Why Alonso has to stay to complete the jigsaw

It will be 20 years this season after Liverpool last won in England’s top league. Rafa Benitez and Liverpool again set out to look for the final few pieces to complete a jigsaw puzzle which has so far eluded them. The question however is where are these pieces coming from? Well here are a couple of ‘pieces’.

New signing Glen Johnson will provide Liverpool with additional width down the right and his penetrative attacking threat will offer Torres and Gerrard improved supply, and Liverpool will be more able to break teams down, a quality that they found difficult at times last season.

The other ‘piece’ is Gerrard and Torres staying fit. The pair were voted in the top 6 players of the world in the recent FIFA awards. When they play together Liverpool will win more often than not. Last season Liverpool remained unbeaten in the 12 games they both started together, winning 9 of them. They’re link up play, quality, ability to change a game and immense talent puts the pair as undoubtedly the most feared front two in the Premiership, if not in Europe. It was disappointing for Liverpool that they were unable to play the two together last year. This season if both remain injury free, then most Premier League defenders will be having sleepless nights.

these pieces be enough to crown Liverpool, the most successful club in the history of British football, Premiership champions in 2010? It should be enough considering their main rivals Manchester United have lost 2 of its attacking threats and the other two in the ‘Big Four’ haven’t strengthened their teams, with Chelsea struggling to keep there captain and Arsenal losing Kolo Toure and striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

Everything seems so simple now. Puzzle completed, is it time to relax and enjoy pre-season? Well it was until Real Madrid came knocking for Xabi Alonso. Alonso was arguably Liverpool’s best player last season, his loss will be like losing the picture for jigsaw, the guidance is lost (I’m keeping the jigsaw theme!). He is Irreplaceable. The special thing about Alonso is the simplicity of his play. The constant passing, receive and pass, receive and pass, all game. 2 yards passes. 50 yards passes. Both with incredible accuracy. His pass completion rate is one of the best in the Premiership.

Alongside Mascherano who is a master at breaking up play, Alonso is perfect in collecting the ball and keeping the play flowing. He has the ability to take control of the game with his ball distribution out wide, or to the front two. He is a goal threat with his shooting, and he is able to start the play from the back; gone are the days of the pre-Alonso era under Gérard Houllier when all Liverpool played was ‘route one’ football.

 The Liverpool team is set up around Alonso’s ball distribution. The structure of the team will be damaged without a suitable replacement, and with only 3-4 weeks left it will be too late to reconstruct the team. If it results in Gerrard dropping back to play in midfield, then we will lose out on his link up play with Torres. Also it has to be questioned how much of the reported transfer fee will go to Benitez for further transfers (so is it a football decision or business decision?) and how much to the £ 350 million debt ridden owners.

The fact that he wasn’t willing to insult the fans by handing in a transfer request shows the strength of his loyalty and respect for the club. Whatever happens, his goal from the half way line against Luton town, his sublime passes and the part he played in that one night in Istanbul means that he will never be forgotten among Liverpool folklore.

If he stays then the Premiership is surely coming back to merseyside; if he leaves Liverpool will struggle to finish in the top 3. When it comes to May will we be listening to the fans screaming out ‘we are the champions’ or James Morrison’s lamenting ’the pieces don’t fit anymore’ to an empty Anfield?

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