Liverpool Football Club has a history and pedigree that deserves respect.
For a long time in the 1970s and ‘80s it was the dominant force in English and European football; its fans were (and remain) among the most passionate in the land and the club conducted itself with class confidence.
But I fear that the likes of Bill Shankley and Bob Paisley will be revolving in their sepulchres at what has happened to their Liverpool.
The Merseysiders have become something of a joke club in recent years – dodgy owners, dodgier managers and consistently proving themselves to be also-rans in the hunt for Champions League places.
After the debacle of the Hicks and Gillett ownership period Liverpool seemed to have settled down under John Henry only to find that now he seems to want to get shot of the club too.
True, Arsenal have not exactly been setting the world alight either in that period. But, unlike Liverpool, we have a darn good excuse: the enforced austerity period resulting from building the best new football stadium in Britain.
Even so, despite having literally nothing to spend on new players and despite the arrival into the Premier League of multi-billionaire sugar daddy owners, we have managed to keep our place at the top table by dint of good management and good housekeeping. Unlike Liverpool.
While we were buying a player like Laurent Koscielny for £8.45m, ‘Pool were forking out £35m for Andy Carroll.
In the five years up to last season Liverpool had a net spend on transfers of £72m. Arsenal made a net profit of nearly £39m. Yet Arsenal made the Champions League spots every year, while Liverpool haven’t graced Europe’s biggest stage since 2007/8.
Fast forward to today and the whole kerfuffle around Arsenal’s attempt to sign Luis Suarez: it illustrates the difference in class between the two clubs.
Suarez is a talented but deeply troubled individual. His cheating is enough on its own to make him disliked by most other supporters, but his racist outburst against Patrice Evra also rankled. I’m sure most right-thinking fans were saying: “Don’t racially abuse the odious little Manc – just chin him!”
Then there was the biting incident, when Luis took a nibble from the shoulder of Chelsea’s defensive rock, Branislav Ivanovic. Now Ivanovic may be a tasty player, but he’s no-one’s idea of a satisfying snack and Suarez’s actions were bizarre to say the least.
But since the season ended the Uruguayan has made it clear he wants to move to a bigger club to get Champions League football.
Liverpool can force him to stay because he has three years left on his contract, but they clearly have an unhappy player on their hands.
To make matters worse, Suarez clearly feels he was given assurances that he would be allowed to leave if (a) Liverpool failed to make the top four and (b) a club who were good enough to be in the Champions League offered over £40m for him.
He probably was given those assurances, but today’s Liverpool don’t seem too interested in keeping promises.
Instead they have reacted to Arsenal’s perfectly legitimate pursuit of the player like spoilt children – and the attitude comes from the very top.
After our first bid (reported as being £35m) John W Henry went public by saying: “What are they smoking at the Emirates?”
Henry is supposed to be an astute businessman. Does he really expect us to start the bidding with our highest offer? But that’s not the real issue. The real issue is one of classlessness.
At the time of the £35m bid, Arsenal had made no public statement about Suarez. We, as always, were conducting our transfer business with class and dignity, keeping matters confidential. This is both good business practice and a mark of respect for the people with whom we’re doing business.
And since Henry (I think we all know what the ‘W’ stands for) opened his trap, David Brent, the Liverpool manager, has barely been able to keep his closed.
From hilariously trying to argue that Suarez is worth £100m just because someone in a newspaper said someone at Tottenham said Gareth Bale was worth that much, to equally hilariously accusing Arsenal of lacking class by bidding £40m+£1, the man has been embarrassing himself on an almost daily basis
(Incidentally, if a bid of more than £40m was required to trigger a release clause for Suarez, what on earth was wrong with bidding the minimum amount above the £40m figure? Clearly £40m is what we think Suarez is worth. The single pound was just a technical mechanism to trigger the release. As we now know, the release clause was based on verbal assurances given to Suarez – and they have since been reneged on by the ‘classy’ Merseysiders, so the whole thing is academic).
Meanwhile, despite repeated questioning from journalists, Arsene Wenger refuses to discuss any details of this transfer attempt or any other.
Personally I hope Henry and Brent get their way and Suarez is forced to stay for a year at a club where he will be desperately unhappy because (as usual) they won’t be serious contenders for the Champions League slots.
Knowing how volatile Suarez is when things are going well, just imagine how bad it’s going to get for ‘Pool as they bumble through the season somewhere just above mid table, with a resentful striker thinking about what might have been. The next person to feel the wrath of his fangs might well turn out to be Brent himself.
No doubt Liverpool fans reading this will want to dish out a load of retaliatory stick. That’s fine. If you avoid expletives and gratuitous abuse Arsenal Arsenal will publish your comments.
But to be honest, I am not anti Liverpool. I actually think you deserve better and I would much rather see Liverpool in the top four than the money-doped oiligarch clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea.
You’ll probably want to tell me that Arsenal have never won the European Cup and Liverpool have won it five times. All true and I doff my cap to you for those achievements.
But you supporters know better than anyone that, year by year, you have been falling further behind on the field of play.
The sad thing is that you are also falling behind OFF the field of play and your club’s management and owners could do a lot worse than take a long look at Arsenal and see how a classy club is really run.