After reading several reviews of Liverpools season and even more reflection on Brendan Rodgers first season in charge Dan Holland gives his view on the men in red.
At the end of a very promising season with a number of reasons to be hopeful going in to next season, I wanted to give my view on the players that have helped us reach a higher point’s haul in a manager’s first season in charge than those of the previous 4 gaffers. This is solely my view without the aid of statistics, whilst they provide an interesting slant on a player’s performance I feel as though sometimes they can be misconstrued and give people an unfair idea on how well that individual has done. This is from the heart and as I have seen it from my seat in the Paddock throughout a much more entertaining season, one that saw us the top scorers in the league since 1st January 2013. At the end of each players report I will give them a grade in true end of term report style!
This was an uncharacteristically stop start season for our Spanish stopper, in previous seasons Pepe would play every minute of every league game but during this campaign injury stopped this being possible. Reina’s form was also questionable at different stages of the season leading some to question whether this would his last season at Anfield. Whether not being a regular starter at some stages affected his form we may never know. What I know and saw was a return to the Pepe of old around the time Jamie Carragher returned to the starting line-up. Having his presence and organisational skills in front of him obviously helped and a string of world class saves and clean sheets were the hallmark of his 2nd half of the season. Hopefully he will stay here next term as without doubt an inform Pepe Reina is as good as anyone in the world. B
In the last 13 months two cup ties have shown the best and worst of our stand in No. 1. In last season’s FA Cup Semi Final Brad made a number of saves and dealt well with Evertons aerial bombardment which helped us reach the Wembley show piece. This season some less than secure handling contributed to our shock defeat to Oldham. Further nervous performances followed and I’m sure this will result in a new understudy arriving ahead of next season. D
I am accused of being biased when it comes to discussing Glen’s ability as I rate him very highly and way above any other English right back. This opinion seems to be shared by a number of international managers, as since Rat Boys retirement many have tried to remove him from the side and all have failed. No he’s not perfect and can sometimes be held at fault for goals conceded but who can’t? I can remember one game this season where he had a shocker (West Ham at home), other than that he was the picture of consistency on both flanks, not just a reliable defender but going forward a real threat, left foot or right foot, crosses come in to the box and shots test the opposition keeper. My only beef with Glen this season was when he failed to tell Pepe which way to dive for Hazards penalty against Chelsea, despite the bench calling it correctly. A-
This was Andre’s first season in the Liverpool first team and it has got off to a very encouraging start as a back-up to Glen Johnson when the England man was utilised on the left hand side. Making his debut in a Europa League tie away to Young Boys, Andre marked the occasion with a goal. What struck me that night was his confidence and organisational skills at the back, at one point he was shouting at Carra which shows a huge amount of self-confidence. In his 13 appearances this term he very rarely put a foot wrong and would have possibly played more games had injury not cut his season short. Along with Martin Kelly I feel this lad could be a regular in our back four for a number of years to come. B-
Regrettably this was a very short season for the promising defender. Named in the starting line-up for the first game of the season this promised to be a big season for the tall and skilful youngster but a ruptured ligament in September ended his season there. After Carraghers retirement I envisage Kelly moving inside to Centre Back where I’m sure he will be just as impressive and a fixture in our back line. D
Another mixed season in my mind for the Dane. Alongside Carragher he looks assured, good on the ball, dominant in the air and great in the tackle. Alongside Skrtel or Coates he looks nearly clueless, his positional sense is sometimes beyond belief, he gets muscled off the ball and gives the ball away far too much. What surprises me about this is that as a captain of his national side he should be able to lead but to me it appears as though he needs a leader alongside him. As with a number of the squad in the 2nd half of the season he showed what a great defender he is and that any defence will need to be built around him and his ability to carry the ball out from the back. He does however need to carry this form on with a new partner. C+
What happened to the Skrtel of 2011/12? Named player of the year the previous season hopes were high for the Skrtel/Agger partnership. Alas this proved to be a weakness in a number of games even against non-league and League 1 opposition. He was weaker in the tackle, easier to dispossess, woeful in the air and worse in possession. He looked to have the weight of the world on his shoulders or the mind-set of a player who was in his last season at Liverpool. Either way it was far from good enough and one of the major disappointments of this season. I think we may have seen the last of him and if so Martin we wish you all the best. F
