What a season it’s been with its ups and downs and plot twists – with Liverpool in the middle of it all.
At the beginning of the season that’s where most thought the Reds would be, in the middle of the table mind you – not bringing the tittle challenge to the last day. No one really gave them a chance – not the pundits, not Alex Ferguson and truth be told not even the fans. Nobody gave Liverpool notice. Brendan Rodgers was probably laughed at targeting a Champions League finish. Only the usual suspects had been given any chance. Tottenham being the only club, with their big spending ways, with the potential to break into the top 4.
However, we all know how that played out now don’t we? David Moyes lost the keys, and the plot, to the machine that is the Red Devil’s engine room – I truly do believe that Ferguson is snickering in private somewhere with his own personal legacy intact – Arsenal started with so much promise but just could not last the rigors of the season. Mou and Chelsea were too busy playing footsie with the media and turning Stamford Bridge into a bus park (to increase revenue maybe?) and Spurs who could not find that synergy that it so baldy needed, both on the pitch and off it, were as inconsistent as well….. Spurs.
The Rise of Merseyside
This was the season that Merseyside made the league sit up and watch – both sides Red and Blue. Both Liverpool and Everton going about their business in swashbuckling fashion. Liverpool never brought any star quality before the start of the season. Their greatest success was refusing to budge and keeping Luis Suarez at Anfield. Combining with last season’s January buys Sturridge and Coutinho a scintillating attack partnership was born with Liverpool ending the season with 101 league goals.
Everton building on a defensive base set by Moyes over the last decade gave their own fans something to crow about with Robert Martinez’s brand of football and what is probably the best fullback pairing in Baines and Coleman.
Now that the dust has settled, and Man City emerge as champions – deservedly so for their consistency throughout the season, this has certainly been one which has got Liverpool fans hoping again. It truly has been an emotional season for the Reds with justice for the 96 and their families and the rebirth of that famed brand of pass-and-move football with a Brendan Rodgers mark.
Brendan Rodgers Paves the Way
BR is certainly coming into his own as a manager, both tactically and in a man-management perspective. He’s developed a multi-faceted team that can adapt to a number of systems all within a match – now he just needs to teach them how to defend. With 50 goals shipped in, only Tottenham have let in more in the top 8. Liverpool didn’t quite capitulate at the end of the season… they never could keep a clean sheet all throughout.
In a man-management perspective, the way he’s dealt with cast-offs like Sturridge and Coutinho and turned them into stars, and his handling of the whole Luis Suarez saga has made the Uruguayan not only one of the most feared fowards in the league, but well behaved as well. There’s also the matter of how he’s developed young Raheem Sterling into something much more than a push-and-run player. The boy’s passing ability and movement off-the-ball have improved leaps and bounds. Then there’s Jordan ‘lungs’ Henderson who seems to be the perfect replacement for Dirk Kuyt with his endless running and harassing of opponents.
A Leader in Defence
If there was one thing lacking this season, it was the presence of Jamie Carragher – a true leader on the pitch. He was especially needed during the final run-in when it all fell on the shoulders of Steven Gerrard to rally the team. It’s long been said that while Gerrard was the soul of the team, Carra was the spirit. Not the classiest of defenders, he’s no Vincent Kompany, but he would give his all on the pitch and inspire others to put in that little bit extra. Keep that concentration on.
One player that the Reds have never replaced, that would be Sami Hyppia. The man-mountain was a rock in defence and a true leader. Defensively and tactically sound, he marshaled the defence. At present the Reds only have players who ‘play’ in that position.
While I really do rate Agger, he spends more time in the treatment room than on the pitch. He’s the perfect complement to the defensive general Pool needs but can’t play the role himself. Sakho I think has potential but is prone to lapses in concentration and needs more composure on the ball. Skrtel has gone a long way in proving his MMA credentials – If he’s not grabbing someone he’s wrestling them to the ground. He’s still the most consistent defender they’ve got and that’s saying alot. Toure is well…. Toure and best left talking to the media about his brother.
Thanks and Goodbye
The loaners this season have been a bright spark at the very least – the fact that they won’t be around next season is a relief. Everton has to deal with hanging onto Lukaku, who had a great season for them, or plan for life after him. At Anfield though, the likes of Moses and Cissokho provided nothing more than cover – nothing really missed when they head back to their parent clubs.
On the other hand the Liverpool players out on loan have been doing reasonably well and might just prove to be what the Reds need for next season’s expanded fixture schedule. At Sunderland, Borini has finally discovered that it’s socially acceptable for a striker to score goals while Suso is doing well back in Spain and getting the playing time he needs.
The Future Looks Bright
Right now the signs for the future look good – especially if rumours of Adam Lallana joining Liverpool has any ring of truth to it. As Rebecca Parry from This is Anfield so aptly put, this run has seen ‘players turn into fans’. The emotions that rang through and across the media showed that the players not only wanted to win it for themselves, but they believed in the cause. Not since the 2005 Champions League final have I felt this positive. It’s all about bringing the right people in – please let at least one of them know how to defend – and gel into this swashbuckling team. This is a team that makes people believe and swell with emotion.
This is a team that plays football. I’m proud to say this is MY team. This is the team that won me a bet with a good mate of mine (*ahem* a Man Utd fan) that chose the wrong season to make a wager. She should now be learning the words to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – I’m pretty sure she knows how it goes.