TWO games left then: 2014-15, pick the bones out of that, writes CRAIG RIMMER. Liverpool have fallen short of achieving any of their realistic pre-season targets — a resounding failure by most standards — but there must be *some* positives to take from the season… Surely? Possibly? Anyone?
Before a ball was kicked in anger there were two clear objectives for Liverpool. One was to win a trophy of some description — an aim equally important for a club with just one pot in the previous eight seasons and a manager still awaiting his first major honour. The second was Champions League qualification.
There were those, no doubt spurred on by the euphoria of the previous campaign, who resolutely maintained that a tilt at the Premier League title was a realistic ambition. Others suggested we aim for last season’s haul of 84 points and see where the ground lay; safe in the knowledge that a similar total would be enough to secure top four at a bare minimum. For reference, in case you haven’t looked lately, Chelsea have won the league…with 84 points.
Personally, I’m a firm believer that a team should always aim to improve on the previous season’s performance, whether in terms of league position or points.
That instantly became an inexorably more difficult task once shorn of the goals of Luis Suarez and, for the most part of the campaign, Daniel Sturridge (19 appearances and five goals in all competitions). But even still, in the context of a Premier League lacking any real quality, and with the two Manchester clubs genuinely there for the taking, Champions League qualification should have remained the expectation.
Instead, Liverpool will end the season with a minimum of 15 fewer points, almost half the number of goals and probably three positions lower than the previous campaign.
It was great to see Champions League footie return to Anfield, but an early exit from the group stage and similar shortcomings in the Europa League offered little solace.
The domestic cups were more fruitful. A run to the League Cup semi-final really seemed to give the team impetus which, despite the narrow defeat to Chelsea, coincided with the best form of the season. We also returned to Wembley. Although, an anaemic defeat to Villa in the FA Cup semi was probably the single most deflating moment of the campaign.
Those double cup semi defeats and inconsistent league form have predictably left the manager the subject of social media vitriol and his future the focus of intense speculation.
In the manager’s defence are 13 league games unbeaten between December and March. Mid-season form which at one stage looked destined to salvage something from the campaign. During that spell, Rodgers once again proved himself capable of getting the best out of an imperfect squad, and produced an attacking team which briefly hinted at defying an obvious shortfall in the final third.
The tactical switch to a back three got the best out of a number of players and formed the building block around which the team’s improved form was built. Some tactical interventions proved successful — putting Sterling through the middle, Emre Can as a third centre-back and even Lazar Markovic at wing-back for a time.
But too much tactical tinkering from the manager, as well as obvious shortcomings in the transfer market, have ultimately proved to be Liverpool’s downfall this season.
If it has largely been a story of failure as a collective, then equally there are positives to be found on an individual level. Coutinho has really stepped up to the challenge of becoming the team’s go to man. The magical little Brazilian has been terrific on a regular basis, and at 22 he should only get better.
At the back, and despite some early season worries and regular tinkering between back fours and back threes, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho have both had good seasons. Simon Mignolet is a man reborn and arguably Liverpool’s player of the second half of the season. Even Dejan Lovren has shown signs.
Defensively there has undoubtedly been improvement on last season — probably to the detriment of other areas — but Liverpool have enough at the back to say that defensive reinforcements shouldn’t be any kind of priority over the summer.
Jordan Henderson will have benefited from a dummy-run as Liverpool’s new captain elect. Gerrard’s early announcement of his intentions at least gave him a chance to adapt to the idea ahead of the new season. Henderson, as well as Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and others, will only improve with better, more adequate forwards ahead of them.
Elsewhere, the manager has continued to demonstrate that he is willing to give youth a chance. Jordon Ibe has shown plenty, while the likes of Markovic and Can should only benefit from a first full season in the Premier League.
Add goals to what is already in place and there are reasons to be hopeful ahead of next season. The question marks which remain concern only whether the necessary quality will be added to the squad to provide those desperately needed goals
Off the pitch, the momentum is building behind collective fan action, best evidenced by the superbly well-organised boycott of Hull away. Certain elements of the fan base may continue to let us down on occasion, but there is now a growing sense of awareness and momentum that the power-that-be will be unable to ignore for much longer. That may be one of the truly lasting positives to come from the season.
We also finally saw a spade in the ground, with the start of the Main Stand re-build. If only the club could finally wake up and match improvements to the infrastructure of the stadium with some kind of stand on fan issues that go to the heart of modern football — i.e. ticket pricing and the atmosphere inside the ground.
Ultimately, most positives from the season could come in the form of lessons learned — both managerial and in the boardroom — and, of course, by their nature we will only know whether those lessons have been learned in retrospect.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a club with an astute recent history of learning from past mistakes. Watching Memphis Depay disappear up the East Lancs road wasn’t a particularly auspicious start, although that may simply have been a case of handling the PR around it better.
