Liverpool season review - Disappointing league form ends Dalglish's reign
Liverpool - 8th
FA Cup - Runners-up
League Cup - Winners
Liverpool began the season hoping to build on their excellent form under Kenny Dalglish in the latter half of the 2010-2011 campaign. But despite a promising start, which saw the Reds climb briefly to the top of the Premier League table after just three games, the cracks began to show. Back-to-back away defeats at Stoke (1-0) and Tottenham Hotspur (4-0) in September were undoubtedly disappointing, but Liverpool’s away form was not the main problem. Instead, it was the Reds’ failure to consistently pick up wins at Anfield which hurt them the most.
The Merseyside outfit managed just six victories on home turf all season - only relegation-threatened sides Wigan, Aston Villa, Bolton and Wolves won on fewer occasions on their own patch. The football played by Dalglish’s men was largely slick and attractive; indeed Liverpool dominated many games and created numerous chances. But a lack of goals cost the Reds dearly.
Record signing Andy Carroll only really began to show signs of his potential towards the end of the campaign, but a return of four goals in 35 Premier League appearances was bitterly disappointing. Meanwhile, Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez may have found the net on 11 occasions in the top-flight, but his conversion rate of just 10.2% was also poor. In truth, Liverpool had been in desperate need of a prolific striker throughout the season and if they had purchased one in January, things may have turned out differently.
Fortunately, the Anfield outfit remained tight at the back throughout the campaign and in the end - despite occasional injuries to Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Daniel Agger - they shipped more goals than only title-challengers Manchester United and Manchester City.
Of course, an overview of Liverpool’s season must include the club’s handling of the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra incident. The Uruguayan was banned for eight games for racially abusing the Manchester United defender, but the Reds’ strong and at times distasteful backing of their star man left a bitter taste in the mouths of many neutrals.
But there were also some positives to the Merseysiders’ campaign. Dalglish’s side beat Chelsea and Manchester City en route to the Carling Cup final - which they won by overcoming Cardiff City on penalties. That turned out to be Liverpool’s first trophy in five-and-a-half years. The Reds also enjoyed a wonderful run in the FA Cup, beating rivals Manchester United and Everton on the way to the final, but they were eventually beaten by Champions League finalists Chelsea at Wembley.
Director of Football Damien Comolli was shown the door in April, largely because summer signings Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Carroll had failed to impress immediately. In the end, an excellent season in the cup competitions meant little to Liverpool’s owners and Dalglish was duly sacked just days after the final game of the Premier League campaign, for failing to guide the Reds into the top-four. The Anfield outfit are currently on the lookout for a new manager.
Manager - Kenny Dalglish: Kenny Dalglish was sacked just days after the Reds’ final Premier League game of the season - a 1-0 defeat at Swansea, which saw them finish in 8th place, behind local rivals Everton. Despite guiding Liverpool to two cup finals, poor signings and a failure to challenge for a fourth place eventually cost him.
Player of the season - Martin Skrtel: Liverpool were solid at the back throughout the season and this was largely down to centre-half Martin Skrtel, who enjoyed his best year in a Red shirt. The Slovakian made more clearances and blocks than any of his fellow defenders, while also finding the net in the Carling Cup final.
Turning point - Carling Cup triumph: Winning the Carling Cup was supposed to provide Liverpool with the confidence and momentum to improve their league form and challenge for the top-four. But the Reds won just one of their next seven games in the top-flight following that victory over Cardiff, leaving them too far behind the Champions League places.
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