The rollercoaster that was the 2008/09 season has now passed. A season of “what if’s” and “what might have beens” to look back on for years to come; hopefully with smiles at the season of where it all began as we pick up yet another league title, and not with regret at an opportunity missed as the barren period prolongs.
We can look back on this season either way, depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty, and both opinions are just as valid as each other. There’s no doubt whatsoever that this season is “one that got away” and could so easily have resulted in us being champions. But that’s football; the table doesn’t lie. It didn’t lie throughout the 70’s and 80’s when we dominated and it doesn’t lie now when we finish a gallant second. We didn’t have the squad to cope with injuries to key players, and as a result, we weren’t good enough over the course of the season.
But what this season has been is a season of vast progression. Where on Benitez’ arrival we were a side 37 points behind the champions Chelsea, we are now a side that have finished ahead of Chelsea and within touching distance of the current champions Man Utd. That progression has been evident year on year, as much in footballing prowess and stature than just in league position alone. We were huge underdogs in the major competitions as little as 4 years ago, but now see anything less than the semi finals of the European Cup and a serious assault on the league as a relative failure. If that’s not progression then what is? One look at the team sheets from then and now highlights everything.
We’re all disappointed we never captured the league title this season, and quite rightly so; settling for second best should never be a trait associated with the occupants of Anfield. We’re disappointed, but we can also be proud and excited that we now have a side capable of ending what will then be a 20 year wait for the league title next May. We will learn from the mistakes made this season, both players and manager, which will hopefully make us stronger when we set out on that long road in August.
During the Gerard Houllier tenure, we finished 2nd in the league after previous finishes of 4th and 3rd, looking all set to continue that pattern and bring home the title. That summer Houllier went out and spent his transfer budget on Bruno Cheyrou, El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao. Those same mistakes cannot be made again this summer; we have to get everything right with our transfer activities this summer or risk losing touch once again as others strengthen.
Last summer’s transfer activity:
Robbie Keane – from Tottenham Hotspur, Â£20.3m
Andrea Dossena – from Udinese, Â£7m
Diego Cavalieri – from Palmeiras, Â£3m
David Ngog – from Paris St Germain, Â£1.5m
Philipp Degen – from Borussia Dortmund, Free
Albert Riera – from Espanyol, Â£8m
Total Spend = Â£39.8m
Peter Crouch – to Portsmouth, Â£11m
John Arne Riise – to Roma, Â£4.5m
Scott Carson – to West Brom, Â£3.75m
Anthony Le Tallec – to Le Mans, Â£1.1m
Harry Kewell – to Galatasaray, Free
Danny Guthrie – to Newcastle, Â£2.25m
Steve Finnan – to Espanyol, Â£1m
Total Received = Â£23.6m
Last summer there was a total net spend of Â£16.2m, which has now been wiped out by the sale of Robbie Keane. In reality, we never spent a penny last summer. The fact that non of last summer’s signings made an impact this season or could be named as first choice players highlights last summer was a poor one; yet we’ve still managed to improve hugely on the field. Mistakes were made last summer, some of which have been corrected, and others that will be corrected this summer providing we can find buyers.
This summer is absolutely massive, and providing we strengthen with at least two quality additions then we’re pretty certain to progress again. Last summer we made our mistakes, this summer is hopefully where we learn from them. It’s just a sad state of affairs that we’re having to consider the sale of one of our best players in Xabi Alonso in order to fund our summer activities; especially when you consider we didn’t spend a penny last summer!
So much for Benitez being backed with the big money.
Now for a few token awards:
Player of the Year
Steven Gerrard. Despite missing several key games, struggling with injury and missing his key partner in Fernando Torres, he’s still finished as the 3rd top scorer in the country and performed at the highest level once again. It’s frightening what he and Torres could do next season if they can both keep fit. Alonso, Reina and Kuyt all file in behind him for this one, in no particular order.
Most Improved Player of the Year
Yossi Benayoun by an absolute mile. From his goal in the Bernabeu onwards he’s been immense; scoring vital goals time and time again. From being a player that looked too lightweight and out of his league last season and the early part of this year, he’s come on leaps and bounds to become a very important player and one of the first names on the team sheet in these closing months of the season. The most successful sides have all been ugly as sin as well, so having Yossi in the ranks means we’re well on the way to greatness. Tevez would be a welcome addition this summer; they’ll be no stopping us with those two in the side. A scot an a few ugly lads has always been the reciepe for success.
Flop of the Year
Philip Degen should win hands down, but I don’t think anyone really expected anything in the first place. Albert Riera promised much to begin with, but delivered very little. Lucas has his detractors, but has played a vital role in wins at Old Trafford and other big games, and it would be very harsh to award him this one. There is one player however that receives 98% of the votes from the Kopites around me; Ryan Babel.
A young man with the world at his feet. He reminds me of a cross between Stan Collymore and Thierry Henry, yet has the attitude of Harry Enfield’s Kevin the Teenager, only worse. He could be one of the best players of all time, seriously, but he just can’t be arsed. It’s as simple as that. He’s got everything you’d want from an attacking footballer, but lacks an ounce of desire and fight. Anything over a couple of million this summer will do very nicely, but I’d even consider selling him for half a twix and a can of Dr.Pepper. A massive waste of talent that will never be realised.
Services to Liverpool
Sami Hyypia. Thank you for everything you’ve given over these past 10 years, and for playing your part in transforming the club into one of the most potent forces in Europe once again. Great managers always say “you build from the back”. Sami Hyypia was the first part of that rebuilding and remained a rock throughout. Thank you.
Roll on August!
Agree or disagree with Paul? There’s still time to vote in our end of season awards; on everything from best home and away atmosphere to best young player and more. Vote here.