As the season comes to a close, and with it Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge at Liverpool, the debate about the success of the campaign begins.
It’s almost a year since Kenny Dalglish was sacked as manager, and Rodgers subsequently replacing him. Dalglish, in his first full season back in charge, was sacked for failing to get close enough to Champions League qualification – ending the season 17 points behind fourth placed Tottenham (albeit Tottenham didn’t qualify due to Chelsea winning the Champions League).
But does this point to progress or not? It’s something that is currently much debated.
The Season Overall
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Liverpool Football Club exists to win trophies
Dalgish led Liverpool to two Cup Finals and their first silverware in six years. But paid the price for the League campaign suffering from Cup exertions.
Clearly, Kenny placed silverware as more of a barometer of success than the owners, who see the riches of being in Europe’s elite competition as of greater importance.
This season has been quite the opposite in the Cups; dumped out in the early stages of both domestic Cups and labouring through the Europa League before dropping out of that too.
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Taking the table above in isolation, it could be argued that progress is clear; more points (even with two games remaining), more clean sheets, more goals scored (a lot more), and less defeats.
But, Liverpool will finish the season in seventh, with just ONE victory over a team placed higher than them. That is a very disappointing statistic. No victories over Everton, and none over the top four sides. When was the last time that happened?
The goals scored statistic is also somewhat misleading; Liverpool may have scored heavily on several occasions, but the goals haven’t been spread out enough – failing to break down teams and looking unlikely to make the breakthrough once it gets to the latter stages of the game.
Rodgers’ belief in his plan ‘A’ has meant that once that plan doesn’t provide success, the team have struggled to find a breakthrough.
As the transfer window closed last summer, the squad was in desperate need of attacking options. So it is quite ironic that 12 months later we go into this window desperately needing defensive re-enforcements.
We were a much more solid defensive unit under Dalglish – and likely that was thanks to Steve Clarke’s input – and perhaps with more luck in front of goal last season the story would have been much different. Suarez has found his scoring touch this season, where last season everything he hit hit the woodwork or flashed wide.
Perhaps Rodgers is a victim of circumstances and what he inherited though. When manager’s arrive at a new club they will typically build their foundations first; Gerard Houllier built one of the most solid defensive units but failed to put the roof on the house when signing attacking options like Cheyrou, Diouf et al. Rafa did the same to some extent, starting with the back four and moving onto building the attack a few years into his plan.
Rodgers though didn’t have such an option, the defence was seen as our strength 12 months ago. But Skrtel failed to continue last season’s form, and now Carragher is retiring. It’s unfortunate for Rodgers.
One concern that I have is the amount of draws we’ve had, and not just the amount of them, but how Rodgers has seemed content with them. Hopefully that is something that is just a first season mentality, because it certainly shouldn’t be the mentality of a Liverpool manager.
This year was always going to be a ‘write-off’ and part of the ‘process’ and it’s certainly proved that way. It’s been very forgettable, nobody will be telling their grandkids about this one.
The question can be asked though, do you sometimes need to take one step back in order to take two steps forward? If so, next season needs to show clear and significant signs of “progress”.
Ultimately, the argument for progress is a very blurred one. Should we value Cup success? Have we created a platform to build upon next season?
Rodgers will be under no pressure this summer, he is the owners choice and this is a long-term vision. But next season must begin to deliver more results and more answers to the questions posed.