Summer Priorities: LiverpoolMonday, June 24, 2013
As it has tended to be in recent years, it was an interesting if not entirely satisfying season for the Reds in 2012-13. How you react to the various talking points from the season is a bit of a Rorschach Test for supporters in that it reveals more about the person than the team. I could easily spin a very optimistic picture of how the team and manager performed or a very grim one and I could use the exact same facts to support either point of view. If that isn’t interesting, I don’t know what is. It all comes down to the changing landscape of the game at the highest level of club competition and what it is realistic to expect from Liverpool.
Wait a minute, haven't we read that before? Sure. I stole the preceeding paragraph from Neal's recent review of Arsenal's season.
But doesn't it apply to Liverpool?
After a rough start, thanks for an unkind fixture schedule, they finished a respectable 7th place. However, that was behind hated rivals Everton in sixth and didn't qualify them for European competition. They had some of the most emphatic victories of the season, battering teams by four, five, or six goals, but were culpable for too many lackluster performances - losing to Aston Villa, and nil-nil draws with Reading and West Ham for example. And that's not to mention West Brom doing the double over them, scoring 5 goals to Liverpool's nil.
Their infamous "star turn" with a behind-the-scenes television show, cast the club in a poor light. And of course there was star striker Luis Suarez. Despite his chase for golden boot this season, 2012-13 will always be the season he followed his racism ban by being banned again. This time for biting Branislav Ivanovic's arm during a late-season match with Chelsea.
But for all that, Brendan Rodgers' system started to take shape within the club, and formerly maligned players like Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique made some solid contributions.
Speaking of players on the up...
Luis Suarez - If there was any doubt before, this season Luis Suarez made it clear that he's a world-class striker. He has every trick in the book available to him and this year the ball was going into the back of the net regularly. The question now is he his own worst enemy (yes) and will he be at Liverpool next season(early doors, but looking unlikely).
Phillipe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge - Two young attackers who came in to Anfield in the January transfer window and shone for their new club. The pair brought pace and guile to Liverpool and especially in the case of Coutinho, settled in remarkabley quickly. Their form enabled the club to ride out the Suarez ban with little impact on results.
Daniel Agger - After a rocky time in 2011-12, Agger settled down and became Liverpool's rock in defence. He's a skilled player who can bring the ball out of the back and posses a rocket for a shot. With Carragher's retirement it's time for Agger to become the senior defender and command what will surely be a changed back-line.
Raheem Sterling - Ridden into the ground in the first half of the season when the squad had few other options, Sterling showed the poise of a more experienced player before Rodgers shut him down. He could be a very important piece for the club going forward.
Joe Allen - Brought in by Rodgers in the off-season, Allen never lived up to his Swansea performances - and was never going to live up to his price tag. With Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva more natural fits in central midfield for Liverpool, Allen looks like another expensive miss for a club with more than a few of them already.
Andy Carroll - He's already been sold to West Ham, but he's worth mentioning as the biggest Daglish signing who never showed flashes (or was never given a chance, depending on your perspective) in a Liverpool shirt.
Martin Skrtel - from defensive linchpin to usurped by a pensioner, Skrtel's fall from grace was stunning. More so than Sebastian Coates, who was always one for the future, Skrtel's failure in Rodgers' defensive system was a real surprise.
Pepe Reina - Is Reina declining? It seemed that way at times this season and rumours over his future can't have helped him remain settled in his rold at Anfield.
Looking at the above listings, it is obvious that Liverpool has a settled attack and need a defensive overhaul. That's been reflected in their early transfers with... two young, Spanish strikers moving to the club. WHAT!?!?
No offense to Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto. They've shown real promise and will certainly bring flair to the club. But now we've got nine players vying for one of three front-line positions - and that's before adding Henrikh Mkhitaryan who had been linked with a big-money move to the club. That's going to be a nightmare for fantasy manager's next season.
Simon Mignolet - Liverpool seem very close to signing Sunderland's Belgian keeper, whether or not Reina leaves the club. That looks a good signing, and a real statement of intent from the club. Update: Mignolet signed a long-term deal with Liverpool on June 25.
Kyriakos Papadopoulos - Liverpool have been consistently linked to the highly-rated Greek center back. He would be a great complement to Agger, and could learn from the Dane and Kolo Toure, Liverpool's first summer signing.
Full-back depth - behind Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, Liverpool have... inexperienced, out-of-position center backs like Andre Wisdom and the much-missed Martin Kelly. Brendan Rodgers' teams work best with full-backs providing real attacking threat from wide areas, and Liverpool could use more options in these areas.
Central midfield depth - behind the oft-injured Lucas Levia and the aging Steven Gerrard, Liverpool don't have too many options. Joe Allen didn't perform in the role last season, and Jordan Henderson only came on late in the campaign. They need more bodies there, and if they really want to climb the table, they're going to need more quality.