A limited number of appearances for the Uruguayan say it all really. His career at Anfield has never really got started. Seb appears very laid back which has no place in an intense Premiership. Showing glimpses of his ability makes me think he may have a good future in the game but is possibly more suited to the South American game or possibly the French league. E
A season of two positions for the Spaniard and to be honest impressed in both. When playing in his usual left back role Jose was great in the tackle and was very rarely dominated by an opposition winger. I can’t recall too many bad performances at the back and often was my man of the match. The impressive performances weren’t just reserved for his left back role either, when the squad was depleted especially in the attacking positions Enrique was deployed as an emergency left winger. A role he thrived in, he played his part in a couple of our best ‘team goals’ of the season as both provider and finisher. In my mind with the ample coverage on the right hand side and the ability for Glen Johnson to cover on the left added to an exceptional season for Jose Enrique we need not sign a full back this summer. A
Joe’s season started very impressively with a number of assured performances in the opening weeks of the season including some of our tougher games. I remember saying to the guy who sits next to me that we had found a player here and he looked like a great signing. You don’t suddenly lose the ability and I think we may still see more from the diminutive midfielder. He was less impressive when playing alongside Lucas, this is probably because he was operating in a similar space and limited the room in which he could operate. Just prior to the Joe’s season being cut short due to injury he operated in a more advanced role and the form returned and was even amongst the goals. Brendan knows this player very well and will no doubt find the best combination in that midfield area. C-
The knives were out for Jordan at the start of the season as people saw him as a very expensive mistake, through absolutely no fault of his own, he however answered his critics by putting in some very impressive performances. Jordan to me suffers from a lack of confidence and needs an arm putting round him. He is forever glancing at the bench looking for reassurance, what can’t be denied is his desire, work rate and enthusiasm. All of which can be of no use without the ability to back them up but on numerous occasions this season Henderson showed the skill’s he possesses. His box to box running, shooting, passing and crossing were all evident as the season progressed. He showed why he is England U21 captain and why we parted with so much money for him. On this evidence and another couple of years of progress he might be the man to try and replace the irreplaceable Steven Gerrard. B-
I think this season has shown all us fans a different Steven Gerrard. Less driving runs, less thunderous tackles and less goals but all this contributed to Stevie not missing one minute of Premiership football right up until the closing stages at St James Park towards the end of the season. Despite a number of Gerrards trademarks being missing the skipper was no less impressive. He now controlled the game in a different way; there were short passes in a deeper area of the field interspersed with his unerring ability to pick a man from 60-70 yards. Another excellent season for a one of a kind player who with his new way of playing the game should give us another couple of years. B+
Sometimes Jonjo’s enthusiasm and desire to do well can be his downfall. Bad challenges and snatching at chances and misplaced final balls all suggest a rush of blood and andrenalin. He will have to learn to channel this if he is to progress at the very top. I see another season out on loan or a permanent departure as on this seasons evidence doesn’t look like a player that will help us break into the top 4 and challenge for that title. D-
Along with Henderson, Stewart was another of those much improved players from the previous campaign and Brendan Rodgers must be given credit for that. He shifted him to left back for a few games in the hope of increasing his desire, when this didn’t work he was told he could leave in January. This tactic seemed to work and BR’s excellent man management focussed Downing who obviously didn’t fancy the idea of leaving such a great club. From January until May, Downing found an extra yard of pace, an improved work ethic and a more strength both in and out of possession. He became a regular starter and on the odd occasion he did drop to the bench the team didn’t look as good as it did in the previous game. He has become a vital part of the team and if he does become a squad player next season we will have real quality to introduce at a later stage. Sadly some fans are still on his back and this may never change. My only slight criticism is sometimes his lack of composure at vital moments. C
Raheem burst onto the scene and was a total breath of fresh air. He had pace, skill and best of all youth on his side. It looked like we had found a real player, not long after his first team breakthrough came an international call up and a new contract. Sadly his form dropped and injuries ruined the latter part of the season. Some cynics said he was playing for a professional contract and when this was achieved his eye went off the ball. I share a different opinion. I think Raheem is too easy to mark, drop off let him turn and then hit him. He is too light weight to ride the tackles and has no other string to his bow. Defenders knew what to expect and learnt to deal with it, they didn’t have this luxury when he broke through as a relative unknown. This is a huge summer for Sterling, he needs to bulk up and come up with a plan B if he is to build on his promising start.
