Season Preview – #10 Liverpool
Last season will be one that Liverpool fans will want to purge from their memory for ever after their club finished in 7th place – their lowest league position in 11 years and a long way off Rafa Benitez’s “guarantee” that Liverpool would finish in fourth place which he made mid-way through last season. Since then, Benitez has departed the club after his contract was terminated by mutual consent a week after the season had ended, and is his place is the former Fulham manager Roy Hodgson.
Of his appointment, the 62-old said: “This is the biggest job in club football and I am honoured to be taking on the role of manager of Britain’s most successful football club.” Hodgson has already set about putting his own stamp on things in terms of the team and luckily for him, the key names of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres look to be staying on, however, doubts still remain over the future of Javier Mascherano.
Before he left, Benitez left two parting gifts in the form of Milan Jovanovic who signed a pre-contract agreement to join Liverpool after the World Cup and Jonjo Shelvey bought from Charlton for a fee of £1.7 million. Hodgson on the other hand, has signed Joe Cole who was out of contract after Chelsea chose not to give him a new deal, no doubt Cole will prove to be an ample replacement for Yossi Benayoun who has gone in the opposite direction to Chelsea for a fee of around £6million. 18 year old defender Danny Wilson has also signed for the club from Rangers, boosting their quota of home-grown players.
After finishing second in the season prior to last, Liverpool were expected to go from strength to strength but their season was essentially over before it even began and by the end of the October they had already been defeated on five occasions and were nine points off the pace of league leaders Chelsea. It wasn’t just Liverpool’s league form that suffered, they were also knocked-out of the Champions League at the group stages for the first time in six years, which saw them drop into the newly developed Europa League.
In the Europa League, we also saw some poor form from Liverpool, especially in the legs away from home, with that said, they did manage to reach the semi-finals of the competition only to be beaten by eventual winners Atletico Madrid on the away goals rule. Arguably, they fared a lot better than they did in the home competitions of the FA Cup and League Cup, where they were knocked out in the third and fourth round by Reading and Arsenal respectively.
With Chelsea winning the league last season, Liverpool’s reputation of the most successful team in English football is still intact, as is their record of 18 league titles held also by rivals Manchester United has not been beaten. Realistically speaking, the title does not look to be in their grasp this season and there is no point in denying that, a section of fans may not agree but that is their prerogative.
In my view, the main aim of Hodgson in the season ahead will be to restore Champions League football to Anfield, essentially by finishing in fourth place. It will be all hands to the pump from the players and as long as they key men of Torres and Gerrard stay fit then there is a big chance Hodgson will deliver this. Hopefully, any off the field activity that may occur during the season with the owners and indeed the board will not disrupt the work of that the new manger has to do, because he has already begun to steady the ship, now he must turn the tide away.