Questions should be asked of the manager, no doubt, as they should be of the owners, directors, players and everyone involved in the football club, up to and including the fans. When an opportunity presents itself to self-assess and make a change for the better it can’t be ignored.
As things stand, instead of sacking the manager, I would much rather the club focused their collective efforts into deciding what kind of football club they want to be.
There cannot be a club more difficult to define than this one, definitely in England and possibly across Europe. We are a club with all the history, all the expectation and the supposed ambition to challenge for league titles and regularly compete in the Champions League, but one stuck in between stools and lacking in identity.
We can ‘talk the talk’ but more often than not Liverpool fail to ‘walk the walk’. Our recent record in the transfer market, as well as only two genuine title challenges in the past decade, are both testament to that.
This summer is a big one for the club. One in which the club needs to learn the lessons of 2014-15 and decide on a shared vision and ambition for the football club next season and beyond.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo
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An appalling season. Turgid football in the league where results covered up the steaming turd performances, and fucking awful in Europe except where Rodgers threw in the towel and let the fringe give us a semi-decent game even if Madrid took it easy. Almost zero excitement for the entire season. Knowing FSG’s fixation for signing players on low salary, I’m not looking forward to the stream of mid-table signings and more poxy “prospects”, that’ll either be loaned out or removed from their natural positions to play in some wanky defence formation.
Paul i’m glad someone had told it like it is!
The year promised everything and produced nothing, other than the likely departure of Sterling ( how much more transparent can he be?).
The support base is riven, probably permanently, at least until Rodgers goes, as he surely must, either because he has not met the criteria set out for him, or because he won’t be given funds to buy. Or, because when you suggest nothing is your fault you are suggesting it is therefore someone else’s, and that points fingers at people who control your job security.
1.Can,Ibe,Sakho,Skrtel,2nd half Mignolet
2.Countinho’s shooting improve drastically and he is more consistent.
3. No more Johnson next season
‘Elsewhere, the manager has continued to demonstrate that he is willing to give youth a chance. Jordon Ibe has shown plenty, while the likes of Markovic and Can should only benefit from a first full season in the Premier League.’
That’ll be the Markovic who has hardly played and when he has gets pulled consistently no matter how he or the team are playing?. Yup confidence built there!
No matter how you try to dress it up it’s been a poor season both on the field and off it.
Failure to meet expectations on all fronts – no qualification for CL, no trophy in the cabinet and an extremely disappointing showing in both the CL and Europa.
Frankly every Reds fan must be questioning the club at all levels from the owners down.
We are told that we can shop at Fortnum and Masons but we take the wrong turn and shop at Debenhams instead.
We have a manager who is a tactical genius OR who can’t help himself but tinker.
Our medical team don’t appear to be able to sort out our only decent striker’s ongoing injury problems and he spends half the year in the USA.
Our attractiveness as a club to star players wanes year by year as this goes on.
Without change further mediocrity awaits.
Positives? Really struggling here, Coutinho is the only positive I can take from this season. It appears to be a club without structure, without ambition and willing to settle for mediocrity. We repeatedly read about players contract talks stalling, we see our best young talent, Sterling, failing to commit and struggle with form until we play one of his possible suitors then coincidentally puts in his best performance for weeks. The club has already failed in its first major transfer deal, despite the manager bizarrely claiming there was no interest.an alarming pattern setting in regarding transfers. As for the team this season, you can put shit on a stick and call it art but it’s still shit on a stick.
I’m a cup half full kind of guy. I see how lucky we were last season with injuries for a paper-thin squad. Last summer, we added much-needed depth all across the pitch – well, almost all across.
If you look at Rodgers record without jaundiced eyes, his record has been excellent since Sturridge arrived…so long as he had either Suarez or Sturridge. It is only when he lost both that he struggled. With the arrival of someone who fits the “Rodgers type” in the striker role, I see a squad that is ready to get back into “the conversation.”
So long as FSG see the GLARING HANDWRITING ON THE WALL about the need to bust the piggy bank for a top striker in the Rodgers mold (Lacazette would do just fine, thank you very much), we should actually be in good shape.
Sakho staying fit wouldn’t hurt, either.
So a quality manager is reliant on one player/position? What is the “Rodgers type” striker, someone that actually scores, carries the team and makes the manager look a genius? How much better could any managers record be with an SAS?
I’d suggest a 20-goal a season striker is worth considerably more than the 20 he scores. Having a man in (generally) the right place will occupy defenders & create space for runners who will gamble on hitting the box IF their teammate is not an un
not an unpredictable bellend. Being able & willing to press oppo defenders would also be useful.
