At the end of a storm, is a golden sky
The Barclays Premier League has not been particularly fruitful for Liverpool over the years, having famously never won the reincarnated competition. With a last triumph over an entire league campaign being back in 1990, they have come close a couple of times since its initiation. What a refreshing change it has been then for Kopites this year, as their heroes have enjoyed a magnificent 2013/14. Prior to the 2-0 home defeat to Chelsea a week and a half ago, the title looked well within their grasp. Even after regaining top spot with a 3-3 draw away to Crystal Palace, the trophy remains in the hands of Manchester City due to their superior goal difference and a very winnable game in hand. Whether the men from Anfield end up victorious or not, progress has been rapid and undeniable. However, what can we expect to see from them next season?
The lack of any European commitments for Liverpool this year have been a great help for their league aspirations, and this is not a luxury they will be permitted next season. Their Champions League qualification has been secure for a few weeks now and with it comes the promise of additional mid-week fixtures against tough opposition at least until the festive period. While their first team have impressed to such a great degree, squad depth is not necessarily something they possess in droves.
It is a common misconception that Liverpool have been fortunate with injuries this season. This is actually not the case at all. Jose Enrique has been absent with a knee injury for over half the campaign, Johnson has suffered an ankle injury, Sakho, Sturridge and Gerrard have all been missing at some stage due to hamstring complaints, and Lucas and Daniel Agger have been victims of constant niggles.
They have shown that even when their ranks have been depleted, victories are not beyond them. Being capable of ‘winning ugly’ is a vital trait for any side with title aspirations. This is not something we should expect them to lose over the summer now it is developed, and so turning the draws of past seasons into wins should continue.
Brendan Rodgers has acknowledged the need to bring in recruits during the summer to help them in the coming months. While nothing is certain yet of course, The Reds do seem to be linked with the correct calibre of player. Strong rumours linking the likes of Adam Lallana and Hatem Ben Arfa with Anfield are encouraging that the required injection of quality has been recognised.
Assuming that sufficient investment is indeed handed to Rodgers over the summer, next season should be an exciting one for all Reds fans. Being in Pot 3 for the Champions League should hand them some very difficult ties, but at the same time they will make the blood pump once more. European nights at Anfield have been absent for far too long and the competition as a whole will be better for their presence.
Despite all of the success this year however, Liverpool fans should not get carried away. I am sure I am not alone amongst Liverpool fans in saying that I would have snapped your hand off for fourth at the beginning of the year. To finish almost certainly in the top 2 has exceeded expectations dramatically, and it has been admitted by Rodgers himself that they are at least one season ahead of schedule.
The additional European commitments will significantly hamper preparation time for each match as well as the ability to recover between games. Key players such as Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez will simply not be able to be the ever presents that they have been this year. Managing the rotation of the squad will be a task that Brendan Rodgers has not really faced yet as manager at Anfield, and it will be intriguing to see how he tackles it. However, if they can reflect the passion and commitment for the cause that was shown most notably by Suarez, Gerrard and Skrtel after the draw at Palace, there is no knowing where we could find them this time next year. I felt the same way after John Terry’s tears in Moscow several years ago; to ridicule a man for believing in the team’s cause and showing incredible emotion after disappointment is shameful.
I still believe that Liverpool’s primary objective for the coming season should be to qualify for the Champions League again, and to hopefully progress out of their group in that competition. Expecting much more than that from a youthful squad who have only recently re-emerged as a significant force again is extremely short-sighted. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Rodgers needs time to build the dynasty he has started with such success. I don’t feel that the board will put him under any undue pressure, and I hope the fans do not get too carried away either. Personally, I am just delighted to see Liverpool back near the top and challenging for major honours right until the very end.
Finally then, my predictions for how they will fare next season. In my opinion, Liverpool will finish third behind Man City and Chelsea in the league, reach the quarter finals in the Champions League, and possibly reach the latter stages in the domestic cup competitions.
How do you think they will do over the next 12 months? Let us know by commenting below.
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