Liverpool Mailbag: Reassessing LFC’s Top-Four Prospects, Racial Bias at Anfield and Balotelli Being Balotelli

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Liverpool Mailbag: Reassessing LFC's Top-Four Prospects, Racial Bias at Anfield and Balotelli Being BalotelliHello again, folks. It’s time for another Liverpool Mailbag. There is no need to beat around the bush on this one, so let?s get into it.

Liverpool hasn’t put a dominant foot forward in the Top 4 so far this season. Jordan Henderson has been rather disappointing and Stewart Downing hasn’t been much of a consistent player. Gerrard is finally back, albeit still a little weak, and Johnson is right around the corner. In reality, do you think that Liverpool has a chance to grab some silverware this season and make it into the Champions League?
— Ryan Friend, Darien, Conn. 

Ryan, it was always a little uncomfortable for me to answer this at the outset of the season, but things are starting to become clearer. The beauty of the English Premier League is that after a certain amount of games -? nine or ten — you have a good idea of the kind of team you’re watching.

Liverpool is some way off from being a championship contender, but is well positioned to finish in the top four. I say that because I don’t see any great teams emerging from England so far this season. In fact, I’m seeing serious issues pop up with all the top teams.

Liverpool has its own problems, but has enough quality in depth and depth of quality to paper over those cracks and compete with any team on any day.

This team has a solid base of talent on top of which Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli can build.  A lot will depend on what changes they make to the squad in January, but the Reds have as good a shot as any other contender for that top-four finish.

As for the Carling Cup and FA Cup, start looking for hotels around Wembley now. These games are substitutes for European compition. The Reds are taking them seriously and management is not hiding this fact.

Who do you see as potential center backs Liverpool might go after in the January transfer window? Seems to me that the last two league results (giving up late goals to lose 2 points in each match) underlines the need for help at the position. Thanks!
— Chris, Boston, Mass.

Thanks for the question and local support, Chris. I agree that Liverpool needs help at this position. The only problem is that there aren’t too many center backs out there that will raise Liverpool’s level at that position. Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher are good (not great) defenders. Sebastian Coates is projected to reach and surpass their current level in time.

The best in the league over the last decade (I’m thinking John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, etc.) are reaching the end of their days at the top. There are very few in the 24-30 year-old range (in England, at least) that look like they will reach the heights of those that came before them.

But if you want me to speculate, Liverpool should consider making a bid for Gary Cahill. He’s got a lot of games under his belt and is at the age where a move to a top club is the next logical step. Fabio Coloccini could also join for next season’s expected European campaign.

Why is Liverpool the only team in the top 6 without African, American, Asian or some other players except lily whites who can hardly keep the pace with the competition?
— Frank Smalling, Baton Rouge, La.

This is a perfectly valid question, Frank, and I don’t think racial bias exists at Liverpool FC (if that’s what you’re hinting at). I think the makeup of the team is a function of a few factors. 

First, Liverpool has always given young players a chance to make their mark at the club. It just so happens that these young players that come through the academy are local boys (for the most part). That will probably reflect the local population which, forgive me if I’m mistaken, is majority white. I wouldn’t expect too many minorities to progress through “traditional” channels like the academy system, without a special emphasis on recruiting them from local schools and clubs. 

The second factor is the transfer and recruitment policy the club has used in recent years. The players that join the team stem from contacts that directors have. Some address books are heavy with domestic contacts. Others have a more global reach. 

Transfer bosses under previous regimes were well steeped in the Western European and Scandanavian game and you saw many foreigners recruited from professional leagues in the region. 

Because of Comolli’s background in French soccer (and its African connections) and FSG’s hefty financial resources, I think you will see more players coming to Liverpool from the places that I?ll call the “global south” for lack of a better word. 

@NESNSoccer After this weekend, I’m confident in declaring Mario Balloteli the Manny Ramirez of the EPL. What say you?
John Lefrancois Jr, location unknown

Good call, John. I consider Manny to be one of the best hitters in the modern era and a champion.

Balotelli could be one of the greats of his era. He’s certainly got the talent and is used to the spotlight of life at big clubs. He’s actually ahead of Ramirez at this point in his career. 

In terms of antics, he’s miles ahead of Ramirez. I don’t remember all of the examples of “Manny being Manny,” but they seem to pale in comparison to Balotelli’s. 

Regardless of what happened to them off the field, both performed at the highest level on it. This is a comparison to watch for.

That’s all for now. Thanks for the questions and keep them coming. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr/exacta2a

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