Ben Twelves takes a look back at the 2012/13 season and picks his highlights and top performers from Brendan Rodgers’ first year in charge.
This season was always going to be a campaign based around “laying the foundations” in the words of Brendan Rodgers, so whether we liked it or not, we were going to have to take the rough with the smooth. The much craved and talked about “progression” was what most supporters were looking for and it’s fair to say that that there has been improvement, especially with our form since January.
More inspired signings like Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho over the summer period will have us heading completely in the right direction and if the right areas are strengthened accordingly, there is real cause for optimism going into the 2013/2014 season. But before the dust settles and the debates about progression, transfers and next seasons expectations begin, there are still things to be settled from this campaign, such as the end of season awards which I have explored below.
Player of season: Luis Suarez
This is a fairly obvious choice and one that I think almost every red would agree with. A return of 30 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions speaks for itself, especially in a team that for half of the campaign desperately lacked attacking players to share the burden of scoring goals so much, that Luis was practically getting on the end of his own assists. But alongside his goal tally, Suarez showed the work-rate, desire and tenacity combined with his world class ability that we have all grown to love. The man is a winner and holding on to him throughout the summer and making sure he is a Liverpool player once the transfer window has closed, is vitally important as we look to finally make a return to Champions League football.
Young player of season: Phillipe Coutinho
Even though Coutinho has only been a Liverpool player since January, what he has shown in the time since he arrived with his goals, assists and all round play, ranks him as arguably one of the best and most exciting signings in my days of supporting the club. When watching him slice teams apart, it’s easy to forget that he is only 20 years old. The maturity, understanding and intelligence of his play, displays the experience of someone years older and it is quite clear to see already that £8.5 million is an absolute bargain for a player of his quality. A return of 3 goals and 5 assists in only 12 starts has led to some sections already calling for the team to be built around him going forward, and the thought of having him available for a whole season alongside Suarez and Sturridge is certainly a mouth-watering prospect.
Most improved player of season: Jordan Henderson
Having always been a fan of Henderson, it really is pleasing to see him displaying confidence, contributing to the team and winning people over in the process. Although it’s fair to say he didn’t have the easiest debut season at Anfield, I always felt Jordan understood how to play the game and had decent technical ability that we have unquestionably seen this season in a more possession based style of play. He certainly had to fight to earn his shirt in the starting 11 this year, after being out of favour at the start of the season. But much to his credit he was patient, worked hard on the training pitch and with performance analysis teams at the club and has gone onto show more bravery, taking more responsibility with shots from distance, killer balls and opening up the play rather than playing safe which he did a lot under Kenny. And as a result of his much improved performances that saw him claim 5 goals and 4 assists in just 16 starts, he has no doubt forced his way back into Brendan Rodgers’ thoughts going into next season, having previously been on the verge of leaving the club in an attempted swap deal with Fulham’s Clint Dempsey, something that luckily didn’t come to fruition.
Goal of season: Luis Suarez v Newcastle
There was a variety of goals in contention for this such as Glen Johnson’s stunning strike away at West Ham, Henderson’s excellent half volley at home to Norwich and Suarez’s second away at Norwich to name a few, but this came down ultimately to two goals. I went with the one that was quite simply, an astonishing piece of individual brilliance from our player of the season. Losing out was Jose Enrique’s goal at home to Swansea that saw the Spaniard finish of a fantastic team move but Suarez’s goal at home to Newcastle is the pick and it really is quite baffling as to how this wasn’t even a contender for Goal of the Season on Match of the Day. A 60 yard ball over the top from Jose Enrique saw Suarez display a piece of chest control that unfortunately my words wouldn’t do justice to, and as the ball dropped over his shoulder onto his chest, he left defender Fabricio Coloccini trailing and rounded keeper Tim Krul with a deft touch then slotted the ball into an empty net. A truly world class goal from a world class player.
Performance of season: Newcastle away
With the build up around this game being all about how we would cope after losing Suarez to suspension, we produced the performance of the season at St James’ Park and handed out a 6-0 battering which provided those questioning with the answers they were looking for. An early goal, from Daniel Agger put us well on our way and two goals from Henderson and Daniel Sturridge as well as a sharp finish from second half substitute Fabio Borini completed the rout. The demolition couldn’t have been timed better and it put the focus entirely back on to what we do best.
Best result of season: Spurs home
Although not a result by the most handsome of score-lines in comparison to some games such as Norwich, Swansea and the previously mentioned Newcastle, this for me was the result of the season. Beating the teams around us had been a struggle, but when lining up to face Spurs at Anfield, we were in our best form of the campaign, with our strongest players available and it was our first chance to show we could match those around and above us going forward, and we did. A strong first half saw us take the lead through Suarez but after a spell of dominance for Spurs which saw them go 2-1 up, we dragged ourselves back into the game, coming from behind to claim a deserved three points.
It has been a campaign that no one particularly wanted to endure, as it was fairly obvious early on that there was going to be no silverware or top four finish, but it was one that most accepted we had to go through to be able to move forward. Having now done a season that’s seen Rodgers’ exciting system implemented, some really talented players brought to the club and a strong second half of the season, with the right additions once again, there is real reason to believe that we can finish in the much coveted Champions League places next season.