If it wasn’t for a few pivotal moments towards the end of the 2013-14 season, Liverpool would have arguably been crowned Premier League champions.
However, an inconsistent 2014-15 campaign saw them crash out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stages and finish sixth in the Premier League, culminating in an embarrassing 6-1 defeat at Stoke in legendary Steven Gerrard’s last match as a Liverpool player. Here, we briefly examine what went wrong and why they couldn’t reach the heights of 2013-14, and ask if there’s hope for next season.
In the 2013-14 season the striking duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, known by the Anfield faithful as SAS (Suarez and Sturridge), scored a combined total of 52 Premier League goals as Liverpool were narrowly beaten to first position by Manchester City but secured Champions League football for the first time since 2009-10.
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However, this duo ceased to exist as, following a controversial World Cup performance against Italy, Suarez was bought by Spanish giants Barcelona in a deal worth £75 million. To add insult to injury (pardon the pun), Daniel Sturridge was plagued by injury problems which included a near five month absence following a thigh strain suffered whilst on England duty in September 2014. Consequently, Sturridge was only able to start seven Premier League matches this season.
Since Brendan Rodgers became Liverpool’s manager in 2012, he has been given around £210 million in total to spend, but overall it’s clear to see that the majority of these signings haven’t paid dividends; from the purchase of Fabio Borini in 2012 to spending £7 million on Iago Aspas a year later.
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Focusing on this season, Liverpool invested millions in the attacking talents of Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic, but they simply haven’t been able to fill the void left by Suarez, managing a dire 16 goals between them in all competitions and this left Rodgers deprived of a regular goalscorer.
BIG MATCH PERFORMANCES
Liverpool’s season was defined by their poor performances not only against top teams but in big games. Liverpool lost home and away to Manchester United, as well as a home loss to Chelsea and away day defeats at Arsenal and Manchester City. With this being said, it was their displays in pressure matches in cup competitions that was particularly mediocre.
With the chance to progress to the knockout rounds of the Champions League, Liverpool failed to beat an average Basel side at Anfield, and they couldn’t hand Gerrard an FA Cup final appearance on his 35th birthday as they were deservingly beaten at Wembley by relegation threatened Aston Villa in the semi-final. As a result, Rodgers was forced to tinker with his system on numerous occasions throughout the season; at one stage fielding Lallana as a false striker, Emre Can at centre back and Raheem Sterling at wing-back.
The situation surrounding 20-year-old Sterling can’t be easy for anyone connected to the club. He has chosen not to comment regarding contract negotiations and his future and instead concentrate on playing football, but whenever probed, he has reiterated that he wants to win trophies and is not interested in how much money he earns.
Although, Sterling’s agent Aidy Ward has claimed that no amount of money offered by Liverpool will convince him to sign a new contract and it is reported that Sterling told Rodgers that he wanted to leave the club towards the end of the season.
IS THERE HOPE?
Let’s not forget that Liverpool did sign Belgian forward Divock Origi last summer, a promising player who spent this season on loan at Lille in France. The major concern is that Liverpool have lost a living legend in Steven Gerrard, who will now play his club football in the MLS with LA Galaxy.
Additionally, they won’t be in the UEFA Champions League next season, which means that they will find it very difficult to compete with the likes of Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs in the transfer market and hence attract the calibre of players that they require to reclaim a place in Europe’s premier club competition.
Brendan Rodgers has stated that if the Liverpool owners want him to leave, he will, but during his tenure as Liverpool boss he has proved that he can buy promising young talents such as Sturridge and Coutinho and develop them into top class performers.
Whatever happens with Raheem Sterling, if Liverpool manage to make a few shrewd signings and get Daniel Sturridge up to full fitness this summer, and base their team around the midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Can and Coutinho, then the club is more than capable of having a successful season next term.