Liverpool’s 2014-15 Campaign: Evaluating My Pre-Season Predictions

At the start of this season I wrote a brief preview of what I thought would lie ahead for Liverpool. Now that the final ball has been kicked, and Anfield has fallen silent, it is time to evaluate my predictions.

Here is what I said:

This Season’s Prediction: 3rd/4th
Best Signing: Dejan Lovren or Alberto Moreno (if they finally get him signed)
Should still sign: Wilfried Bony
Should have signed: Alexis Sanchez
Shouldn’t have let go: Luis Suarez…? (as if he was going to stay) – I really wouldn’t want to see Dan Agger leave either
Youngsters to Watch: Where to start? Phillipe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Lazar Markovic and Jordan Ibe”

As you can see, I was fairly hit and miss, but in my defence it was a very hit and miss season. I doubt anyone would have predicted the purchase of Mario Balotelli, the unbeaten run in the league after defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, the continuing injury problems of Daniel Sturridge, or the 6-1 hammering on the final day at the hands of Stoke City. Nor could anyone have predicted what a flop (yes I said it) Dejan Lovren has been, or the off-field, very public antics of Raheem Sterling and his agent.

Anyway, enough of the excuses. Either I was too optimistic for a 3rd/4th finish, or Brendan Rodgers and co have had a very poor season. I believe it is the latter.

Let’s do a quick analysis of the predictions I made at the start of the season.

This Season’s Prediction: 3rd/4th” – Actual: 6th
I thought this was a fairly safe bet. Arsenal, Chelsea, and United all strengthened, and Liverpool were always going to struggle to make up for the loss of Luis Suarez. Liverpool’s new signings were always going to take a while to settle in, but even once they had done they were found to be inadequate. When Tottenham sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Rodgers famously said “If you spend more than £100m you’d expect to be challenging for the league.” By his own admission then, Liverpool have had a woeful season. It took a while to get going, and by the time we did we were too far behind to have any sort of title challenge. The utter capitulation in our final few games meant that even our Champions League aspirations went out the window. Quite simply, Liverpool did not live up to expectation.

Best Signing: Dejan Lovren or Alberto Moreno (if they finally get him signed)” – Actual Best Signing: Emre Can. Worst Signing: Dejan Lovren or Mario Balotelli.
The only positive that can be taken from the Lovren transfer is that he is still relatively young for a centre back. He is only 26 so, luckily, there is still time for him. Other than his age, everything else about him has been poor. His lack of real quality was evidenced when he was completely outplayed when faced by Chelsea’s Diego Costa early in the season, and it seems he never recovered from that. Rightly dropped by Rodgers, Lovren is not good enough to be in the starting XI. Moreno started well, but quickly faded away. His goal against Tottenham was his highlight of a disappointing first season in England. He cried when he played his final game for Sevilla, and with them lifting the Europa League again this season, perhaps he feels he made the wrong move coming to Merseyside.

Emre Can has been the best signing by a country mile. Indeed he is the only one of Rodgers’ summer recruits that has any sort of positive story to tell. Constantly played out of position in a right centre back role, he has performed admirably and has shown flashes of the quality he possesses. Calm under pressure, determined, and with a great physique, Can is certainly one for the future. Sure to impress for many years to come as long as Rodgers plays him in his favoured position.

The Worst Signing of the Season accolade could have gone to any number of players. Adam Lallana was overpriced and has not shown that he is worthy of the £25m price tag. A few decent performances have saved him though. Rickie Lambert has been out of his depth ever since joining, unable to adapt to Liverpool’s game and unable to recreate his incredible form of last season. Lambert’s low transfer fee has been his saviour. Lazar Markovic shows why Chelsea passed up on the opportunity to sign him, playing no more than a fringe role at Anfield. At only 20 years old though, again, he is one for the future.

