2014 has proven to be an up and down year for Liverpool, and we look back at the highs and lows of the last 12 months.
2014 has been one of the most exciting, dramatic, unpredictable years in the history of Liverpool Football Club.
The first-half of it saw the Reds mount an unlikely Premier League title challenge, with Brendan Rodgers’ side playing some majestic attacking football along the way.
Although they fell agonisingly short in the end, a second-place finish was still a remarkable achievement. It raised expectations enormously going into the new campaign though, and Rodgers’ men have failed to deliver. The loss of the unbelievable Luis Suarez certainly hasn’t helped matters.
It has been a very poor second-half to the year, and although there are signs that Liverpool are coming back to their best, eighth place going into the New Year is extremely disappointing.
There is reason for optimism, however, given recent showings and the imminent return of the influential Daniel Sturridge.
There have been some outstanding individual performers, some memorable team displays and some games we’d love to forget over these last 12 months; here are our 2014 awards.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Raheem Sterling
The 20-year has gone from being an out-of-favour squad player to the star man at Anfield in the space of a year, and he is arguably the most exciting young player seen at the club since Steven Gerrard.
He was Liverpool’s best player in the second-half of last season, finishing the campaign with 10 goals, and after a dip in form this season, he is now back to his best. His potential is vast, as outlined by his recent European Golden Boy win.
Sturridge’s injury problems this season have been an enormous blow to Rodgers and his side, and his return can’t come soon enough. Despite only featuring three times this season, he has still been the Reds’ second-best player of the year.
He scored in seven consecutive league games at the beginning of 2014, the first Liverpool player to do so, and finished 2013/14 with 24 goals in just 33 appearances. He is a massive player now.
Some would expect Luis Suarez to be in the top three, but despite his genius, his amazing form dipped towards the latter part of last season and he left halfway through the year. Henderson has been superb on the whole, and fully merits his inclusion.
The 24-year-old has matured into a top class midfielder- he is less effective in a wing-back role- and he has shown signs of becoming Gerrard’s long-term successor as both captain and talisman at the club.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Raheem Sterling
Sterling’s brilliance has been outlined above, and it’s easy to forget just how young he still sometimes. While some players take time to become key men, perhaps by their mid 20s, the speedy forward is already undroppable.
There hasn’t been a better young player in the Premier League in 2014, let alone Liverpool.
The 22-year-old Brazilian is probably the most naturally gifted footballer at Anfield, and has been a joy to watch at times this year.
He was an integral part of the Reds’ frightening attacking unit last season, scoring the vital winner against Manchester City, and in the last few weeks he has hit top gear again, most notably against Swansea on Monday night. Rodgers has a real gem on his hands.
3. Jon Flanagan
Flanagan is Liverpool’s forgotten man this season, having missed the entirety of the campaign through injury so far, but he was brilliant in 2013/14.
The 21-year-old was deployed at left-back, and he grew in stature by the game. Defensively not many got the better of him, and he was underrated going forward too. His return will be a boost.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Dejan Lovren
Lovren was supposedly the man to help make Liverpool’s leaky defence good again, signing for £20m from Southampton, but he has been a disaster.
The Reds’ back-line has looked even worse with him in it, and he has looked dreadful in every aspect of his game. A recent injury to the 25-year-old is the only reason for Liverpool’s improvement at the back, and things can only get better for him. Hopefully he proves us all wrong and improves when he returns.
Mignolet was always seen as one of his side’s weak-links last season, making poor decisions game in, game out, but he also had the odd half-decent game. This season he has been woeful, however.
The Belgium international has looked a bag of nerves throughout, and his dominance of his own penalty area, erratic kicking and inconsistency have all been far from good enough.
3. Mario Balotelli
Eyebrows were raised when Balotelli joined from AC Milan in the summer, but there were plenty who were excited by the Italian’s arrival. The 24-year-old has been completely ineffective on the whole though, scoring just twice in 15 Liverpool appearances.
His attitude, work-rate and selfishness have had a negative effect on the team, and it’s no coincidence that they are now playing with more pace and confidence without him.
GOAL OF THE YEAR
1. Raheem Sterling vs Arsenal
Liverpool’s 5-1 destruction of the Gunners back in February was something special, and Sterling’s fabulous effort perfectly summed up the brilliance of the Reds’ attacking game last season.
