0, willing to spend and spend to little effect? Recent history suggests as much. The parallels are strong, after all. They sold Bale and reinvested vigorously; you sold Suárez and did the same. Neither of you reaped the harvest, sad to say. Trust me when I say that I understand what it's like to be forced to sell a talisman. Been there, done that. For a while there, it seemed like you might join the ranks of Chelsea or Man City in your rapaciousness, seeming to snatch up almost any player on the market. While your purchases of late seem a bit less ambitious on the whole than those of last season, they still pose a potential threat to the current pecking order.

What of that current pecking order? There was a time when one could count on Liverpool finishing in the top four. Are those days gone? We won't mention (except by claiming not to mention it) that period of dominance that seemed to span a generation from the 1970s through the 1980s when you finished first or second an astounding 18 times from 1972 to 1991—a stretch of pure dominance perhaps unparalleled by any other club in modern history. Where did it go wrong, then? We at Arsenal might point to the 1988-89 season when we won the First Division in such dramatic fashion—but that would give short shrift, to put it mildly, to the 96 who were by turns blamed, neglected, and exploited. In the shadow of such tragedy, it would have been more fitting for Liverpool to have won the league and the FA Cup, but history is written by a colder hand than mine.

Maybe it was the formation of the Premier League that signaled Liverpool's slow slide from relevance? Since 1992, after all, you lot have struggled to gain a place in the Prem commensurate with your history. In your place, you've had to watch as Chelsea and Man City have outspent and supplanted you, a role we know a bit about. Look. I know that we each have our own reasons for hating each other. However, the current truth, much as we might be loath to admit it, we've had more in common in recent seasons than either of us might care to admit: selling off key players, even to hated rivals; struggling to challenge in the Prem, watching as clubs with no history outspend us...

Then again, it does seem as if the current transfer-traffic bodes better for Arsenal than for Liverpool. You've had to sell Suárez and Sterling, reinvesting those fees into the likes of Benteke, Firmino, Clyne, Lallana, Lovren, Balotelli, and Can, among others. Meanwhile, we've had to sell van Persie, Nasri, and Fàbregas but have brought in Özil, Alexis and Čech, who more than make up for what they lack in numbers with sheer class.

I won't go so far as to suggest that these dealings signify a final parting of ways for Arsenal and Liverpool, but there is a rift that neither side can deny or ignore. For my part, I'd much rather see Liverpool reclaim some part of its history at the expense of upstarts such as Chelsea or Man City. This is different, you understand, from my saying that I hope you win come Monday. A man has his limits, after all...