With smoke bombs, flares and other pyrotechnics coming from the stands it is a shame that Liverpool couldn’t reproduce fireworks in their performances on the pitch this season. Inconsistency has again riddled Liverpool’s season and Brendan Rodgers’s first campaign in charge has followed straight from where Kenny Dalglish’s left off. A challenge for the top four petered miserably out in mid-March and again we are being laughed at by our Blue neighbours for finishing below them for the second season in a row. It shouldn’t happen. It’s as simple as that. For all those Reds that are blinded by the fact that we are in club in transition, you are wrong. We are in fact a club in decline, and have been for a long time. Of course it is going to take time to get us back to contending with the elite of England and Europe, but how long? Brendan Rodgers keeps talking about taking tiny steps forward but we’re taking large steps back. Whilst Chelsea and both Manchester clubs are shopping in Waitrose for players such as Eden Hazard, Robin van Persie etc. Liverpool are nervously pacing up and down Aldi, looking at the sell-by date of a product, its ingredients and purchasing Fabio Borini. For a club such as ours to accept coming outside the top four each year is not good enough. A great man once said, “Liverpool Football Club exists to win trophies.” Sadly, this is no longer the case and even if it was, we are a long way off.
Where do we start with Brendan Rodgers? He sounds like he ate a Greek philosopher’s book, he patronises, he’s smug and yet, I am still yet to make my decision on him. Much like the rest of The Kop, how do you judge a man who can one week manage his team to victory over a 12-match unbeaten Tottenham side to the next week being beaten away at Southampton. It is without doubt that he should be given to the end of his three-year contract to attempt to put Liverpool back amongst the big boys. What choice do we have? Do we sack Rodgers at the end of next season and bring in another manager with new ideas and put Liverpool Football Club yet again in another transition period. And what to make of his transfers? He has brought the mesmeric Phillipe Coutinho to the club for buttons. A man who seems like he could unlock a virgin’s chastity belt in a blink of an eye. He, if no one else, has given us hope for next year. Someone who is finally thinking like Suarez (without the madness), and a player which you can base your team around. However, he has also bought Fabio Borini who sometimes seems to confuse his left foot with his right, who runs around, heedlessly at times, like Ben Johnson on ketamine. The trusted Joe Allen has been brought in who started the season as though he could slot into any midfield up and down the country, only for his form to dip dramatically after Christmas. Finally, Daniel Sturridge, who is frustratingly brilliant, when he wants and if he wants. If we look at the games in which the ex-Chelsea man has been at his best, there is an identifiable trend, Manchester City, Chelsea and Fulham. All of those games Sturridge had fire in his belly and a point to prove. All three games there were catcalls from the stands of ‘Chelsea reject’. For £12 million you’d say Liverpool have done excellent business. Sturridge has enough talent to pay that money back through effortless performances i.e. Norwich at home. But to be a bargain at that price, Sturridge must reproduce displays of brilliance on more than a couple of occasions. He on many occasions seems lazy, his unwillingness to run channels, press or challenge for second balls, has led many doubting whether the 23 year-old will hack it at Liverpool. But on other occasions we have Sturridge tormenting defences with his fast feet, intelligent passes and goal-scoring threat. Hopefully we see more of the latter next season.
What can be said about Rodgers buys is he has bought all of them young, which means it would be harsh to rule a definitive judgement over them now, as they have time on their side. However, for many Liverpool fans who have seen us conquer Europe on more than one occasion during the 70s and 80s, patience is thin. So we have this mix, those young fans who think Rodgers may be perhaps a reborn Shankly and those older who lived and adored whilst Shankly was at the helm, who think Rodgers is just an imposter. His philosophical sayings seem premeditated, like his press conferences are some sort of show. His post-match interviews usually try to mask over a poor performance. However, as mentioned earlier, because of previous sackings in such a short space of time we must allow Rodgers to build his own team. When he has finally done this we will then see how good of a manger he is.
I have put it off for long enough, now let’s talk about Luis Suarez. It is unclear where Suarez’s future lies. For all his mischief and idiocy he is a truly unique player. Just when a defender thinks he has him pinned, the Uruguayan somehow manages to wriggle his way from an opponent and strike when you least expect. His slaloming runs, work-rate and endeavour to the cause make him a Kop idol. A banner taken to Craven Cottage on a recent Liverpool away win read, “No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness”, it is hard to contest such a brilliant banner. How do you even defend someone who reacts in such a mindless, psychotic way of biting an opponent? Since joining the club in 2011, Suarez will have missed, by the time he returns next season, 19 games through suspension. That is a truly astonishing number of games. Not even Michael Brown at his pomp could rival such a number in a short period of time. Regardless of all this, Suarez is a genius, a misunderstood genius. He has been at his peak this season in a team which has been moulded to him and that has been the key. Scoring 30 goals this season and creating countless more, it is clear that Liverpool need to keep this lovable lunatic. If Ian Ayre and the American mafia beside him decide to sell Suarez as the image of the club is at stake, football is dead to me. The club will go backwards. Who cares what others think of our club? But more importantly who can we attract that will offer us what Suarez does? Why would anyone want to join Liverpool in our current state? These are questions that are hard to answer, especially when you have players such as Gylfi Sigurdsson choosing Tottenham Hotspur over Anfield. He will forever be the pantomime villain in this country but he is our pantomime villain and should he leave the future looks murky for the Reds.
