Liverpool: The Season That Was – How Was It For You? #6 | The Anfield Wrap

WITH the footie season now over, transfer rumours in full swing and the countdown to Euro 2016 ticking away, we thought the time was right to ask Anfield Wrap contributors and friends what they made of the Liverpool season just gone. With two managers, two cup finals, a new stand and a mass walk-out, it certainly hasn’t been dull, but has it been good? And what can we expect from the Reds next season? All the questions asked, and answered, here in the fifth of our Q&As. Part one is here, you can find part two here, part three is here, part four here and part five here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu17qQV7Q0o

JOHN GIBBONS

@johngibbonsblog

Rewinding back to the start of the season, did you think then that keeping Brendan Rodgers in position was the right decision?

Overall, yes. I wanted a title challenge and thought the best move was to give the fella who had given us one 12 months previously another chance with better players. I mainly thought the problems of the previous year had been recruitment ones, and we didn’t really know who to blame for that.

What were your expectations for Liverpool’s season then?

With improved attacking options I thought we had a good chance of doing well. Although I didn’t have much faith in Origi, Benteke, Firmino and Ings looked like vast improvements on watching Lambert trudge around one week and Balotelli the next. Milner and Clyne looked like smart buys, too. I was quietly optimistic we could do something decent.

Eleven games into the season, Rodgers was sacked. Forget that Jürgen Klopp replaced him for a moment (we’ll come to that), what then did you think was a realistic ambition for the squad in terms of league finish, cups and so on?

I think part of the reason Rodgers was sacked was that top four looked wide open and you felt a decent run would get us there. We were 10th after that Everton game, but only six points off top, and one point behind Spurs. Chelsea were 16th. There was no reason we couldn’t finish in the Champions League spots. I wasn’t thinking about the cups much, to be honest, but I never thought we would do anything notable in Europe. Which was brilliantly wrong.

Klopp then, surprised by his appointment?

Very surprised they went for him. It just shows what the owners of this football club are capable of when they remember they have one. And the standing this club still holds in world football, despite fans of other clubs laughing at the very idea he might join. Soz abar you.

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How do you think he has done so far?

I expected him to do better overall, I think, but that might have been based on blind hope in a miracle worker. Unfortunately miracle workers don’t exist. There are just right managers with right players at the right time. It feels like we have two of those three boxed, which is a pretty good start.

Eighth in the league, beaten in two cup finals — how does that performance rank against what you think this squad could/should be capable of?

It pretty much shows what this squad is capable of — quality one minute, fragility the next. Klopp did really well to get the most out of players at big moments during big games. In the very biggest we were left short, but he’ll know what the squad needs to make that less likely to happen again.

Who are your top three Liverpool players this season and why?

Philippe Coutinho. Scored big goals at big times and just looks our best footballer. Ask his team-mates. Actually they did, and they said him.

Emre Can. Been huge under Klopp. He’s going to be a great player with the right partner.

Dejan Lovren. A remarkable turnaround for someone who looked the worst defender in the league. Probably our best player in 2016.

Top three Liverpool games of the season?

Dortmund at home. And the two Manchester United games in Europe.

Best Liverpool goal?

Christian Benteke. Joins Seb Coates in the great forgotten goals of Liverpool Football Club.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2015: Liverpool's Christian Benteke celebrates scoring the first goal against Manchester United during the Premier League match at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What should be the major concerns for Liverpool FC right now?

Getting enough footballers that Klopp wants in the squad as quickly as possible.

Is not being in Europe next season a help or a hindrance to Liverpool?

It will help our league form next season, but it damages your reputation and the development of players. You can get away with it for one year, but long term being out of Europe is damaging for a club like Liverpool.

Three Liverpool players you expect to leave the club this summer?

Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure and Christian Benteke

Three positions Liverpool need to improve in?

Left back, central midfield and up front.

Any (realistic-ish) players you think Liverpool should buy?

Aside from all the ones in the papers, Mauro Icardi looks perfect for the Premier League to me and if we don’t buy him, someone else probably will.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEfXuYFc96o

What can Liverpool achieve next season?

Whatever we want.

NEIL ATKINSON

@Knox_Harrington

Rewinding back to the start of the season, did you think then that keeping Brendan Rodgers in position was the right decision?

Yeah, just. I had a big wobble after Stoke and thought that should be that, but then I thought, no, let’s see what happens with actual strikers that he hasn’t had. Give him that chance. It’s only fair to see how he does.

There was this moment though, half time against West Ham at home, when I thought I was going to have a breakdown. I just remember thinking to myself, I’ve got to write about this. I’ve got to talk about it four times, literally four times, for people to listen to. I’ve got to go through this again and again and it is just like last season and I can’t handle it. I’m not expecting sympathy here, it’s lovely football being the job. But imagine being Jordan Henderson at that moment. Or being Phil Coutinho. Or even being Brendan Rodgers. Watching it be the same again with the same flaws. Imagine it.

