Even with things going relatively well, there's still a few unknowns.
The avalanche of optimism has taken me by surprise---after a season largely spent whining, complaining, and contemplating the merits of nihilism, I fully expected the summer to follow suit. And for a few weeks, it did. Nothing happened on the ownership front, speculation ran wild about the big names leaving, and the club were without a manager after mutually kicking Rafa's ass out the door.
But starting with the appointment of Roy Hodgson, things started to slowly turn for the better. Hodgson got to work retaining the top talent, the club finalized a few buys that were in the works prior to his arrival (including the capture of Danny Wilson), Joe Cole arrived, Fabio Aurelio re-signed, the deal for Emiliano Insua fell through, and, in news that shouldn't have been news, both Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres committed their futures to Liverpool. All this was followed closely by reports that there were no less than five or six serious bidders for the club. In a matter of weeks, everything seemed to be righting itself, and it only got better with confident and flashy displays against an admittedly overmatched Rabotnicki side in the opening round of Liverpool's Europa League campaign.
If we learned anything last season as Liverpool fans, though, it's that things are rarely as simple as they seem. So the optimism and positivity are more than welcome---I've barely got two feet on the ground ahead of the league opener. But there's also a good chunk of business that needs dealing with in both the short- and long-term, and it's got to be seen as a little worrisome.
I hope this isn't seen as more fear-mongering; rather, I think these are importnant (if not obvious) questions that the club will be facing in the coming season. If you disagree, or, even better, have an answer, let me know.
In no particular order:
1) What's going to happen with ownership?
As noted, plenty of rumored bidders, all on the spectrum of shady (ranging from "quiet guy in the corner at Starbucks shady" to "watching you sleep in a dark room while wearing only tighty-whities shady"). The implications of who buys and for how much are going to reach far beyond the boardroom, and hopefully return the attention back to the pitch. Oh, and hopefully they're not in cahoots with H/G.
2) What's going to happen with the personnel in squad?
Mascherano wants away, Christian POULSEN (thanks Grubb) is rumored to be joining soon, and the big names have committed to the club for now. If they're able to string together decent results from now until January, it'll be interesting to see if any additions are made on the heels of an expected change in ownership. At present Liverpool almost seem deep, and an injection of cash could shake things up. And there's plenty of young talent, too, in addition to those that might be pushed out of the first team. Keeping everyone happy would be a nice problem to have, but potentially a problem nonetheless.
3) What will "Roy Hodgson's Liverpool" look like?
We know he's an ardent 4-4-2 man, and so far he hasn't strayed far from that formula. The 4-4-1-1 with Joe Cole just off a striker is the best for my money, but there's also plenty of adaptability in the side, particularly from the midfield forward. More than anything, my hope is the Hodgson's Liverpool will play a passionate brand of football---they don't need to be Arsenal or Barcelona or Shaolin Soccer. They just need to act like they give a shit, and do so consistently. A few wins wouldn't hurt either.
4) Is Peter Brukner a wizard?
Silly question for a very serious topic. As it stands, Liverpool's attack relies on two very talented, very gifted, very injury-prone forward men. Joe Cole's no stranger to the training room, and Fernando Torres has been frustrated by one injury after another in the past year. There's also problems for Steven Gerrard, Fabio Aurelio, Daniel Agger, and Alberto Aquilani, among others, that'll need constant attention. If Brukner keeps the squad near something resembling full fitness, it'd have to be classified as a success.
5) Can the football make Liverpool relevant again?
Maybe harsh, but I'd be lying if I said I believed Liverpool were a club who's been known for their on-pitch action in the past year. The failures, yes. But the calamity in the board room, the rumors about everyone wanting away, the Rafa Benitez mutually consensual firing---it's all made Liverpool into a soap opera where the football is secondary. With some sort of respite on the horizon for many of the off-pitch struggles, it's going to be up to the staff and the squad on the pitch to turn attentions to the true purpose, which is working their way towards another title. The title might not happen this year, but they can do plenty of work towards respectability regardless.
There's likely to be many more before season's end---there's probably plenty that will arise before season's beginning. But for me, if Liverpool can have some sort of workable solution to each of the above, they're headed in the right direction.