Liverpool FC 2013/14 Season Review: So close yet so far
It was a ’60s, ’70s, ’80s revival season at Anfield. At the end of it all, there is renewed hope, renewed vigour, the same passion, and Champions League football to look forward to next season.
Cast your mind back to August. If you’d said that Liverpool fans would be dejected on the final day despite finishing second, you’d have been scoffed at. Leave alone fans being dejected, you’d have been laughed at even if you uttered the words ‘Liverpool’ and ‘Second Place’ in the same season.
But this is not just any other football club. At Liverpool, players and staff have to daily walk past paintings and statues of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish – impossible acts to follow. But after two seasons in charge, Brendan Rodgers has shown that he has all the ingredients to be heading that way – including the Shankly Celebration.
This current Liverpool side has taken us through an absolute roller coaster ride. From Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge to Aly Cissokho and Iago Aspas, from Steven Gerrard to Victor Moses, from defeats to Southampton and Hull to enthralling victories against Arsenal, Spurs and both the Manchester Clubs.
Liverpool have, by all means, exceeded the expectations of their owners, their fans, their manager, and even one man who thought he could never win the Premier League in his time as a player for his beloved boyhood club. Steven Gerrard could have gone elsewhere in search of glory, but for him, this one title with Liverpool would have meant more than ten others in other colours.
This one title would have meant the world to a man, who since he has been a child has known nothing but Liverpool.
The season started off with some routine victories, and Liverpool found themselves top at Christmas, only to lose to Manchester City and Chelsea in the next four days and drop down to 4th. And then Liverpool began to exhibit the clichéd characteristic of champions, winning matches even when they were not at their best, as they embarked on a 16-game unbeaten run in the league in 2014.
In between all of this, Anfield was slowly but surely becoming the cauldron that it once used to be. Teams dreaded playing Liverpool at Anfield. Liverpool made lightning quick starts and blew teams away even before the game had actually begun. The Renaissance was truly on.
And that led to renewed belief around Anfield that the long wait for a Premier League title was finally over. But with belief comes expectation. And when expectation is not met, exasperation is all it leaves behind. An unfortunate Gerrard slip in the loss to Chelsea and a defensive brain freeze in the last 15 minutes at Selhurst Park ensured that Liverpool’s title to lose became City’s to lose.
Liverpool’s charge was led by Suarez, Gerrard and Sturridge. With 65 goals and 32 assists between them, they were at the centre of most things good for Liverpool this season. Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson were also influential and Martin Skrtel ended the season as the highest scoring defender in the league.
For Brendan Rodgers, this would have been a steep learning curve, and one that he must have enjoyed. For Liverpool fans, they have fallen in love with the club all over again, and that is down to Rodgers’s style both on and off the pitch. He doesn’t put a word wrong in most of his press conferences. And on the pitch, his tactical adaptability and versatility came to the fore, as they changed systems with consummate ease throughout the season.
He has transformed Liverpool into a side that plays an irresistible brand of attacking football. The pressing game, the brutal counter attacks, and just the sheer ease with which they have managed to rip sides apart at Anfield this season is testament to Rodgers’s tactical acumen and shrewdness.
38 games. 84 points. 101 goals. The top two scorers in the league. The top two on the assists chart. Liverpool’s attacking force has done everything that was asked of them. Rodgers has sharpened the attack, and now it is time to turn his attentions to the rearguard, which conceded 50 goals this season – surely not Champions material.
Rodgers would have definitely expected a bigger contribution from the likes of Aspas, Cissokho and Moses, who all had disappointing seasons to say the very least. Maybe now, with Champions League football to look forward to, and a sizable transfer kitty, Rodgers will get in a few big name players who can help Liverpool challenge on all four fronts next season.
For Liverpool, this has been a season of revival, a season of joy, a season of records, and most importantly, a season where they finally met their pre-season expectations. Next year will be tougher. The onus will be on them to show that this season was no flash in the pan, to prove that this is the norm rather than the exception.
Next season will get tougher, no doubt. More matches, bigger opposition, and perhaps more than anything else, tougher oppositions.
For now, the Golden Sky at the end of the storm is looking closer than it ever has in the past 24 years, and with those magical Champions League nights returning to Anfield, the stars look set to shine on Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool.