Season Review 2006-07

Well the season is done and I’d like to state my feelings towards the season. Now no matter what had happened if we had won the UCL, I’d still have deemed this season as a step back and as a failure. No team has a given right for success, but you build for success. The idea in the summer was to re-invigorate the attacking element of the team and establish depth to achieve success in the league especially.

We failed to do so and this was due to several reasons:

Bad Start/ Opening of Season: Like the season before the problems enimate from the level of the team at the start of the season, now it is accepted that a team won’t be physically optimum at the start of a season, but we failed to find a balance in the lineup. A lot of that has to be attributed to the philosophy of fast counter attacking Rafa tried to implement, but we were unsuccessful as the team lacked clinical strikers and generally was better suited to possession football. The tough serial of away fixtures at the start hindered us, but those matches were an opportunity as much as anything and we failed to capitalise. This has been a mistake Rafa has made and we need to rectify if we want to match our ambitions.

Signings: It has to be said that some players did not provide the thrust required taking the team to the higher level, Bellamy and Gonzalez have been major disappointments and in my book even Kuyt was disappointing to a lesser extent than the others, but still every detail has to count. Gonzalez especially has shown little to nothing to suggest he warrants a future at Liverpool. The players who came in did not perform to the levels required or the levels they have shown in the past. To be fair I was a sharp critic of Jermaine Pennant, but he’s done pretty well after a hard 6 months. His still too one dimensional for my liking, but he provides a good outlet and gave us width. He is a good option to have as a squad player in my opinion.

Injuries: Well naturally you get injuries and we didn’t face too many, but when we did they were to key personnel: Momo, Kewell and Garcia were all missed especially the latter two who could have provided greater creativity and gloss to our attacks. But the flipside can be that why do we only have two proper creative midfielders, especially considering that we like to play possession football.

In regards to the performance of the players this season:

Pepe Reina– He was criticised early on for a mistake he made against everton, too much was made of it IMO. His influence is shown when he is not between the sticks and when others goalies not performed. He provided good understanding to the backline and had a steady season. 7/10

Jerzy Dudek– Legendary for his role in Istanbul, but we’ve seen he leaks and lets goals in. Obviously he was given limited chances, but he didn’t show a good level in those matches. 3/10

Steve Finnan– For me he was the best player of the season in our team, he was stable in his defending and linked up well with Pennant especially going forward. 7.5/10

Alvaro Arbeloa– Well he had limited time, but has generally performed well and provided good backup in several positions. Couldn’t ask more for his first match and subsequent matches he’s performed on similar levels. 6/10

Jamie Carragher– Started the season badly and struggled with a new defensive partner and had a bad run, got better as the season went on and led the team well. 7/10

Daniel Agger– Another one who started slow but got stronger as the season went on, settled well and can be complimented for a good season, it is imperative he continues this sort of form and development through next year and beyond. 7/10

Sami Hyypia– Whilst Sami is legendary at Liverpool cause of his service, the years have started to catch up with him, the rotation at the start of the season didn’t help, but declining speed and our high defensive line meant he found it hard. Lost his place, but still performed professionally on and off the pitch with his limited chances. 6/10

John Arne Riise– Generally a horrible season which improved towards the latter part of the season, but that doesn’t legislate for a number of horrendous performances. Being suspect defensively can be accepted if it is made for in attack, but Riise has been disappointing. His physical levels, style of play have all been below par. His personal life began to affect his football. 5/10

Fabio Aurelio– Very suspect defensively and found it hard adapting to the team, also struggled to hold a position: he was used at left back and left mid. Improved after Christmas and played well against Arsenal at home, but too many injuries to develop a substantial run in the side 5/10

Jermaine Pennant– His second half of the season was very good, once he felt confident and part of the team he performed to his best. He’s a limited player whose game could be developed more, but he works hard and generally gives good output in terms of crosses, demanding the ball and taking on opponents/ providing width. A good solution for the squad, but I’m not sure he can perform unless he receives a long stint in the first team. 6.5/10

Luis Garcia– Shame that Luis was injured for a large part of the season, any player with a 1 in 4 goal ratio from midfield is missed, though not the most consistent, he scored 7 goals for us in half a season and was missed. 5/10

Steven Gerrard– Well Gerrard had an excellent season before, but this year he’s disappointed, both in terms of goals, general form and such. He’s not been totally bad, but nor good, average, reflective of our season. Played a few positions and deployed mainly as a central midfielder when Momo was out, I don’t think it’s his best position and limits him. Maybe I’m a bit critical but he has high standards and one which he is measured against. 6/10

Xabi Alonso– Another one who played badly, maybe we can attribute it to bad form, bad physical level or uncertainty over his future, but his passing has been poor, his authority in controlling the midfield has lacked and we’ve missed it, all of a sudden he’s faced competition. We need our real Xabi back. 5/10

Momo Sissoko– Criticised a lot from March onwards, but prior to his injury he was in good form and as good as his first season. People over-criticised his lack of technical ability, he showed the same attributes last year but no-one complained when he and Xabi formed a brilliant partnership. Worries over his eye injury and maybe his confidence is shattered, but hopefully a summer of rest and a new season can bring back the boss. 5.5/10

Javier Mascherano– Suffered a crisis at west ham, but repaid Rafa’s faith with excellent performances and cementing his place in the Liverpool team, he’s like a stop gap of Sissoko’s destroyer mixed with Alonso’s passing, not better than both in those characteristics, but a warrior and someone who gave us a thrust when others stagnated. Hopefully he can maintain this form and we make him a permanent signing. 7/10

Mark Gonzalez– Many Liverpool fans assumed from Speedy’s hot run with Erreala that he’d dethrone Kewell on the left, but reality is that he has struggled in every regard. You can say that it’s his first season, but not even glimpses of light have shown he could dethrone Kewell or even Riise, a winger who cannot control a ball, see a pass or even demand the ball. Extremely disappointing, a flop. 4/10

Harry Kewell– It was evident he was missed, but injuries again. A player who cannot be depended on in this regard. No score

Peter Crouch– Our best striker this season, a good return of 18 goals and he shows he is a good player, he tried his best but suspect attitude and ego growing with the fame. Still cannot fault what he’s done in the main, he’s limited in terms of the ruthless streak other strikers have, but a good option. 7/10

Craig Bellamy– Shown some good games and performances, but a player too dependent on long runs in a team and with Benitez if you do not perform, your out, so not a good formula. He worked hard, scored 9 goals or so but never solved our problems in clinical finishing or creating, instead highlighted them. 5.5/10

Dirk Kuyt– Well a lot was expected of him and whilst his hard work and attitude is admired and rightfully appreciated. Another striker who missed exclusive host of chances and highlighted our problem in this regard. But for a debut season, 13 League goals is a good return and hopefully h can improve that return next year. 6/10

Robbie Fowler– Legend, it was painful seeing his decline but his goal per game ratio was still excellent. For a 4th striker he did what was expected and it’s a shame he wasn’t in his prime now or else he’d solve a lot of the problems this team has. 5/10

Rafa Benitez– Still the right man for Liverpool, he took us to the final and made us dream again. His passion and desire is what this club needs, he makes things happen, sometimes it’s questionable like forcing Parry to find investment by flirting with Madrid, but he does what is right for the club and this is the sort of person we need. Very meticulous in everything in regards to the club from sporting operations to how we should run as a business. His vision and ambition is what we have not had from the board previously and I deeply respect the scale of work he does to improve the whole institution of Liverpool. However in regards to domestically we played another bad season, making the same mistakes of before: slow start, poor physical preparation and lack of defined balance in the lineup at the start of the season. We took two/ three months identifying the roles of every player and how the team should play, by that time we’d played and lost most of our hardest away matches. While the players let Rafa down with performances not on there level, he still didn’t help matters in this regard, we need to learn from these mistakes. Next season is Benitez’s season of truth and IMO he has a lot of resources to achieve this, now we need to show face and achieve what we desire and always talk of in terms of the league. Saying that Rafa is still the man who is best set for Liverpool, sometimes fans forget the level of time needed in English football to achieve a transition especially when a massive club has not won a league for many years, the only trophy we haven’t won in the past decade and the one we crave most. Rafa can still hopefully do it and I think he’s the guy who suits Liverpool.