It’s why when he was sacked I felt he was put out of his misery. This is what happens to these fellas. It’s what I most hope doesn’t happen to Klopp.

There are those who think that is practically impossible but it is only five-and-a-half years since Kenny came in for a half season, knew that everyone loved him and smiled everywhere he went. Played great big smiley football. Twelve months later he looked shattered.

What were your expectations for Liverpool’s season then?

Start of the season will always be that we should be looking to challenge for the title, if not win it. Always. We could come 17th and that would be my attitude coming into the next campaign. And now Leicester’s success means that is almost rational.

Eleven games into the season, Rodgers was sacked. Forget that Jürgen Klopp replaced him for a moment (we’ll come to that), what then did you think was a realistic ambition for the squad in terms of league finish, cups and so on?

Still to get stuck right in. We hadn’t lost in five or six games. We were actually a bit better than people thought — we were unlucky against Sion, for example. We should have won that about 5-1. We lacked belief. That stemmed from a manager who had stopped believing in his players. But we had a lot of other things going for us.

Klopp then, surprised by his appointment?

It’s difficult to remember; I was surprised Rodgers went exactly when he did. I thought he would get a little longer though things had intensified. And then, pretty much from that night, it was nailed on it was Klopp.

I remember lots of people saying there was no way FSG would go for Klopp. It had become received wisdom that Klopp was never coming in.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, October 9, 2015: Liverpool's Managing Director Ian Ayre [L] and co-owner and NESV Chairman Tom Werner [R] announce German Jürgen Klopp as the new manager during a press conference at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

How do you think he has done so far?

He’s on a strong 8.5/10 on the boss days and nights index. A 5.5/10 on the bread and butter index.

After his first season Benitez was probably 10 and 4.5. A win in the Europa League final and Klopp gets to 9.5/10. But you know. One of them.

Bread and butter is the most important thing when discussing what gets us to the most important thing in the world and therefore it is the thing that needs to be addressed urgently.

To be fair to the manager and his players we’re good in all competitions from Leicester away in early February to Newcastle at home in late April. We’re probably the second or third best side in the country in an all competitions sense over that two-and-a-half month spell. Ten weeks at that stage of the season isn’t to be sniffed at; it’s effectively a third of the campaign as there weren’t any international breaks.

Southampton at that stage felt like a blip. The issue is that across the season it isn’t clear if it is a blip or a source for genuine concern. There are a lot of areas at the club which feel like they are more questions than answers. This may be a good thing, but it gives the manager a lot to think about.

Eighth in the league, beaten in two cup finals — how does that performance rank against what you think this squad could/should be capable of?

It is capable of winning the league. That doesn’t mean it should win the league, but it is 38 games against some other lads across nine months. Keep winning the games by hook or by crook and keep amassing the points. That’s what it could be capable of.

There are a lot of other squads capable of that as well, of course, and that is why it doesn’t happen. But it should be the total focus, at the expense of everything else until it finally happens.

When it can’t happen the focus should then shift to silverware. I’m not interested in a race to fourth. Some are. So for them could we have come top four? Of course.

But they made the finals and did well to make the finals, especially in Europe. There is this sense that the European success was this side playing above itself, but I think there is enough evidence to suggest this isn’t quite true. However there needs to be greater consistency and a great sense of having the answers to the questions of what you do when sides sit in, hit a big man and look to kill the game. What you do when they drain the intensity out of you.

I think we can answer those questions.

Who are your top three Liverpool players this season and why?

Coutinho, Clyne and Can because they have been the best three. Loads deserve mentions in despatches while simultaneously none of the top three have been touching the sky that regularly.

Top three Liverpool games of the season?

4-5 at Norwich City.

4-3 against Borussia Dortmund.

3-0 against Manchester City.

Football - FA Premier League - Norwich City FC v Liverpool FC

Best Liverpool goal?

The best, by some distance, is Benteke at Old Trafford. It isn’t my favourite though. That is probably Origi in Dortmund.

What should be the major concerns for Liverpool FC right now?

There shouldn’t be any major concerns. We can improve in almost every area but that doesn’t equal major concerns. There are a ton of percentage decisions to make and the people who will be making them have far more information and experience than me to help them make them. They will get some right and some wrong. Hopefully more right than wrong (as I would argue happened in recruitment last summer; maybe not right enough, mind).

Is not being in Europe next season a help or a hindrance to Liverpool?

