The eternal optimist in any walk of life will typically gauge their success with the glass half full rather than half empty approach. Myth and the superstitious measure of Liverpool’s spectacular late season collapse invite the obvious question for Liverpool fans. Is the glass half full, or is it half empty? The specialist ‘Pool fans will render at the thought of their team as a failure this season. Tears, fist slapping, crest slapping all now appears in vain this spring at Anfield. The bogus threat of their Premier League title bid once more confirmed an already transparent problem for Liverpool; the art of defending.
The early part of the season, Brendan Rodgers and co. fell for the romance of free flowing football; we’ll score more than you mentality. Sadly, this fictional love story was never going to enter the stream of real world narrative. Instead, the beloved Kop was left heartbroken when the first title in 24 long years was in their grasp only to let go again. Even the transformed Luis Suarez could not hide his emotion at Selhurst Park after Liverpool’s 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace.
If one thorny pinch is to be levelled at Rodgers this season it is his understanding of the back four. At times, Kolo Toure performs his very own version of Football’s Funniest Moments, many episodes worthy of a slot in the archives when laughter and comic is the doctor’s orders for the day. Martin Skrtel is rapidly becoming the all time own goal scoring defender, some impressive finishes by the Slovakian may earn him a move past the halfway line next season should he keep netting the wrong end. Young Jon Flanagan is one player to come out of the 2013/14 season with admiration. He is a player learning and in principal, should be influenced by others at the back. Glen Johnson can also be partial to the odd daydream at right back conceding easy goals. Collectively though is where the real issues arise.
At times, in important games this season Liverpool’s defenders could have been mistaken for central midfielders such was the high line they played. As a consequence, when games began to unravel for Liverpool the back four became akin to a group of schoolboys rehearsing their step aerobics class with one looking to the other for the next sequence of moves with nobody taking responsibility.
Even at the ripe old age of 36, Jamie Carragher would have nipped such errors in the bud much earlier in the campaign. Perhaps Liverpool missed the boat this season. Manchester City will improve, so too FA Cup winners Arsenal. Chelsea will mount a greater bid next time and the appointment of Louis van Gaal as Manchester United boss will make it even more difficult for Liverpool next season.
For now, a different term begins in Brazil, the conclusion of affairs in Rio in July must prompt Brendan Rodgers to bring in some top quality defenders to his side. Crucially, they need starters not squad players. Too many players were brought in as cover during the Rafael Benitez era with many making little impact on a title push with the exception of ’08.
Time will tell if Liverpool can recover from this year’s collapse, next season ought to be of similar spirit, passion but most importantly better defending.
Brian Darcy, Pundit Arena.