(Scuse clumsy thumbs)
LETTER TO J W HENRY
2012 & 2013 zilch in the way of squad depth
2013 add Sturridge & Coutinho for a combined £20m Great Business! Brendan & the Boys over achieve domestically in their 1st real season. No Euro distractions at this point
2014 lose Suarez, SQUAD DEPTH as thick as a ciggy paper, also lose Sturridge to injury in August. You spend on much needed squad depth which allowed us to atleast compete on the Euro Front however as yet no A listed Players signed and by today’s rates you’re talking £30m Minimum for B listers, A listers are fetching £40m plus. The max you spent was reportedly £25m for Lallana.
2015 Very Young Squad are bedding in well and desperate for 2 x A listed Reinforcements for Fire Power on the front line.
So you see JW if your serious about taking (queue the Americanism) the Best God Daamn Global Sports Franchise $/$ on the planet and realising its potential, and as your reputation and MO which precede you would suggest (queue the Scousism) then you best stop arsing around and get stuck into your wad mate!! and start respecting the LFC Badge cos we’re starting to think you lot over there are a load of a Blaggers
Oh and BTW when are you going to give a Global Brand which is in the Top 5 best World wide, period , a Liverpool based CO/CE whatever the fuck terminology is that you use, and begin to treat LFC with the respect and financial backing it deserves. Because the natives are getting restless So if your pockets aren’t deep enough, then you’d better move over and let the big fellas, the proper high rollers, come to the table and stake their billions on the game, because THEY ARE waiting . Or is that what your game truly is all about. To fatten the pig before the kill? Thanks to the antics of your infamous fellow Countrymen H&G, we are watching your every move coz we Scousers are not known for our gullible nature being one our limitations, which brings me to the words of one Clint/Harry Callaghan;
‘a man needs to know his limitations’
Two phrases for me stand out in this article.
1. I would much rather the club focused their collective efforts into deciding what kind of football club they want to be.
2. We can ‘talk the talk’ but more often than not Liverpool fail to ‘walk the walk’.
Both require a degree of explanation as to what exactly you mean.?
If you mean that the club is trying to achieve Top 4 status without adequate resources and must decide to change if it wants to become a big hitter then FSG have already stated their model is to go for lower cost players of a young age and then seek to develop/mature those players into a top quality playing unit. Whilst this may be to many a brave and somewhat risky approach it has already shown it’s potential with Coutinho and Ibe excelling and last Season’s success
And in terms of intent, what do we want from Rodgers and co?…..for them to NOT talk the talk but to stay quiet and just play with no explanation of what they are trying to do. That way Carragher and Neville can explain the approach after the game?
The problem at times this season has been the lack of ‘energy’ in the side which is fundamental to a pressing and winning formula. Watching Bayern Munich the other night it was clear what we are lacking. The pressing of Barcelona by PG’s team may have let in Suarez for two assists but the Germans worked their socks off and eventually got a respectable result. Lewandowski’s side step of Mascherano to fire into the corner from the edge of the box just showed what we have missed and what we WANT. There can be no excuses next season if we don’t get that type of effort/Players.
But essentially the team need to believe in the squad, each other, the manager and the owners. Contract disputes remain of great concern as do the transfer deals needed(both in and out). FSG need to do some real PR with us…the fans….re need to believe in them and their strategy. Would a John Henry interview be appropriate before we seek the new players to get them believing Liverpool is the place to come or is that best left to the individual negotiators….and who are these mystery people?
At the end of this season I expect a statement from FSG saying where we are going and how we are going to get there. It is called leadership. Then the actions to demonstrate we are able to have a chance of delivery. Believing we can is the first step.
Taking positives as this article suggests is NOT ENOUGH. We need to drive the club forward and fill the negative voids (and exploited by the trolls)with positive action. But I’ll accept an initial ‘talk the talk’ for now and support the team like the Bayern Munich fans did the other night. That effort and commitment in the face of near insumountable odds is what Liverpool are about. The commentators reminded us….”The last time a 3-0 deficit was overcome at halfway was Istanbul.” That’s what the players and manager need to show the fans and then the atmosphere will return to Anfield.
We need to end the Season positively and then set our stall out.
If you mean that the club is trying to achieve Top 4 status without adequate resources and must decide to change if it wants to become a big hitter then FSG have already stated their model is to go for lower cost players of a young age and then seek to develop/mature those players into a top quality playing unit.
We see where going completely young is getting us. You still need competent, to really good, veterans for a complete squad. Also, you have to adapt to the landscape. We let Manure slip back through so we’re just going to fall further behind. Has anyone asked FSG how they expect to compete now?
Exactly what I am suggesting. They need to tell us they intend to compete, not just say/do what they can within the previous strategy…..learn from their mistakes. But my concern is getting the right experienced players. It is still a gamble. On the one hand I dread the thought of James Milner in a Liverpool shirt….but we could all be wrong ……could he drive the centre mid-field with his experience ?
The new signings will have to be a process of who is available and wants to move……no chance of Pogba then? Sadly No!!