What should be the sole and all encompassing focus/obsession of the football club, what should keep everyone who works there up nights, what should be the focus of every meeting, what should be at the bottom of every training session, at every team talk, at every meal, at every agenda for a meeting, after the AOB part (“Has this meeting brought us closer to winning the league title, ladies and gentlemen?”) can broadly speaking only be helped by not being in the Europa League.

That us having fun in far-flung destinations is impaired, well, it might be worth it for a season. Plus we will always have Bournemouth. And Hull is close to some sea.

The general point that Champions League football would help us attract players is a fair one, but I think if our targets are rational about England then they would know there are no sure things any more anyway.

Three Liverpool players you expect to leave the club this summer? (Neil has decided to answer with 16).

I expect the following to leave: Alberto, Allen, Balotelli, Benteke, Bogdan, Ibe, Ilori, Randall, Rossiter, Sinclair, Smith, Skrtel, Teixeira, Toure, Wisdom, Yesil.

All the best to them. I hope they all think they did their best at Liverpool.

Three positions Liverpool need to improve in?

Goalkeeper (so good work there), left back and always add goals. Albeit in this instance ideally with pace from wide areas.

Any (realistic-ish) players you think Liverpool should buy?

The outrageously handsome goalkeeper is done. He sets a bar in terms of handsomeness that I don’t think the rest of the deals are going to be able to live with.

I think we are difficult to buy for. More pace would be nice.

What can Liverpool achieve next season?

They can achieve the domestic treble. So can seven or eight other sides in the country. The most likely outcome is the three domestic cups are shared out as there is no dominant side. The double has just been done in Spain, France, Italy and Germany. This is worth remembering when we are talking about how difficult it is to buy certain top quality players — in England, now, in this moment, there are no guarantees. No side has retained the title this decade. Would you be genuinely surprised if next season’s top four were Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and West Ham?

Thirty eight games — 38 times our lads play their lads. Win enough of them.

There is nothing else in the world.

European Football - UEFA Europa League - Group Stage Group B - FC Girondins de Bordeaux v Liverpool FC

STEPHEN EVANS

@StephenEvans75

Rewinding back to the start of the season, did you think then that keeping Brendan Rodgers in position was the right decision?

No. The game that did it with Brendan Rodgers was the FA Cup semi final against Aston Villa. A big game against an awful side and we were so poor that day — as a team we looked completely lost. It was a performance we had seen all too often that season under Rodgers and I knew then that he wasn’t the man to take us forward any more.

The capitulation from then to the end of the season, topped off by the pathetic display at Stoke — one of the very worst I’ve seen as a Liverpool fan — confirmed my thoughts. I’m amazed he survived the summer. I don’t really buy into the idea they were waiting for Klopp either as they backed Brendan heavily that summer. It was the wrong decision to keep him on.

What were your expectations for Liverpool’s season then?

I didn’t have high hopes of a decent season with Rodgers still at the helm.

Of course the team will always get my full support, but after being pretty uninspired by the summer signings, the ridiculous changing of the back-room staff for some absolute no-marks, and with the awful performances at the tail end of last season still leaving a bitter taste, I felt barring a minor miracle it would only be a matter of time until the same old problems surfaced again and the fans would turn on Rodgers.

To be fair we made a decent start but I knew it would only take a bad result or two and unfortunately I was right and the inevitable happened.

Eleven games into the season, Rodgers was sacked. Forget that Jürgen Klopp replaced him for a the moment (we’ll come to that), what then did you think was a realistic ambition for the squad in terms of league finish, cups and so on?

There was plenty to still play for with the league and three cup competitions. The names we were linked with — Ancelotti and Klopp — certainly gave me some hope that we could get something from the season. At the time, the league was all over the place with mad results happening each week so it felt like a couple of wins would see us quickly climb up the table.

To be honest, I just wanted to start to enjoy going the match again. Anfield had been a bit of a dark place over the previous 18 months; a horrible place to be at times, so any new manager coming in would hopefully lift spirits and anything else on top of that I’d class as a bonus, which we got plenty of.

European Football - UEFA Europa League - Semi-Final 2nd Leg - Liverpool FC v Villarreal CF

Klopp then, surprised by his appointment?

More shocked at the ambition of FSG if I’m honest. Liverpool should always be able to attract the best managers but Klopp didn’t seem like the type they would go for. Fair play to them, they went in hard for him and managed to get him signed up and like everyone else I was delighted. It took about 10 seconds of his first press conference for me to say, yeah, he’ll do for me. The buzz around the place for that week or so was brilliant.

How do you think he has done so far?

I’d say about a 7/10. I felt for him when he first come in as he had a game every three days, a press conference every other day — I’m not sure his feet touched the ground until February and I think it was a shock to him just how intense it all was. Combine that with the insane amount of injuries we seemed to have for a period and I think he coped well.