Henderson robbed Mesut Ozil on the halfway line, running at the defence before finding Suarez on the right. The Uruguayan then found Sterling with an inch-perfect cross, and the youngster did the rest. It was a thrilling counter-attack.
For pure drama, Coutinho’s winning goal against City back in April is unrivalled over the last 12 months.
Having been pegged back to 2-2 by Manuel Pellegrini’s side, it looked as though there was only going to be one winner. The Brazilian had other ideas though, curling home a brilliant effort after 78 minutes to send Anfield into raptures.
3. Raheem Sterling vs Manchester City
The clash with City was enormous in terms of the title race, and Sterling got Liverpool off to an electrifying start with this unique effort.
Great work from Suarez saw the ball reach Sterling in the penalty area, and the 20-year-old showed unbelievable poise in dummying both Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany, before firing into the Kop net. It perfectly outlined his sublime talent.
ASSIST OF THE YEAR
1. Steven Gerrard vs Fulham
Gerrard was superb last season, mastering the deep-lying playmaker role, and his pass to set up Sturridge was magnificent.
The 34-year-old spotted the run of the striker, before producing a magical through-ball with the outside of his foot. It was played to perfection, and Sturridge did the rest.
2. Raheem Sterling vs Swansea
If ever there was any doubt that Sterling has far more to his game than just raw pace and trickery, you just have to look at this assist back in February.
The Englishman played a wonderful outside-of-the-foot pass to Sturridge from his own half, and as is the norm, the former Chelsea man finished emphatically.
3. Daniel Sturridge vs Cardiff
The 6-3 victory away to Cardiff was a ridiculous game of football, and some of Liverpool’s attacking plays was unstoppable.
Sturridge’s outrageous back-heel to Suarez was the standout moment on the day though, and showed the SAS at their devastating best.
BEST HOME PERFORMANCE
1. Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal
This was arguably the Reds’ finest performance in Premier League history, certainly in the first-half. They tore Arsene Wenger’s team to shreds, and it’s easy to forget they were top of the table at the time.
An early double by Skrtel, followed by ruthless efforts from Sterling and Sturridge, saw Rodgers’ side 4-0 up after 20 minutes, and Sterling scored a fifth early in the second-half.
2. Liverpool 4-0 Everton
If the destruction of Arsenal was unforgettable, the battering Liverpool gave their Merseyside rivals in January wasn’t far behind.
Gerrard, so often a thorn in Everton‘s side, headed his side in front, and two terrific Sturridge efforts made it 3-0 before half-time. Suarez raced through to add a fourth in the second-half, and although Sturridge missed a penalty, it didn’t take the gloss off a superb win.
3. Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City
Anfield has rarely been more atmospheric than this huge game back in April, and for much of the game, Liverpool were terrific against superb opposition.
Sterling and Skrtel put the Reds 2-0 up after 26 minutes, and they had blown Pellegrini’s men away in the opening exchanges.
David Silva made it 2-1 after the break, and Glen Johnson’s own goal levelled matters, but Coutinho’s aforementioned winner earned Liverpool a massive three points. City may have dominated some of the game, but the hosts were still brilliant for the most part.
BEST AWAY PERFORMANCE
1. Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool
Victory at Old Trafford is always something to treasure, but the way Liverpool destroyed United on their own patch back in March was fantastic.
They dominated the game from start to finish, with two Gerrard penalties- he missed a third too- and a Suarez effort firing them to a wonderful win. The Reds looked like genuine champions at that point, and their biggest rivals had been humiliated.
2. Tottenham 0-3 Liverpool
This superb win at White Hart Lane back in August is probably the only time Liverpool have looked like the dominant side of last season, barring the Swansea win perhaps, and they were brilliant throughout.
Sterling gave Liverpool the lead after a flowing move, Gerrard’s penalty made it 2-0 and Albero Moreno’s terrific individual effort put the icing on the cake.
3. Southampton 0-3 Liverpool
The Saints were a very impressive outfit under Mauricio Pochettino last season, and many felt the Reds’ trip to St Mary’s could derail their title challenge. The visitors were superb though.
Suarez’s typically clinical finish gave Rodgers’ team a half-time lead, before Sterling added a vital second after the break. Gerrard’s stoppage-time spot-kick gave the scoreline an even more impressive look.
