After an incredible 2013/14 campaign for Liverpool, it’s all gone wrong this time around. Sunday’s defeat in the FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa means that there is hardly anything memorable for them to take away from this season. Last year, The Reds scored 100+ Premier League goals, entertaining one and all en route to a 2nd place finish. They were a whisker away from winning their 19th league crown, but a late slip-up saw Manchester City walk away champions.
The summer was difficult for Brendan Rodgers, as talismanic striker Luis Suarez left for Barcelona. The huge money that the club received for the Uruguayan though, was spent on a whole range of players rather than on one world-class replacement. The likes of Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert were brought in, as the Reds looked to mount another title challenge.
Not good enough
It didn’t take long though, for the fans to realise that most of these above-mentioned players weren’t good enough for Liverpool. While Emre Can has shown promise, and Lallana has the potential to turn into an important player, the rest have been severe disappointments. An injury to Daniel Sturridge in the early part of the season meant that Balotelli got a lot of game time, but the Italian’s form in front of goal was non-existent as he never really got going. He has only scored four goals in all competitions, and only once in the league.
There have been some big positives too though to take away from the campaign. The two best players for Liverpool this season have undoubtedly been Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson. The duo have been at the centre of everything good for the Reds, and and a major reason for the good run of form since the turn of the year.
Henderson has penned a new deal at the club keeping him at Anfield until 2020. The Englishman is expected to succeed Steven Gerrard as captain next season as the latter moves to the United States. Coutinho, on the other hand, has been one of the best players of the season bar none, and is even on the list of nominees for the Premier League Player of the Year Award.
Need for change
There are going to be a lot of departures at Liverpool this summer. Halfway into his project at the club, Rodgers has seen a major roadblock. After going a step backwards this season in terms of performances, there are going to be big changes needed in personnel going into next year.
The season can be described as lukewarm at best. Failure to qualify past the group stages of the Champions League in a group that was not all that tough was not a good sign early on. They still have a chance of finishing in the top 4, but it is highly unlikely. The FA Cup semi-final defeat means that Rodgers’ quest for his first piece of silverware with the Reds will continue into next year.
According to Sami Mokbel at the Daily Mail, there are going to be 10 players in total shown the door in the summer. Kolo Toure and Glen Johnson are out-of-contract, while Martin Skrtel, Raheem Sterling, Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, Fabio Borini, Javi Manquillo and Brad Jones will all be allowed to leave. Gerrard, of course, will certainly depart after agreeing to join MLS side LA Galaxy.
It’s unlikely that all of these players will actually end up leaving, especially with Liverpool wanting to keep Sterling and the lack of suitors lining up for Balotelli. However, a clear-out is on the cards and it will help strengthen the squad if Liverpool can bring in better players.
Is Rodgers still the man for Liverpool?
While there is no doubting that a massive revamp is required at the club, it is questionable whether Rodgers is the man to do it. The supporters are divided on the Northern Irishman, and even though he has a lot of support from The Kop, another indifferent season such as this will not be taken well.
Rodgers emphasises on playing good football and on their day, Liverpool are one of the best sides to watch. But at the other end, they have an extremely shoddy defence. Last season, they got away with it as they nearly always outscored the opposition. But, on occasions when the opposition remained resolute, like Chelsea at Anfield in May, they ran out of ideas. And with their backline leaking goals, they dropped a lot of unnecessary points.
Therefore, it can be debated whether Rodgers’ philosophy will enable Liverpool to become a major force in the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp, a proven winner with Borussia Dortmund, will be up for grabs in the summer. It’ll be a brave move replacing a man in charge of a side that is still clearly a work-in-progress. Predicting the future is something no one can do, but the club has to make a decision in the summer based on forecasts and predictions.
The fans, of course, are reminded all too often by their foes that Liverpool haven’t won the first division title since 1990. After showing such promise last year, they are back to square one once again.