Anyone expecting miracles with the squad we had obviously doesn’t understand football. Yeah, he’s made mistakes, I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that, and we had some shockers this season: Watford away, Newcastle away to name a couple, but you can see he’s just as frustrated at these performances as we are.

On the plus side, at times we’ve looked very good, and consistency has come as the season’s progressed. I’ve enjoyed going the match again, so happy days.

Eighth in the league, beaten in two cup finals — how does that performance rank against what you think this squad could/should be capable of?

Two major finals, one a European final, in his first eight months with that squad is a fantastic achievement. I’m obviously gutted we couldn’t get a result in either but I’m sure we are moving in the right direction.

Some of the European nights we’ve had at Anfield this season have been up there with the very best I’ve seen and this is all down to the manager.

Yes, the league form has been very poor, however I think the campaign was written off a long time ago, yet we were still only six points off fourth spot. I’m not reading too much into the league form. I’ll judge Jürgen more on that this time next year.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, April 14, 2016: Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop before the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg match against Borussia Dortmund at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Who are your top three Liverpool players this season and why?

1: Clyne. Our most consistent player of the season and one of our better signings over the past few years. Hope to see him improve again next season.

2: Coutinho. Sill probably our best player on his day — would like to see him do it a bit more often.

3: Lovren. Mainly for the fairytale of it all. To a man, we would have binned him for nothing last season but he got his head down, grafted his arse off and now looks a different player, and arguably our biggest leader on the pitch. More of the same please, lad.

Top three Liverpool games of the season?

1: Dortmund 4-3.
2: Manchester United 2-0.
3: Manchester City 4-1.

Best Liverpool goal?

Sturridge v Sevilla just for the sheer audacity of it.

What should be the major concerns for Liverpool FC right now?

Our ability to be bullied and concede stupid goals. Too many times this season we’ve been bullied out of games — we need to be much better equipped physically to cope with these situations. I think the manager is addressing this by looking to add size to the squad. I’ve lost count of the amount of stupid and needless goals that we’ve conceded from our own mistakes as well — we are the masters of our own downfall far too often.

Is not being in Europe next season a help or a hindrance to Liverpool?

It will be a help, as it was in 2013-14. However, it will also raise expectations for many as well. The manager will appreciate the extra time he gets to spend on the training pitch with the players, a luxury he’s very rarely had so far.

Football - FA Cup - 4th Round - Liverpool FC v West Ham United FC

Three Liverpool players you expect to leave the club this summer?

Joe Allen. I’m a fan of Joe — he’s put in some decent performances this season when called upon and I think the manager will want to keep him. But without assurances on playing time, and with less games this coming season, I think it will be Joe that makes the decision to leave. I’m sure there will be plenty of suitors for him. He’s a tidy player.

Christian Benteke. I wasn’t really keen on him coming in the first place. It seemed like a buy of a desperate man from Rodgers. He’s just not the type of player we would use for the football we play. He’s scored a few and he’s worked hard but he always seems a couple of seconds behind where he should be. Will probably leave and bag a few for someone else who he’s more suited to.

Jordon Henderson. Controversial this one, I know. I’m a fan of Hendo, I think he’s a decent player, he’s been unlucky with injuries this season and I think the armband has weighed him down a little. But for some reason I don’t think the manager fancies him. Not sure there’s enough end product there for him to be a Klopp player. I’d keep him but I think he could be the surprise one to leave this summer.

Three positions Liverpool need to improve in?

Goalkeeper. Karius is done, and I’d keep Mignolet as I think the competition will be good for him. But too many times he’s been to blame for a goal conceded, it can’t go on.

Left-back. Moreno just isn’t good enough defensively. He gets caught the wrong side too much, gets beaten too easily and gives away too many needless free kicks and penalties. He’s not even that good at going forward. Massive upgrade needed in that department.

Defensive midfield. As mentioned before, too easily bullied in this department. Milner tried to sit in there last few games but he hasn’t got the engine. You need relentless running in there — something we haven’t got.

Any (realistic-ish) players you think Liverpool should buy?

Carrying on from my point above, I’d love us to get Kante in. I think he was magnificent for Leicester last season, an absolute machine in that role in front of the defence. He was making some noises about being unsure about where he’ll be next season and I’d love to see us try to get him in. Again though, not sure he’s a Klopp player due to his size.

One other thing this team is crying out for is pace. I think our quickest player at the moment is Moreno. We desperately need some pace and power in the attacking areas so anyone who’s quick will be a welcome signing.

What can Liverpool achieve next season?

As with every season I will go into it wanting Liverpool to win the league — otherwise, what’s the point? As realistic as that may or may not be, I’ve never been one who wants to play for top four — I want us to try to win every competition we enter and that will be my aim again next season. The reality is I want to see us improve and make strides towards where we want to be. If we’re doing that, the success will follow.

 

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