Return of the Reds – Are Liverpool back for good?
If Liverpool win the Premier League this season then it is arguably one of the finest triumphs in English football. It will be simply because they have burst out of nowhere, annihilating teams and conjuring up a ruthless 11 wins on the bounce. It is only recently they have slipped up, the home defeat to Chelsea, but the fact that Chelsea had to sit back the entire game just shows how far Liverpool have come this season.
Can Liverpool prove they are back for good? Can players like Sterling and Sturridge continue their fine form next season? Will they remain in the top four while juggling Champions League football? These are some of the challenges that Liverpool face next season.
From 2005-2009 Liverpool finished in the top four, coming close to the title in the 08/09 season where they finished second. Since then, in the last four seasons, they have failed to finish in the top four, respectively finishing 7th, 6th, 8th, and last year 7th. The emergence of Man City has added extreme competition, along with the improvement of Tottenham and Everton, Liverpool struggled to compete and as a consequence fell to these lower positions.
Quite obviously this season has been completely different, not only have Liverpool competed with these top teams, they are sitting above all of them. No one expected them to win the league, as their manager stated at the start of the campaign, the target was fourth, this in itself was going to be a difficult task, but now Champions League football is guaranteed and they will avoid the qualification process that finishing fourth brings.
If they do win the title then the fans will celebrate exuberantly, rightly so, and it will be one of those seasons were no one will begrudge the team for doing so. It will good for English football, fantastic to see another British manager win the title, a British manager who is so tactically aware, and most notably it will finally be a title for Steven Gerrard. Everyone agrees that if any career deserves a Premier League medal than its the Liverpool captain’s.
Liverpool can’t live off the ecstasy of just winning the Premier League once though, if they do win it they must ensure next season to remain in the top four. This will be a difficult task, juggling domestic games with European nights, but it is, as they say, a “good problem” for a manager to have.
This is the challenge for Liverpool, a challenge of showing the world that they are back for good. Now that they have had such a brilliant season, all of their fans have a taste for what it is like being the best team in England again. A taste that even the finest food in the world couldn’t compete with. With this expectancy and hunger for success, Liverpool will be playing under much more pressure next season.
It is clear that not being in the Europe has benefited the side this campaign, sneaking under the radar with no expectation on their shoulders, provided a perfect scenario for Liverpool to rack up 11 straight wins. Without taking anything away from this superb run of form, it is clear that focusing only on the domestic league was a huge factor in doing so. Next season Brendan Rodgers won’t have such an advantage, being in Europe is likely to cause Liverpool’s domestic form drop.
Rodgers transfer policy will also be different next season and he will be under pressure to go for big name signings. Liverpool have recently spoken of giving him the money he needs to buy players so he has the backing of the board to make these big signings. Champions League football will also help to bring in the calibre of player Liverpool need to continue their progression as a club.
No longer does Rodgers have the leeway for signings and the excuse for building a squad though. He could take gambles on signings and look for the gems in the market, gems like Coutinho for just over 8 million. There wasn’t a big expectation on the player to deliver when he arrived, but he has proved to be a value for money in the highest order. Sturridge, at the time, was also seen as a bit of a gamble and no one expected him to be as good as he has been this season. Now Rodgers has to sign players with bigger price tags, players that are expected to hit the ground running.
But how will these signings effect the squad? It seems at the moment that Liverpool are benefiting from having a reasonably consistent starting 11. The players now are enjoying playing every game and are thriving because of this. It remains to be seen how they will react to big players coming in and taking their position. Sturridge certainly seems like a player who wants to play every game.
However, playing in Europe requires a bigger squad so Rodgers will be able to rotate players. Rotation though, is a challenge in itself, at the moment he has benefited from constantly playing more or less the same side, so this will be an area that is new to him. Having a bigger squad will also allow Liverpool to challenge for all competitions. Liverpool will hope to make it through the group stages of the Champions League next season, because if they don’t Rodgers will have difficulty in keeping a bigger squad happy, a squad that has more ego’s thanks to the big player signings they are likely to make.
So in conclusion, Liverpool have been immense this season and deserve to win the Premier League. If they just miss out they will be bitterly disappointed, but they can still be proud of their achievements and look forward to a new era under Rodgers, an era that hopefully sees Liverpool become a successful team again.
Next season will be the real challenge to see if they can sustain such a level of performance. Many will be interested in Liverpool next season, much more expectation and attention will be centred towards them and this brings pressure. Can Liverpool cement themselves down as a top four side for years to come that is challenging for the title?
This season has been the most exciting for a very long time, next season could be even more entertaining.