A season without many highlights finally is over. With a bit of luck, we could have won the Europa League but it simply wasn’t to be our year. In my opinion there were 5 factors that lead to that disappointing campaign:
1. The owner situation. It’s no coincidence the club hasn’t won anything since the two took over. I don’t think there‘s a single Liverpool fan who thinks the Americans did a good job at Liverpool. Well, apart from Rick Parry, of course. But I don’t want to waste any more words about Hicks/Gillett as we all know about.
2. The Players. Too many key players didn’t perform to their real potential for rather longer than shorter periods. I’m sure the players expected to go into the season with a better squad than last year, especially after finishing 2nd. But after realising that no money was available, the players seemed to be affected by that, the ongoing negative headlines about the club and the witchhunt against our manager. At times there was a lack of spirit, the team looked helpless and lost all confidence that was right there a few months before. Apart from Pepe Reina all players can and need to do a lot better next season.
3. Injuries. Yes, they happen to every team. But I don’t remember a worse season in terms of injuries. And of course it hurts a lot more when the squad is as thin as ours. Injuries to Gerrard, Johnson, Agger, Aurelio, Benayoun, Aquilani and especially Torres hit Liverpool very hard as there was simply not enough cover around. Torres missing such a large part of the season was deadly to all Liverpool ambitions.
4. The Manager. Just to make this clear: I support Rafa but think he made some mistakes. He has to take his fair share of blame. Signing Aquilani was a huge gamble that didn’t pay off (yet). After his transfer all money was spent so Rafa missed out on a much needed back up striker. His transfer record is better than people give him credit for, problem is: he wasn’t too lucky in the last two summers. Also him insisting on playing certain players, no matter how bad their form, was annoying and didn’t help the team. Having said that I still want Rafael Benitez leading Liverpool into the new season.
5. The last factor is the least important factor, sure, but it made a difficult season even harder. I would call it the X-factor. Or bad luck, a lot of it. Beachballs spring to mind but I also lost count on how many clear penalties Liverpool were denied this season. I can’t really remember another season where so many decisions went against the Reds. They say everything evens out over the course of a season. Well, Liverpool definitely proved that saying wrong.
All these points played their part in Liverpools script for the 2009/2010 season. Fact is Liverpool missed out on the Champions League and face an uncertain future. City will outspend the Reds this summer and so will Spurs and others as I don’t expect Liverpool to find a new owner in time to invest big for next season. But… I take our Chairman by the word and expect both Gerrard and Torres to stay. The same goes for Mascherano. With other key players such as Reina, Carragher, Johnson, Agger and Rodriguez, Liverpool have a very good core of experienced players that will also help to develop Lucas, Insua and Ngog. And let’s see how good a fully fit Aquilani is. I certainly don’t expect Torres-like signings but striker Milan Jovanovic is a smart transfer and with a bit of money available from players sales, Rafa hopefully can add two or three more players to the squad.
If Liverpool are a bit luckier with injuries, the Reds could actually play a very good season next year. Don’t let this season fool you, this team can do much better. With no CL pressure, the Europa League might be even a blessing in disguise in terms of our league form but also because the competition could be used to give young talents such as Pacheco, Kelly, Shelvey and others more experience. And with Jack Robinson making his debut at a younger age than Michael Owen, the boy is a bright prospect for the future. As I said, I hope Rafa Benitez stays, he deserves another season for many reasons and if that happens, I’m optimistic about Liverpool striking back next season.
Yes, this club is going through dark times but not everything is doom and gloom. It’s essential though that we all stand together in times like this, players, manager, supporters – the holy trinity, just like Bill Shankly once said. This club will never walk alone and not even our two owners will change that.
And people writing Liverpool now off, might be in for a surprise next season…