Though it is certainly tempting to call Liverpool’s 2nd place finish in the 2013-14 Premier League season a capitulation, it was not that. Despite not winning the title, Liverpool pushed Manchester City all the way – a situation few could have predicted after the previous season’s 7th place finish.
As Liverpool’s rival fans sang Steven Gerrard’s name at stadiums across England a week ago last Sunday, and one City fan was caught on camera holding up a sign thanking Gerrard for slipping, we would all do well to debunk a few of the myths surrounding LFC’s so-called “capitulation.”
Myth 1: Transfer Window Debacles
While it is true that Liverpool’s last two transfer windows have not been excellent, it is a stretch to say this cost the team the title. Publicly, we know that the club only had a couple of transfers on their radar in January. The failure to sign Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka was made difficult by the owner of Dnipro, and nobody can say for certain that he would have made an immediate impact on the team. Coming from the Ukrainian league, which – with all due respect – is not as strong of a league as the Premier League would most likely not be an easy transition. Without any sort of preseason to settle, to learn Brendan Rodgers’ methods, and get to know his new teammates, Konoplyanka very well may have struggled for form. This sort of speculation rings even more hollow and false when Liverpool’s form after the January window is considered. Liverpool continued to be in great form for the remainder of the season, losing only one game (to Chelsea) and winning 11 in a row in 2014.
Furthermore, many point to last summer’s signings as being dead weight. This is only partially true – Luis Alberto is better known for drunk driving than for his skill in midfield, and Iago Aspas simply doesn’t look a Liverpool player. However, as per FSG’s transfer policy, LFC focused on making signings that were young and would help the team in the future. Though Tiago Ilori never played for the club since being signed, he is only 21 and it would be unfair to write him off yet. He has had an excellent loan spell at Granada, and was particularly excellent in a league game against Barcelona. Simon Mignolet was a massive improvement in goal over Pepe Reina – though Reina was a great servant to the club, his performances in recent seasons suggested his powers were waning. I found myself watching saves Mignolet made and wondering if Reina would have kept the ball out. It is important to remember that Mignolet is only 26, and very few goalkeepers – Thibaut Courtois aside – are the finished article at that age. Mamadou Sakho had a stop-start season as he struggled with injury issues, but in the games he did play, Sakho proved he is one to watch as his assuredness on the ball and strong physique were mixed with mistakes that could be chalked up to rustiness. It is early days in Sakho’s LFC career, and he is clearly valued by Didier Deschamps, who named him in France’s preliminary squad for the World Cup. Supporters will surely be expecting more from him in the 2014/15 season.