Liverpool Season Review 2012/13 (In Depth): Must Do Better

So another season ends at Anfield, another season tinged with disappointment. Brendan Rodgers’ first campaign ended with a seventh place finish, with Liverpool bowing out of the cup competitions relatively early.

However, at this point Liverpool fans are split on whether progress has indeed been made and there is indeed a golden sky at the end of the storm or they are starting to accept mediocrity. The fans shouting progress will point to a points total increased by nine and league goals up from 47 to 71, with less defeats. Those screaming lack of progress will point towards a Carling Cup win and a FA Cup final defeat the season before.

 Hard start

A really tough start to Rodgers’ first tilt at the Premier League for the reds saw them towards the foot of the table with a grand total of two points from the first five games. This didn’t tell the full tale of how the reds played in those opening exchanges and the manager must have thought what happened to that old adage of the Luck of the Irish.

Take West Bromich Albion away on the first day. Rodgers’ must have run over a black cat or something on the way to picking the coach up before the journey south. Despite the reds arguably being the best side at The Hawthorns, a world class strike by Zoltan Gera just before half-time turned the tie Albion’s way. A second half bizarre penalty awarded against the reds (converted by Peter Odemwingie) and an equally bizarre sending off for Daniel Agger compounded Liverpool’s bad luck on the day.

The bad luck continued, or bad defending if your name is Alan Hansen, at home to reigning Premier League champions Manchester City. Liverpool, having dominated most of the play, were in touching distance of a much needed three points when Martin Skrtel’s (who had already scored for the reds) back-pass was intercepted by Carlos Tevez and dispatched past Pepe Reina. I was on The Kop that Sunday afternoon and we trundled away feeling like we had been defeated and not drawn 2-2.


Arsenal at home was up next and it was a disappointing and flat performance from the home side which set a few alarm bells ringing in my muddled middle age brain. I was hoping this wasn’t a pointer for things to come. A draw at Sunderland followed, not a great result, and then a visit by Manchester United. Again, despite being the best side on the day, the reds fell to a 2-1 defeat with the controversial sending off of Jonjo Shelvey not helping matters.

One bright spark during these early days was the form of the little Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez. It was the brilliance of Suarez that helped Liverpool to notch their first league win of the season at Carrow Road. Despite continued barracking from the home crowd, a brilliant hat-trick by Suarez helped the reds defeat Norwich City 5-2. He seems to like playing against the Canaries.

Progress was also being made in the early cup competitions as the reds brushed aside Hearts in the Europa League qualifier for the Group Stages. A superb away win at Young Boys of Bern by the youngsters saw the reds start the group stages in fine style, with Shelvey notching a brace of goals. A similar young side produced an excellent performance in knocking West Brom out of the League, Milk, Rumbelows, Carling, Capital One Cup.

 Inconsistency continues

October was typical of the lack of consistency in results. The reds lost to Udinese and beat money bags Anzhi both at Anfield, in the Europa Cup. In the league Liverpool were held to a miserable home goalless draw by a spoiling Stoke City and then beat lowly Reading at Anfield 1-0 thanks to solitary goal by Raheem Sterling. Sterling was also one of the early season bright sparks but his impact was soon to fade as Rodgers pointed his lack of form towards tiredness. Maybe it was just a coincidence that he had just signed a much improved new contract or maybe that’s just the cynic in me.

Rodgers’ lack of luck was again evident in the 2-2 derby draw at Goodison Park. Liverpool had gone 2-0 up against arch rivals Everton which saw the comedy moment of the season when Luis Suarez scored and ran in front of David Moyes and dived full length. Comedy genius from Suarez. Moyes was to have the last laugh however when Suarez had a late winner wrongly disallowed. It was a good performance by the reds but again highlighted the inconsistencies not just match to match but within matches themselves.

Rodgers’ old side Swansea City dumped the reds and holders out the Capital One Cup with a 3-1 win at Anfield, when Swansea came to Merseyside and out passed Liverpool in a way that Rodgers’ was dreaming off. In essence Swansea out-Rodgered Rodgers.

 Hard schedule

Liverpool faced a tough schedule of seven games in both November and December, with their continued participation in the Europa League group stages. November was again a month of inconsistency and varied results. A defeat in Moscow against Anzhi and a home 2-2 draw at Anfield against Young Boys meant Liverpool needed to win at Udinese in December in their final group game. One win in the five league games was hardly Champions League form, with the solitary win coming at home to Wigan with a 3-0 victory.

Suarez’s early influence continued with a stunning goal in the 1-1 home draw versus Newcastle United, couple with two goals in the Wigan game and the a strike in the 1-1 away draw at Chelsea. Whilst Suarez’s form hit the heights, one of Brendan Rodgers’ big summer signings Joe Allen, mainly in the Lucas role, slowly started to disappoint. Carrying an injury was the ‘excuse’ to eventually come out of Melwood, so a big summer awaits Allen to win over the Anfield faithful.

