Liverpool F.C.: What A Difference A Year Makes

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    Updated: April 5, 2014
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    This time last year Liverpool were in seventh place in the Premier League standings, a massive 29 points behind leaders and eventual champions Manchester United.

    Today they find themselves in second with the chance to go back to the top of the pile should they win at West Ham tomorrow. 

    This rise is even more remarkable for the fact that Liverpool were one of the few sides in the top seven not to spend huge sums in the summer and January transfer windows to improve their first eleven.

    Tottenham spent over £100 million on new recruits following the world record sum they received from Real Madrid for their star man Gareth Bale.

    Arsenal broke their transfer record with the marquee signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid.

    Chelsea splashed over £30 million on Willian from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer and around £25 million on Nemanja Matic in January, and Manchester City paid big money for Spanish stars Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas among others.

    Even champions Manchester United spent big this year, signing Marouane Fellaini for around £27 million in the summer and breaking their club record when signing Juan Mata from Chelsea in the January window for £37.1 million. 

    Of Liverpool’s new recruits this season only one has had a real impact on the first eleven throughout the course of the season, Simon Mignolet, the keeper signed from Sunderland in the summer for £9 million.

    Mignolet made his mark in the very first game of the season, saving a penalty from Jonathan Walters at Anfield to set Liverpool on the road to a record-breaking season that could still potentially end with them lifting the Premier League trophy.

    Other signings have either been unlucky with injury, Mamadou Sakho, or have been unable to impose themselves on the first team when opportunities have been provided, notably Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto, though it would be hard for any attacking player to break into a side which boasts the two top goalscorers in the Premier League in Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. 

    Courtesy of www1.skysports.com

    The man who has presided over this astonishing transformation is Brendan Rodgers and it is down to his work on the training field and his impressive man management skills that the very best has been coaxed out of every single player this season; the improvement in Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and John Flanagan to name just three has been a sight to behold and it would be more than a surprise if Henderson and Sterling were not in two of the seats on the plane to Brazil this summer for England’s World Cup campaign.

    Even Flanagan, who was overlooked for the England u21 squad earlier this season has been mentioned as an outside chance for a place on the basis of his recent form. 

    It is not only in his coaching that Rodgers has excelled this season though. He has shown incredible tactical intelligence and a flexibility that seemed to be lacking at times last season. He has tinkered with the formation so as to get the maximum from the players, playing each opponent on their merits and sending out teams he feels best suited to win each and every game.

    He hasn’t the big, or hard, decisions for the benefit of the team this season either. Few thought that moving Steven Gerrard to a deep-lying defensive midfield role would work but the England captain has taken to the position with aplomb and has dictated the tempo of Liverpool’s play from his pivotal role on the field.

    The move has done little to curb Gerrard’s influence on games as an attacking force either with 11 goals and 9 assists to his name for the season so far. 

    It was before a ball was kicked this season that Rodgers faced his biggest challenge of all though.

    Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s top striker and one of the very best players in world football was agitating for a move away from Anfield. Issues with the media and the FA, following a lengthy ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic at the end of last season together with a lack of Champions League football meant that Suarez had seemingly made his mind up that his future was no longer at Anfield.

    Press speculation linked the player with a move to Real Madrid but in the end the only club to make an offer for the Uruguayan was Arsenal, bidding the infamous £40,000,001 in the belief that Suarez had a release clause in his contract.

    Liverpool held firm, owner John W. Henry confirmed in a statement that the player would not be sold and Rodgers handled the situation, the press and the player magnificently.

    This decision has been more than justified by Suarez’s performances this season, he currently leads both the goalscoring, 29 goals in 27 games so far, and assists, 11 assists, charts for the season to date. 

    Liverpool have six games remaining this season and they have their fate very much in their own hands.

    If they win all of their games they will be champions of England’s top flight for the first time since 1990.

    Even if they don’t manage it this season they have shown that you don’t need to be funded by a Russian billionaire or an Arab Sheik to compete at the top-level in English football.

    No matter what happens it’s clear that the future is bright for all Reds fans.

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