1. Crystal Palace 3-1 Liverpool
Selhurst Park held unhappy memories for Liverpool, following last season’s 3-3 draw, and they produced a shocking display last month.
Rickie Lambert actually put them ahead after just two minutes, but from then on it was Palace who dominated. Goals from Dwight Gayle, Joe Ledley and Mile Jedinak turned the game on its head, and the Reds got everything they deserved.
2. West Ham 3-1 Liverpool
Rodgers’ side got off to an appalling start at Upton Park in September, trailing 2-0 after seven minutes and defending woefully, and they never recovered.
Although Sterling made it 2-1, Liverpool never really looked like getting back into the game, and Morgan Amalfitano made it 3-1 late on, after more comical defending.
3. QPR 2-3 Liverpool
The Reds may have won this game, but in truth they were abysmal from start to finish. How they won is an absolute miracle.
Richard Dunne’s own goal gave Liverpool a hugely undeserved lead after 67 minutes- QPR had missed a huge amount of great chances- but Eduardo Vargas levelled matters with three minutes remaining.
Coutinho had seemingly won it in the 90th minute, only for Vargas to score again, before Steven Caulker’s unlucky own goal somehow earned Rodgers’ men all three points. Had Liverpool failed to win, this game would be number one on this list.
1. Coutinho’s goal against City
The 22-year-old’s late (ish) winner against City put them in pole position to win their maiden Premier League title, and it proved to be the key moment in a fantastic game of football.
2. Gerrard’s penalty against Fulham
Liverpool didn’t score many late goals last season, but this last-gasp Gerrard effort was a huge moment. Two valuable points appeared to be dropped, having defended poorly once again, only for Sturridge to win a spot-kick in the dying seconds.
Gerrard nervelessly stroke home the penalty, and it was the moment many Reds fanatics started to believe a title push was possible.
3. Skrtel’s equaliser against Arsenal
It’s fair to say that there’s not been much to shout about this season, but Skrtel’s 97th-minute equaliser could prove pivotal in Liverpool’s season.
Defeat for the Reds would have left them eight points behind Arsenal, leaving their top-four aspirations in tatters, but the Slovakian’s bullet header kept the gap at five. Two wins since then show that it has given Rodgers’ side renewed belief.
1. Gerrard’s slip
It had to be number one, didn’t it? The skipper’s unfortunate miscontrol and slip, allowing Demba Ba to put Chelsea ahead, left Liverpool’s title hopes in tatters, and it was cruel that it had to happen to a man who has given more to the club than anyone over the last 25 years.
2. Crystal Palace capitulation
The Reds knew they had to win to keep the pressure on City, in their penultimate game of last season, and things looked rosy when they raced into a 3-0 lead.
They completely fell to pieces, however- there’s an argument to say they went too gung-ho in their quest to reduce the goal difference on City- conceding three times in the last 11 minutes. That was that in terms of their title challenge, and Suarez’s post-match tears said it all.
3. Jagielka’s derby equaliser
It looked as though Gerrard’s free-kick had earned Rodgers’ men all three points in September’s Merseyside derby, but Phil Jagielka produced a stunning 30-yard strike in stoppage-time to stun Anfield.
1. Adam Lallana
There were some who turned their noses up at the £25m Liverpool paid Southampton for Lallana’s services in the summer, but following an injury that delayed his start to the season, the 26-year-old is really starting to look top class.
The England international was superb against Swansea on Monday, scoring twice, and his creativity, dribbling, movement and goals will hopefully continue to be a great asset for the Reds for years to come.
2. Emre Can
Can joined from Bayer Leverkusen for £9.75m, and he has a huge amount of potential.
The 20-year-old German is currently shining at centre-back but is equally good in midfield, and his combination of pace, power, quality on the ball and reading of the game means he is a potential star in the making.
Markovic made a slow start to life on Merseyside, particularly given how highly-rated the former Benfica star is, but he is slowly beginning to show his class.
The 20-year-old has shone as a wing-back- he is at his best in a more attacking wide role- and although still very raw, he has the talent to become a hero at Anfield. Alberto Moreno is also deserving of a mention.
What would your choices be? We would love to know your answers in the comments section below.