December came and that win in Udinese was clinched thanks to a 1-0 win on a freezing night in Italy and a Jordan Henderson goal. That was the last we seen of on-loan Nuri Sahin, as he went off with a broken nose. Allen’s injury and/or lack of form eventually gave Henderson a run of games and during the latter part of the season became a fixture in the reds side, showing the promise that saw Kenny Dalglish spend big money on his capture.

 Inconsistency, inconsistency and more inconsistency in December. Wins over Southampton, West Ham, Fulham and QPR were intermeshed with a very poor loss at Anfield to Aston Villa and a dreadful Boxing Day performance away to Stoke City. Pepe Reina was way off the form he had shown in previous seasons but he wasn’t just to blame. At this stage it was either all or nothing for the reds. You would avoid them at the bookmakers in that you never knew what was coming next. A comfortable win with a clean sheet or an abysmal performance and a defence that shipped goals.

 New Year, new hope

New Year and renewed optimism with a comfortable home win over Sunderland, with Suarez again scoring twice. Lucas was back in the side but struggling for form when coming back from injuries but the sight of him finally back in a red shirt added to the optimism. Despite a second half fight back at Old Trafford, Manchester United defeated the reds 2-1 but the sight of Daniel Sturridge, one of the January window signings, coming off the bench had reds fans purring with delight. The other major incoming was Philippe Coutinho, joining from Italian giants Inter Milan and how he has added creativity and guile to the reds side.

It was a footballing horror show in the FA Cup, when the reds put in a terrible performance going down to Oldham Athletic 3-2. It was the game that saw Skrtel lose his place in the side, with rumours of a fallout with the manager and potential move away from Anfield in the summer.

Two draws followed, which on paper were not bad results at Arsenal and Manchester City. However, if you analyse the full season the statistic that stands out in the reds failure to qualify for Europe is that out of the games with the top six they have gained only 10 points from a potential 36, with the solitary win coming in a 3-2 home with over Spurs. If your glass is half full you may state they only lost four out of those 10 games but that points haul is a major reason in the season falling short.

 Struggles continued

Zenit St Petersburg knocked the reds out of the Europa League by away goals despite the reds throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the Russians in the second leg at Anfield. Sandwiching the away game in Russia was a shock home defeat to West Brom, who did the double over Liverpool much to ex-red Steve Clarke’s delight and a superb 5-0 mauling of Swansea at Anfield to gain some revenge over the Swans for the Capital One Cup loss.

That exit from the Europa League eased the pressure of the numbers of games and frequency of games the reds were to play in the run in. This showed as the reds finally found some consistency in a very inconsistent season. In the final eleven league games the reds lost just the once at Southampton. Finally, it looked and felt like Rodgers had tightened the defence up, with the retiring Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger forming a formidable partnership and Reina coming back to form. Just three goals were conceded in the final seven games in April and May.

April was however dominated by the Suarez bite incident at home to Chelsea and his subsequent ban. This ban had a positive effect in that Sturridge finally had the stage to himself and started to show signs of him fulfilling his obvious potential. Sturridge netted twice in the 6-0 trouncing of Newcastle United at St James Park and a simply brilliant hat-trick at Fulham. Now the problem Rodgers faces, if Suarez does indeed stay, is how can he link Sturridge, Suarez and Coutinho for the most impact.

 Next steps

So looking forward and the foundations look like being in place. This coming transfer window could be classed as the most important window in a long while. Carragher has retired so a world class centre half is needed urgently. Rumours continue to surround Reina and his move back to Barcelona, so a top notch goalkeeper may be required. Elsewhere, Stuart Downing has improved in this last season has he cemented a place in the side but his he really of the quality that Liverpool need to first break into that elusive top four and then ultimately challenge the money men for the league title?

Liverpool’s current best starting 11 is not far off, maybe a couple of additions required but they lack strength in depth which would give Rodgers more options when making substitutions to change the game so too speak. He has no excuse of Europe draining his resources for the next season, so top four finish should be targeted alongside going close in the domestic cups. Steven Gerrard, largely injury free, is still the focal point of Liverpool’s drive and determination which is a worry that will increase over the coming seasons.

So my final school report for Liverpool would be that they must do better. Liverpool was made to challenge for trophies not eighth and seventh place finishes. It’s work in progress but it’s also a huge season for Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool have patient fans and will give Rodgers time but they will not and should not accept mediocrity longer than necessary. It’s not all down to the manager after all said and done and the owners (Fenway Sports Group) need to back the manager in this upcoming transfer window with some quality additions. However, Liverpool will not be dining at the top table in terms of transfers and the reds scouting system will be working overtime in the coming months.

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

Liverpool Special: Three Players Who Should Be Loaned Out For Good

Picture & Caption Special: Stunning Picture Of Arsenal Players In A Golf Court