I saw nothing to suggest Suso will make it. He is neither overly skilful nor pacey, he isn’t a regular goalscorer nor does he provide regular assists. I would have no concerns over seeing Suso leave before his value diminishes further. Where I would congratulate him is his interaction with fans. Numerous tweets show him with fans in and around the city as well as at Melwood. Well done lad for remembering us so many others don’t.
Where do you start with Mr Suarez? One of the greatest footballers of his generation and with it so difficult to manage. It appeared as the season progressed Brendan had eradicated the diving and berating of referees and Luis was doing what he did best, mesmerising defenders and wowing supporters. Then out of nowhere he sinks his oversized nashers into Ivanovic’s forearm. This was as unpredictable and unbelievable as his footwork on the field. I for one was ready to show him the door, he is definitely drinking in the last chance saloon but let’s hope he lives up to his promise and the club help him manage his demons because anyside with Suarez in it is a better side. As Gerrard said the best player to have never won the PFA Player of the Year award. Throughout the season his passing, touch, dribbling and finishing had us all in awe. My grade for Suarez reflects his football and nothing else. A+
This lad is a player and make no mistake about it. Since his arrival in January he has had one game in which he wasn’t perfect. I have never seen a better architect in the final third, he sees a ball that no one else would see and using both feet, both the inside and outside of his feet finds a team mate with devastating ease. His strength on the ball belies his slight frame this coupled with exceptional balance makes him nigh on impossible to dispossess. He’s also not bad at putting the ball in the net, keep this lad fit alongside Suarez next season and they will do serious damage. What a signing A+
Despite his superb goal return and a fair share of assists I still have my concerns. Not over his footballing ability but his attitude. Even in a successful 5 month period Daniel occasionally sulked his way through a game, was sharp/rude with some of the backroom staff when talking to the bench. In the QPR game he shouted “tape” at the bench and it was handed to him, after taping his socks up rather than placing it back in the hand of the physio (who was right next to him) Sturridge threw it on the floor. I may be being old fashioned but that isn’t on. If he changes his attitude and is a happy Daniel Sturridge then we’ve seen he can be devastating but in his appearances so far he has been all or nothing. Careful man management needed Brendan. A-
Fabio has had a very difficult first season; broken up by a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury his Anfield career hasn’t really got started. A lack of goals at the start of the season no doubt damaged his confidence but there is little excuse for his, at times, half-hearted performances. When Borini returned at the end of the season there was a marked improvement in both his output and battling qualities. A vital 2nd season awaits. D
Last but definitely not least;
During the last game of the season the Kop begged for “one more year”, testament to the way Carra rolled back the clock in the 2nd half of the season. The defence looked far more secure and organised; Jamie was playing as well as he has ever done. The highlight being against Chelsea and a fast improving Fernando Torres but Carra had the Spaniard in his pocket. Yes Jamies lack of pace meant we played that bit deeper but scoring 40 goals since January and a number of clean sheets shows that this had little impact on the team’s performance. On this form we will miss Jamie the player but regardless of his form what you can’t replace is the experience and organisation that Carra brings. Thanks for the memories Carra and well done on a sensational final season A+