For Liverpool and their manager Brendan Rodgers, 2014/15 was always going to be a turbulent season.
In the week that Steven Gerrard, widely regarded as the greatest player to ever pull on the famous red shirt, announced his intentions to move to the MLS at the end of the season, we must first begin our exploration of Liverpool’s recent failures with another departure.
1. Luis Suarez was not properly replaced.
There really is not a great deal you can say about Liverpool’s former No. 7 that has not already been said.
Genius and controversy went hand in hand throughout the enigmatic Uruguayan’s time on Merseyside.
He terrorised defences up and down the land – particularly at Carrow Road – and after a 31-goal season (six games of which he was banned for) a move to one of the Spanish giants looked inevitable.
Sure enough, after 69 goals in 110 appearances for the Reds, Brendan Rodgers decided to cash in and Suarez joined up with Lionel Messi and Co. in Barcelona.
Rodgers and his transfer committee obviously did not learn anything from the mistakes made by Tottenham following the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid a year previously.
Two or three world-class players would have helped build upon Liverpool’s astounding second-placed finish in the Premier League last season. Instead, in came eight new players, one being the shock acquisition of one Mario Balotelli.
Initially, at £16million the maverick Italian looked to be a risk too alluring to turn down. However, the fact remains, he is yet to score a single Premier League goal and with it now being January, that simply is not good enough.
If Liverpool were to take a chance on Balotelli then it should have been alongside a safer, more reliable established player.
Missing out on Alexis Sanchez was obviously a big blow as we’re seeing now as he continues to drag a mediocre Arsenal side almost single-handedly towards the Champions League places.
That said, it does not mean Liverpool were justified to settle for just Balotelli. Gonzalo Higuain is one player that sticks out. The powerful, dynamic Argentine has nine goals to his name already this season and shelling out around £35m on a proven top-class striker like him would certainly have gone some way replacing Suarez’s goals.
2. Last season’s SAS covered up various flaws.
Brendan Rodgers won countless plaudits last season for the way he utilised his players.
Steven Gerrard was given a new sitting position, Jordan Henderson did the leg work in midfield and at the top of the diamond, a 19-year-old Raheem Sterling spearheaded Liverpool’s blistering counter-attacks.
Up top, a partnership rivalled only by that of Cole & Yorke or Fowler & Rush.
Yes the SAS of Suarez and Sturridge scored goals for fun, but all this did was mask the frailties at the back.
Considering their runners-up finish, the 50 goals shipped by Liverpool’s defence was vastly greater than eventual title winners Manchester City’s goals against tally.
Despite the signings of Dejan Lovren, who has been a dramatic flop since joining from Southampton for £20m, and Alberto Moreno, Brendan Rodgers and the Liverpool faithful have watched on into 2014/15 as the defence has gone from bad to worse.
Additionally, Rodgers’ latest tactical masterclass is employing a new 3-4-3 formation, which none of Liverpool’s defenders are used to playing in and cries out for a solid, experienced ball-playing centre-back which they do not have.
Ironically Daniel Agger, who was allowed to return home to Brondby on the cheap, would fit the bill perfectly in this system.
3. Letting go of a legend.
With all of Liverpool’s current problems, I fear that the worst is still yet to come as come May, Steven Gerrard will no longer be a Liverpool player.
Down the years, the Liverpool man has been instrumental to any success the team has had.
The story of Istanbul would not have happened without his leadership and like the ‘Stanley Matthews final’ of 1953, you might as well call 2006 the ‘Gerrard final’ as Liverpool would not have lifted the FA Cup that day without his two inspirational strikes.
Not doing more to keep hold of Gerrard for at least another year could be Rodgers’ biggest mistake yet.
Even this week, it has become evident that putting the injured Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling aside, he remains Liverpool’s most important player, with his brace against Wimbledon scraping the Reds through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.