Sharing the title with Lovren, who I spoke of earlier, is the Italian misfit Mario Balotelli. Whoever thought it was a good idea to sign him needs their head testing. A poor goalscoring record when you exclude penalties, a pricely £16m price tag, a work ethic that is more Dimitar Berbatov than Luis Suarez, and the all the antics that come with the player, means that Balotelli was never a good signing to make for Liverpool. He has had more yellow cards (7) than goals (4) this season, and only 1 goal in 16 Premier League appearances. His shoot on sight policy is like something taken from a United States police force, but ironically, is nowhere near as damaging. Unlike Lovren though, I can’t see Super Mario changing and wouldn’t be surprised or upset to see him moving on sometime soon.

Should still sign: Wilfried Bony”
I said it all summer, to anyone and everyone that would listen, “Wilfried Bony is a class act and Liverpool should definitely buy him.” Not an unreasonable thing to say considering the links Rodgers has with Swansea City, my calls for the Ivorian fell on deaf ears however, and in the January transfer window, Bony made the big club move that he deserved. Manchester City now utilising his considerable footballing talents to keep their bench warm. The striker scored more goals in the Premier League in the calendar year 2014 than any other player, has a fantastic goals-to-games ratio at every club he has played for, and despite the African Cup of Nations and the transfer to City, still managed to get 11 league goals this season. Bony: the one that got away.

“Should have signed: Alexis Sanchez”
A strange sort of question to ask, and one likely to be left out in the future. Giving Sanchez as my answer for this one implies that Liverpool could have done something more to acquire his signature, but in actual fact they did all they could. You bid the money, you offer the contract, and then you hope the player chooses you, nothing more to be done. Sanchez though chose London over Liverpool, and Arsenal have been benefiting ever since. What a season the Chilean has had, and despite its brilliance it should really come as no surprise. Sanchez was world class whilst playing at the Nou Camp and that hasn’t changed now that he plays at The Emirates. Wonderful footballer and a great signing for Arsene Wenger.

“Shouldn’t have let go: Luis Suarez…? (as if he was going to stay) – I really wouldn’t want to see Dan Agger leave either”
Another strange question and another answer that is more in fiction than in fact. If a player wants to leave then there is little that can be done. Suarez deserves to be winning trophies at Barcelona because he deserves to be at the best team in the world. Attempting to hang on to him when the Catalans came sniffing was never an option. With regards to Agger, one has to say that it was probably the right thing to be done. A return to Danish football clearly shows that his best years were behind him.

“Youngsters to Watch: Where to start? Phillipe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Lazar Markovic and Jordan Ibe”
Well three out of four isn’t bad is it? With a young squad this question is always going to be a good one. Coutinho rightly got Player of the Year, Sterling got Young Player of the Year, and Jordan Ibe has broken into the team following his recall from loan at Derby County. Markovic is the sole disappointment here.

As well as these forecasts, I also made a few others in the body of the article as a whole. They were as follows:

An improved Liverpool defence and a goal difference of +35 to see us near the top
In the 2013/14 season Liverpool’s sieve-like defence conceded 50 goals. Our woes at the back were masked by our superb attacking talent, and so despite leaking half a century of goals we still finished the league season with a goal difference of +51. This season we conceded less goals – so our defence has improved somewhat – but we also scored less. Significantly less. I was being far too optimistic hoping for a +35 goal difference and at the end of the season we sat on a tragic +4. Incidentally Arsenal, the team in third this season – the position I predicted Liverpool to be in – finished the season with a +35 goal difference.

Liverpool to go far in a cup – possible FA Cup success
Despite it being played on Steven Gerrard’s birthday, there was no fairytale ending for Liverpool in the FA Cup this year. In truth we spoiled our own party. A limp and lethargic display to Aston Villa in the Semi Final began our end of season collapse. We also reached the Semi Finals of the Carling Cup this season and were unlucky to be beaten by Chelsea when we more than matched them over the two legs. And as predicted the Champions League was nothing more than a learning experience for us this season. Liverpool? Learning to play Champions League football? Oh how the mighty have fallen. Another weak attempt at a European campaign ended our run in the Europa League. Besiktas, a team we hammered 8-0 a few years ago, beat us in Turkey on penalties to knock us out of that competition. Two Semi Final appearances isn’t bad, but a run out at Wembley would have been nice. Some silverware would have been even better.

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