Statistical Analysis-

540 shots on goal (2nd highest in League) with an 11% conversion rate (14th in League) with 57 goals (4th highest on League)

Averaging 1.5 goals per game is not good enough.

What a disturbing set of stats, we made loads of chances but our finishing has been atrocious. A 1 in almost 10 shot to goal ratio, that needs to be rectified. Only one player scored more than ten goals (Kuyt: 12) But not just through signing a finished but also better creators we had more crosses than any other League team with Crouch also being our lead assist taker with 6, but that showed a lack of variety in our play and build up IMO. We need to be able to create more chances from greater use of the ball, which we see a lot of (17152 passes: 3rd highest in League). Discipline wise we were the best team, which is good to see.

We had mixed performances against the big teams, at home we dominated every match and won all but the utd game where we should have won, away we lost all 3 and played good at Stamford Bridge but bad at the other two grounds. Rectifying it will require: balance, luck and good form from al the players. This needs to be addressed though if we want to go forward.

Away from home we scored only 18 goals and finished with a minus goal return of -2 away from home with 9 losses. This has been a problem we have not addressed since Rafa has been here and definitely an area the team needs to address.

At home we had the second best record with 46 points, dropping 11 points, heck our only defeat was also the jammiest and unluckiest, but again I hate to sound like a broken record but not taking our chances or making our dominance count was the reason to our failure there.

Hopes, Aspirations, etc’¦

Well next season can be titled ‘œBenitez’s Season of Truth’ because I think fans will expect and demand more domestically in the league, though I remain skeptical we can do it, though this can be very subjective at the beginning of the summer transfer window where we may have money to use.

Anyway I expect Rafa to sign a striker, winger and maybe a centre back, but he’ll probably sign some squad players as well, but we need to focus on the first team as the squad has decent depth.

Fowler, Zenden, Gonzalez, Dudek are all going and I expect Cisse, Hyypia, Bellamy and maybe Crouch to leave.

Now who we will sign I do not know who we’ll sign, but I know what I think Rafa will look for. Rafa prefers strikers who score goals, but also balance the team and be involved in the build up and generally have an all round-game, but to get a player with those qualities and goalscoring knack is very hard and expensive. El Niño (Torres) and Carlitos (Tevez) have been mooted and it could be possibilities. In terms of creative players, Rafa tends to go for either second strikers or wingers, he doesn’t like playmaker Attacking Midfielders. So I think Simao may be possible and he’d be a good player for the left side, simply because he provides good output in terms of goals and assists. But then again you question if a player can adapt and if he has the quality.

The fetish with CM’s is continued with Lucas and the comments form Xabi and Rafa suggest he is staying and we will seek to renew him this summer. I don’t think we’ll sell any of the CM’s.

In terms of defenders, we need to go for a left back but I think Rafa likes Riise and I find that worrying, he may work hard but his physical level was poor and he provided an average season. Aurelio is the LB version of Kewell, talented but not dependable due to injuries. We need to address left back but I don’t think we will. Another centre back will most likely be signed with the possibility of Sami leaving, which would be hard to take due to the fact he’s a loyal servant, model pro and he’s performed when given chances. Hard to find such a variety.

What worries me the most is the obsession with signing average squad players, this fixation needs to stop and we need to find a strong select of 11-15 players IMO as it disrupts finding a rhythm at the start of a season and thus affecting results in a bad way.

Next season I hope we come back and deliver our ambitions with the right results and such. The road is long and we encounter many storms, but we need to focus as one from the offset and work to the aspirations everyone related to the club talks of.

Article by arfy05 from RAWK