2012-2013 Season: Progress?
A quick look at the 2011-2012 league table tells us:
Compare that with 2012-2013:
With three games still to go (a Merseyside derby plus two very winnable games against Fulham and QPR) we've already matched last season's points tally and more importantly have scored 20 more goals than last season. Not bad for a "transitional year". Our goal difference in the last two seasons was +15 and +7, so this season we have a better goal difference than those two season's combined.
We're still a mile off where we need to be in terms of winning games, but we're scoring goals again which is a start – the last time we scored this many goals in a season we finished second in 2008-2009. Given that the biggest complaint from other fans at the start of the season was that we were letting go of a lot of squad players "who would give us 5-10 goals a season" I think this vindicates my personal belief that this was the appropriate time to get rid of the likes of Maxi, Kuyt & Bellamy.
What's needed this Summer is a fix for our defense
In the three seasons since our peak under Rafa in 2008-2009 we have conceeded 35, 44 and 40 goals. This year we are already at 42 conceeded. These problems are nothing new, on paper we have two brilliant full backs in Enrique and Johnson. Agger and Skrtel were heavily linked with big money moves last Summer and it would seem that Skrtel's days at the club are numbered with Rodger's preference of an ageing Jame Carragher in the closing months of the season. With Carragher's retirement and Skrtel's seemingly inevitable departure it looks like we will have a brand new first choice centre back at the club next year.
I also think it's time for Reina to move on, it's a move that would be beneficial for both parties as perhaps he has become to comfortable/complacant at Anfield. It's clear that we have no-one at the club who can step into his gloves, but we should be able to command a hefty fee for a goalkeeper who is still one of the better around, even if he is not the same player he was 3-4 years ago.
As for our new centre back, I think it's time to shit or get off the toilet for some of our young stars – Martin Kelly and Andre Wisdom in particular. Both made their way through the youth system at center back, but with Carragher, Skrtel and Agger between then and a first team bearth have found themselves playing at full back, and doing a pretty decent job at it. Next season will be when we find out whether these lads are the next Jamie Carragher, or the next Zak Whitbread.
Plenty of options going forward
When you look at our forwad line I think we have lots of options (as Rafa loved to say): The likes of Suarez, Sturridge, Borini, Coutinho, Downing & Sterling give plenty of options for either 2 or 3 up front. I still think there's room for Andy Carroll at the club, although I wouldn't have wanted us to pay £35m for him, I still think he's a very good player with a great future ahead of him – he's one of those players that people seem to think is nothing more than a target to lump high balls at, but if you actually watch him play he's pretty handy with the ball at his feet.
Look at what Rodgers has done for Downing and Henderson's confidence this season … if he could do the same for Carroll and get him back playing how we was for Newcastle when we signed him he'd be a hell of a player for us for years to come. Clearly, Rodgers does not rate Carroll though, otherwise he would not have sent him out on loan (regardless of who he thought we would be signing on deadline day).
At West Ham Carroll's had a strong end of the season since returning from injury which may have helped our chances of selling him. I'd be happy if he stayed but I wouldn't mind if we chose to sell him, I just hope it's resolved one way or another before the start of next season.
In midfield we have probably the most improved player in our squad this season: Jordon Henderson. His performances in 2013 have been great, I never really saw had other people raving about him when he was at Sunderland and when we signed him for £16m I thought that was about £10m too much to be honest. His performances up until recently pretty much justified that opinion, but right now he's playing the best football of his career and I really hope he continues this way.
Gerrard is not the player he was even 3 years ago, I think the majority of fans have accepted that we will no longer see his one-man-army performances, but playing a deeper role he's proving that he can be part of a team that, as they improve and as age catches up with him, is closer to his level than it has been for a long time. It's also great to see Lucas back in the team, but he looks a shell of the player he was before the injury at the moment.
My transfer hopes for the Summer:
- Reina out – New goalkeeper in, it seems inevitable that Begovic will be leaving Stoke in the Summer. Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea and Spurs all have a top draw 'keeper at their club already which leaves us and Arsenal as realistic options for first team football for Begovic in this country unless one of the aforementioned teams decide to offload their current number 1.
- Skrtel out, Carragher retired – I'm pretty much resigned to Skrtel leaving given his absense from the first team in the last few months, if he does go I don't think we need to replace both him and Carragher. It's time for Martin Kelly (23) and Andre Wisdom (19) to make their case to step up into the first team in their preferred position. Let's not forget Seb Coates (22) either, with the old guard moving one it's time for him to step up or move on, it's helping absolutely no-one having him rot in the reserves.
- We are pretty strong in central midfield – Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Allen and Shelvey are competing for what is 3 central positions in most games. Beyond that we have the likes of Suso and Coady who need to be able to see a route into the first team. If Coady is to be "the next Steven Gerrard" then we do not need another central midfielder, Suso has already proven he's got what it takes to make a positive impact at this level. Any new arrivals in this position surely have to be matched by one of these players moving on, or the youngsters accepting that their future does not lie at Anfield.
- Out wide we have the best wingers we've had since the days of McManaman and Berger (even though both spent most of their time pretty narrow). Downing has turned back the clock, and is looking like the player he was at Aston Villa again: direct and to the point, he may not have all the tricks and flicks of some, but when he's playing like this he is the kind of player I enjoy watching. Coutinho has been the signing of the season for me, he looks every bit the stereotype of a Brazillian forward. Sterling was the most exciting player in the league for 2-3 months at the start of the season, but clearly doesn't have it in him to be a regular starter yet. It's clear that Assaidi was signed as cover, but I've enjoyed his performances whenever he's had a chance to play (which hasn't been often). Presumably he's happy being a bit part player, and if so he's a great option to have when injuries pile up. With the likes of Suarez, Sturridge and Borini all being comfortable filling in in the wide positions further forward I don't see any need to strengthen in this position this Summer. I think this is the first time in my life as a Liverpool fan I've been able to say "I don't think we need to sign a new winger".
- In attack we have Suarez, Sturridge, Borini and possibly Carroll. Borini had a great season at Roma last year, and injuries have made it impossible to judge whether he can reproduce that at Liverpool. I think he deserves a chance though. If Carroll is allowed to leave I don't really know what better player we would be able to bring into the club to be honest. I would be very happy to start next season with the same forwards as we have today, plus Carroll.