Suarez’s former striking partner Andy Carroll has been constantly linked with a permanent move away from Liverpool this summer. Many laugh at the possibility of Carroll returning and playing a role in Rodgers squad for next year and there were even rumours Rodgers was thinking of playing the lumbering Geordie at centre-half. Those who laugh may want to recall Carroll’s performances towards the back end of last season when he was given, and earnt, a good run in the side. His two performances against Chelsea were those of a man possessed. I remember a moment in which I thought Carroll’s time at Liverpool was about to change. In the final home game of last season against Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea side, Carroll contested for a header on the half-way line. Winning the header, he chased down Branislav Ivanovic, whom he and Suarez had took turns in bullying all night. The number nine continued to huff and puff as The Kop stood roaring him on. He managed to beat Ivanovic to the ball putting the ball out for a throw in rather than a goal-kick. It was a minuscule moment but one which I thought would have massive consequences. The whole crowd stood applauding as though he had put the ball into the top corner. I remember thinking there and then with chills down my spine, this is where he kicks on. He wasn’t given the opportunity to do so by Rodgers, something I found disappointing. Like any team you must have a plan B. At times this season we looked devoid of that. That plan B could have been Andy Carroll. We brought him on against Manchester City at the start of the season and he caused their defence all sorts of problems. If it wasn’t for the brilliant goal-line clearance of Jack Rodwell, he could well have snatched a late winner. But people forget this too easily. They read what the national press say. Their views are those of Tony Gayle, Charlie Nicholas and Paul Merson, the ‘Sky View’ as I like to call it. Open your eyes and see what he did to Manchester United not so long ago, harassing Nemanja Vidic, bundling into David de Gea and sending Fergie into a fit of rage. This sort of attacking threat, although not aesthetically pretty, is effective and could work in the current Liverpool team. My ranting will fall on deaf ears though as the club will look to cash in on Carroll to fund other moves this summer. I am a massive Carroll fan and firmly believe he will come back to haunt us in years to come.
There has been disappointing players that have stayed whilst Carroll was loaned out. Martin Skrtel was perhaps the biggest disappointment of all, after being crowned player of the year last season we saw the Slovak fail to reproduce form that was deserving of such awards. He was bullied constantly by the more physical strikers of the league, such as Romelu Lukaku, Kenwyne Jones and Christian Benteke to name just a few. He has never looked convincing alongside Daniel Agger and it was only when Jamie Carragher came back into the team did we see some sort of stability at the back. For his size and stature, Skrtel rarely looks like he can dominate in the air. He seems to lack leadership, which for his time at the club you would expect, and with a long stint on the bench his future is unclear. Jose Enrique is another who failed to impress. You cannot watch him play without realising he is a footballer devoid of a footballer’s brain. Galloping 30 plus yards to retain possession, only to give it away is a constant theme of Enrique’s game. He seems to be the bane of Pepe Reina’s life, playing his own game and constantly unsettling the back four through poor positioning. Sometimes brilliant, other times useless, it is clear to me that a left back is needed this summer if we are to tighten up at the back. There are still question marks over Stewart Downing as a Liverpool player and it wouldn’t be a surprise to many if he is moved on.
Looking back on the 2012/2013 season it is hard to pick a stand out highlight amidst the red smoke of the away days. There has been plenty of plucky performances on the way, such as the near comeback against Zenit St. Petersburg, the away draw at Manchester City and the draw away at Goodison, in which Suarez’s ruled out last minute effort would have been very much ‘a la Gary Mac circa 2001’. My personal highlight would have to be the 3-2 home win at Tottenham. It showed what we could and had been threatening to do against the top teams. Spurs came into the game on a 12-match unbeaten run and a winning Steven Gerrard penalty sent the Kop into raptures. The sight of flailing limbs as Gerrard sped away to the right corner of the Kop is a sight which we haven’t seen enough this season.
It has become a Liverpool cliché, but the upcoming transfer window is a huge one for the club. The gap between the top four and the rest is getting wider, and if players such as Falcao, Isco and Robert Lewandowski are added to top four clubs, it is tough to see the gap being bridged. There is cause for optimism though with Suso, Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom all impressing at various points in the season, you would expect all three to improve ahead of the upcoming campaign. With this added youth and one or two astute signings, you have to hope that Rodgers can conjure up some sort of magical plan to have Anfield playing that Champions League music once more.