By Kevin W
Liverpool supporters must be feeling anxious about the upcoming football season. It is an understatement to describe last season as a disappointment.
2014/15 was a disaster.
The Reds lost their best player Luis Suarez at the start of the season and never replaced him. They lost half of their opening twelve league games and were out of the title race in November. Their long awaited return to the UEFA Champions League lasted the minimum six games. They emerged with a record of three defeats, two draws and one win. Their subsequent Europa Cup adventure felt like it ended before it began. Liverpool were knocked out by Besiktas in the opening round of 32.
The team was conceding goals like a leaky home and scoring goals like the Grinch who stole Christmas. Times were hard until the team put together a fine run of thirteen games without defeat in the league mid-season. They switched from a flat back four to a three man defence. Ironically, Brendan Rodgers managed to stop the team from conceding more goals by reducing the number of defenders in his team. Things were starting to look bright. Liverpool were pushing on for a domestic cup double and a top four finish.
Then, it all came crashing down. Manchester United, of all clubs would end Liverpool’s resurgent unbeaten run at Anfield. Arsenal would tear apart the Liverpool defence in London. Chelsea and Aston Villa would eliminate Liverpool in the semi-finals of the League Cup and FA Cup respectively. Liverpool, with so little to play for, would struggle to motivate themselves and crumble during the final stretch of the season. They collected eight out of a possible twenty seven points to end the season.
To top things, Steven Gerrard’s legendary twenty eight years association with the club would come to a lacklustre finish. The skipper’s final game at Anfield was a 1-3 defeat to Crystal Palace. His last ever game for Liverpool will always be remembered for the 1-6 humiliation at Stoke City.
Rodgers Out Rafa In.
The fans were understandably upset towards the end of last season. Someone flew a plane over Anfield with the banner “Rodgers Out Rafa In”. It was clear that the incumbent was losing the support of the fans. What is unclear was how he survived his end of season performance review with the board.
Rodger’s closest allies in his coaching team were not so lucky. Liverpool Assistant Manager, Colin Pascoe and First team coach, Mike Marsh both departed after the end of season review. It was surprising that while the manager kept his job, key members of his trusted backroom staff would lose theirs.
The likes of Sami Hyppia and Pako Ayestaran have been linked with the number two role. Both Hyppia and Ayestaran are well liked by the Kop, however football management is a different ball game and it remains to see if their working styles complement Rodger’s.
The League recently announced the fixtures list for the new season and it did Rodgers little favors. Liverpool’s first seven away games will be against the league’s top five, plus Merseyside rivals Everton and Stoke, who of course put six past them on the final day of last season. It is definitely not the type of start he was wishing for. I cannot remember the last time a Liverpool manager had so much pressure going into a new season.
There are many questions surrounding the current state of team.
Liverpool fans will be hoping the club finds the right answers.
Who will be planning and running pre-season? We are two weeks away from training camp and the club has yet to formally appoint replacements in the backroom team.
How will the team set up next season? Last season, the team went from a back four to a back three and gained reasonable success until the rest of the league figured out how to beat the new system.
At times, it felt like Rodgers was stumbling his way through his team selections. Players were asked to play our of their natural positions. Wingers were deployed as wing backs and full backs. Midfielders were put in defence. Strikers in the team were left out, only to be replaced by players in other positions. The line was thin between tactical brilliance and pure desperation.
Has the club addressed their defensive and striking woes? It is obvious that the team was letting in too many and scoring too little goals. The club has not yet done anything significant to fix both issues. Unless you consider Kolo Toure, Andre Wisdom, Danny Ings and Divock Origi as the prized solution to the team’s defensive and goal scoring problems.
Who will be the new skipper? Steven Gerrard’s absence leaves a leadership gap to be filled in the team. There has been no formal indication of who the new team captain will be.
Is Raheem going or staying? This question will continue to hog media headlines until he is actually sold. The unnecessary pressure on a player turning only twenty one this year will no doubt affect both player and team performance on the pitch. Every missed chance and poor decision that Sterling makes in a game will be scrutinised to the most minute detail because of his alleged high wage demands and transfer value.
The list of questions goes on. Liverpool fans will be searching for answers and hoping that their 2015/16 season doesn’t end before it begins.