Lethargic play doomed them from the start. Not just lethargic play in their 1-0 loss to Hull City at KC Stadium, but the lethargic play that saw Liverpool in the bottom half of the table in November. Before the turnaround of their season, all hope seemed lost for Liverpool. Now, all hope is undoubtedly lost.
Many can argue that losing two in a row to Manchester United and Arsenal doomed Liverpool’s last chance at a top-four finish. Although it could still mathematically happen, by losing their game in hand on United, Liverpool will need to make up seven points in four matches – which is no easy task.
It is now at this point, after bowing out of the Champions League group stage, exiting the League Cup and FA Cup in the semifinals, and a loss to Hull City following an ugly draw at West Brom, that a chance at any type of good finish to the season is lost. No silverware, and no Champions League (we still have the Europa League to fight for, right?!)
Coming into this campaign, nobody expected a league title. The heartbreak of last season coupled with the loss of the best player in the Premier League cancelled out all chances at that. Still, with the money spent from the Luis Suárez transfer, there was still an opportunity to perform admirably in the league and groom the young acquisitions into mainstays at Anfield for years to come. Then, after a dismal 2014, and the announcement of long-time skipper Steven Gerrard’s coming departure, the thought was, “finish strong, and send Stevie G off on a good note.” Not quite how things have gone.
In a season marred by injuries, suspensions, and underwhelming play from not only the players brought in, but the players that had been here, there was a glimmering hope from January until mid-March that has quickly been placed out of reach. The revered captain Gerrard has been injured, and, when he’s played, a shell of his former self. A manager once hailed as a brilliant mind, turning an average team into a team challenging for a top spot in the table, has now been placed on the hot seat, and, after back-to-back poor performances against teams in the bottom-half of the table, the seat is only getting hotter. So, where did it all go wrong, what needs to be fixed, and where is the good side (if there is one at all)?
We’ll start with personnel, the most important member of that group being the manager. Brendan Rodgers has spent too much money to not have any trophies, and, with this past summer’s transfer haul, to not finish in the top four is a bitter disappointment. I’ve personally stood by Rodgers, as he has shown his intelligence and creativity, and I still believe he has something to offer to Liverpool if he is to keep his job. However, with men like Jürgen Klopp on the managerial market, letting Rodgers go wouldn’t be a bad thing, and could potentially push Liverpool in the right direction.
As for the players, tying Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson down for the long-term was a good move, and with extensions on the horizon for Martin Škrtel and Jordon Ibe, Liverpool have done well to keep important pieces in the side. Looming departures for Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard at the end of their contracts have been prepared for, and, frankly, it’s time to move on.
When it comes to the players that Liverpool will look to ship off, there is an attacker-heavy list including Rickie Lambert, Fabio Borini, and, of course, (not-so) “Super” Mario Balotelli. Other players could be transferred as well (trying my best to not mention Raheem Sterling), but I am certain that these guys need to go.
The underwhelming performances of all those who are set to leave have put Liverpool on the wrong course. The potent scoring attack of last year was followed up with a side that has not yet scored half of last years total with only four matches remaining. Toss in the pedestrian work put forth from Lazar Marković, Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren (aside from the past two matches where he’s performed admirably), and the often-injured Adam Lallana, the only consistent performer is Emre Can – who is not even playing his natural position and is often a defensive liability! Those men were all bought on Brendan Rodgers’ watch, and have all been a big part of Liverpool’s poor campaign.
Liverpool has not been a model of consistency, but there have been good players and performances that give hope for the future. The presumed captain-to-be, Jordan Henderson is ready to carry the side, and Philippe Coutinho, recently announced member of the PFA Team of the Year will do the same. Flashes of brilliance from Jordon Ibe look to become more common, and will be of huge help to the Reds. Simon Mignolet completely turned his season around, and, although there is speculation of the Reds buying a goalkeeper come summer, he looks to be a solid option in net for years to come.
So, there is a bright side to all of this, although it’s up to you to determine how bright it really is. Regardless, there is some good in all the bad that has become Liverpool’s season. This summer transfer window will undoubtedly have its problems, as no trophies and no Champions League qualification is not attractive to the big-names, but who knows? Talks have reportedly been held with players like Alexandre Lacazette and Memphis Depay, and, if Rodgers (or whoever else is in charge) can sell them on Liverpool, they could bolster the attack come next season. The possible loss of Raheem Sterling would hurt, but, if Liverpool can turn around their transfer fortunes and amend for all of the missteps in the past, the sky is the limit.
Whether you look toward the future or you’re living in the present, what happened on Tuesday was absolutely a step backwards. In fact, this whole season has been a terrible regression from the magical season that was the 2013-14 campaign. If you can get past this lost season though, there can always be optimism for the future. Right now, though, I understand the disappointment.