By Chris Rowland.
What lessons can we learn from this season?
Jon Rushton: I think the main lesson will be the experience of how to handle a title run-in. The truth is that we did look gung-ho against Palace, and we did look anxious in the second half against Chelsea. I am sure both Rodgers and the players would have a different outlook if we were in the same position this time next year – City look more composed at the final stretch. But, then, they’ve done this before haven’t they?
I also think City have proved you can score 100 goals in a season but still have a very decent defence. As long as they are matching us for goals but better at the back, we have to expect them to triumph again next season. If we could maintain our current attacking verve but couple it with defensive steel, then we’re going to be able to win the league. It’s not impossible either – City have proved it. And it’s not impossible on our budget either, Rodgers is making the impossible possible – and I expect this is next on his list.
Alun Evans: That there’s no such thing as a comfortable lead! And that we really need a shake-up in defence. If we’d learnt to defend we would’ve had the league wrapped up weeks ago. But if my Auntie had a beard she’d be my Uncle!
Chris Rowland: Hopefully, the biggest one is now knowing what’s involved in being in a title race at the business end of the season. We should be confident that we have shown we can compete on a level with anyone and everyone, and driven on by the knowledge that we were very, very close.
Shaul Mitelpunkt: On one hand, keep on playing attacking football because three points are worth more than one. On the other hand, solidity must be conjured from somewhere – and I, for one, do not think the fault lies with our centre-backs – on which more later.
Alexander Papas: I think the most important lesson to be learned from this season can be summed up in the following points:
Our attack consisted of two rejects from other, better teams (Sturridge and Coutinho), one unproven teenager (Sterling) and Public Enemy No. 1 (Aspas, erm… I mean Suarez)
Our midfield consisted of a melting icon (Mr. G) playing out of position, a former great brought low by a crushing series of injuries (Lucas) and two recent signings that had yet to justify their asking fees (Allen and Henderson)
Our defence contained only two players of any long term value signed by the manager (Sakho and Mignolet) and was so ludicrously, comically ravaged by injuries that it was like watching a season of Game of Thrones unfolding. Who will be left alive by next week’s episode/match?
Stretching the GOT metaphor to breaking point, our squad had the about the same depth as Tyrion Lannister’s paddling pool.
The lesson to be learned here is that despite all of that, all of those factors that should have counted against us on paper, we were still challenging for the title on the last day of the season.
This is why I categorically deny the claims that this season represented our only chance for the foreseeable future to win the title. Yes, of course the other teams will be strengthening in the summer, but the idea that that will automatically see them overtaking us again is nonsense. This obviously goes into further questions below, but the key lesson to take is that we’ve achieved what we have with a team that is only just beginning to grow together and is not even complete. We have not even reached the current team’s full potential and we are already challenging the richest team in England for the title.
I repeat, we have not even reached the current team’s full potential and we are already challenging the richest team in England for the title.
As Connery said in The Untouchables, here endeth the lesson.
Dave Cronin: 1) Sign players for the future but remembering the future starts now. It’s worth remembering that while we were bemoaning our lack of squad depth against the likes of Chelsea, we had spent decent money the previous summer on Aspas, Alberto and Ilori – none of whom made a significant contribution to our title challenge.
2) Every point matters. During our 11 match winning run, we had the mentality that every point mattered and every game could be and needed to be won. Our points return was incredible. Had we approached the first half of the season with a similar mentality, maybe the season could have turned out differently. Prior to that 11 match run, our best run of the season was four consecutive wins and our only other sequences of consecutive PL wins were three games once and two games twice. Bridge a couple of those runs and the 24-year wait would have been ended. So the lesson: show the same mentality pre-Christmas 2014 as post-Christmas 2013.
3) Liverpool FC is massive. For years we’ve been clinging to history and the size of our supporter base as reasons to believe LFC was still relevant at the top of the modern game while on the pitch we were permanently on the outside watching the top of the table clashes and the big European nights. This season LFC has transformed back into the club we all claimed it to be. We’ve looked a team worthy of its heritage. We’ve attracted new admirers for our swashbuckling style and class on and off the pitch. And we’re back in the Champions League ready to show the finest teams in Europe that we deserve to be back amongst them. Let us never again have to suffer the humiliation of one of our star players thinking Chelsea are a bigger club than us. Let “We are Liverpool” remain something to be proud of.
Si Steers: To defend better! We have one of the best attacks in European football, but collectively we expose our defence far too often. We need better defenders, but we also need to defend better as a team. If we can improve our defence by small margins and retain our attacking threat, we will be there or thereabouts again.
Alex Tate: That a high scoring rate will only get us so far. Being defensively sound will make the opposition feel they have less chance of scoring. Teams had confidence going into our games that they could score, even bloody Cardiff got three and Norwich two against us.
The fear factor of our attack is certainly worth its weight in golden boots. Maintain this, add a watertight defence and a title challenge can be on the cards again. Plus a few less own goals.
Russel Lunt (TTT Subscriber Thundyr): What we can learn from our disappointing results – Chelsea, Palace, Hull etc – is to stick to the plan. We lost our way when we lost our heads, when we forgot the game was about the points rather than some other agenda. Against Chelsea we forgot we only needed a draw against the tightest defence in the league. Against Palace we forgot that three points was more important than six goals for. Against Hull we forgot that the other team also has the ball at times and will use it to their strengths. Good decision-making is based on experience, and experience is based on bad decision-making. We made many bad decisions this season but still exceeded our pre-season expectations by finishing second; experience gained and a measure of success earned simultaneously are a rare combination.
The rest of this Q&A, where we ask “What most needs fixing in our defence?” and “How does Rodgers emerge from this season?”, is for Subscribers only.