FA Cup – Fourth round
League Cup – Fourth round
Europa League – Round of 32
Seasons like this are becoming the norm for Liverpool. Another season of transition, another season of frustrating inconsistency and ultimately, another season where the five-time European Cup winners have failed to qualify for a place in the Champions League. Brendan Rodgers has witnessed many highs and lows in his first campaign as the Reds’ boss, but it is somewhat difficult to determine how much progress the Anfield outfit have made under the former Swansea manager.
There are those who suggest that Liverpool exist to win trophies, that silverware is the most important thing for a club which has such a rich history. Last season, legend Kenny Dalglish guided the Reds to three Wembley trips, two cup finals and one trophy. For some, silverware equals success. Liverpool finished eighth in the Premier League under the Scot, but he had brought smiles back on faces with the League Cup trophy.
Rodgers has failed to win any silverware this season. In fact, the Reds have not even come close to a cup final. In addition to this, Liverpool only managed to improve their league standing by a single position this term. With that in mind, have the Merseysiders made any real progress in the 2012/13 campaign?
Some further statistics may provide a better indication. Liverpool finished the season with 61 Premier League points – their highest tally since the Rafael Benitez era. They also finished 12 points behind that all-important fourth spot this season – an improvement of five points compared to last term. Rodgers will argue that the gap between Liverpool and Champions League football is gradually being closed. Finally, the Reds found the net on 71 occasions in the top-flight this term – their best record in front of goal since finishing as league runners-up in 2009. Perhaps there has been progress, after all.
But the harsh reality is that Liverpool ended the season in seventh place, which is simply not good enough for a club of this size. A poor record against the Premier League’s top four – the Reds failed to beat Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal this season – contributed to that position, but crushing defeats at the hands of West Brom, Aston Villa, Stoke and Southampton did not help either. Fixing such inconsistency will not be easy, but Liverpool will need to experience more good days than bad if they are to kick on and fight for a Champions League spot.
As good as the Uruguayan is, starting the season with Luis Suarez as the only fit, senior striker at the club was not ideal. Thankfully, Liverpool ended the campaign with Daniel Sturridge and Fabio Borini also among the goals. Early signs suggest that the January arrival of Brazilian attacking midfield Philippe Coutinho was something of a masterstroke. If the Reds can add more players of his quality to the squad early on this summer, then they may just finish above both Everton and one or two other higher-placed teams next term.
Manager – Brendan Rodgers: Rodgers’ first season as Liverpool’s manager was never going to be easy, but there are some positive signs that the players are grasping his methods. More goals, more points and the use of more young players have been encouraging signs, but further improvement will be needed next term.
Player of the season – Luis Suarez: The Uruguayan has been superb in front of goal this season and was even leading the Premier League top scorers’ chart until receiving a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. Therein lies the problem. An improvement in discipline would work wonders for Suarez and Liverpool – if he stays that is.
Turning point – January: Liverpool lost just two Premier League games since the end of January and two factors played a key part – the reintroduction of Jamie Carragher in the first team and the arrivals of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. Combined, those two factors helped the Reds improve at both ends of the pitch and finish the season strongly.
Any other business: Jamie Carragher’s retirement leaves Rodgers with a massive gap to fill ahead of next season. Superb organisation and leadership, huge commitment, passion and desire and great reliability are just some of the things Liverpool’s loyal servant offered to the team. He will be sorely missed and almost impossible to replace.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG