Liverpool’s best season in quite a long while probably ended up feeling like one of the worst to the club's rabid and success-starved fans. So much good football and so many goals ultimately lead to an egregious two-week choke that saw a seemingly pre-destined title win disintegrate into tatters. If it had just been the loss to Chelsea that had cost them, they might have maintained neutral support that they were the best team in 2014, but the 3-3 draw vs Crystal Palace was so hideous; such an unyielding presentation of the ugly that the good had conspired to keep hidden all year, the poor defence, Rodgers' inexperience, and this young side's lack of big-game bottle.
It was tragic, they themselves had earned a better way to lose at least, but it happened and now Liverpool need to bounce back in a season that is likely to see at least the partial revival of Manchester United, and the strengthening of rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and champions Manchester City. No mean feat.
World-class players are hard to come by, and solid reasoning considered, ultimately Liverpool just sold theirs and did not purchase one. They’ve bought some good players, maybe some fantastic ones. But they haven’t bought a Luis Suárez. It may not have even possible, as there are only five or six players that could be called his equal and none of them were for sale. Liverpool’s logic for selling the man was sound. He was a renegade, a perpetual bad PR hurricane amplified by his being their star player. You factor in the ban, and Liverpool essentially had no option but take their chances in the great Suárez free unknown. Lazar Marković, Divock Origi and Emre Can are great signings for the future, while Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert are coming off great seasons for Southampton. But it does seem like Liverpool are trying to replace the irreplaceable with quantity of quality, slightly reminiscent of the way Spurs went about replacing Gareth Bale last season. Liverpool have 30 goals to replace. There is no easy way to go about that.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Of Liverpool’s signings, the one you’d expect most to hit the ground running is Lallana, who is 26 and in the prime of his career. Elsewhere, Liverpool will need a very big season out of Daniel Sturridge, who joined the league’s elite last season, and given his partner in crime’s departure, nothing less than a 30-goal season will do from the Englishman if Liverpool are to challenge for the title this season. It is also a big season for Raheem Sterling, who now has a lot more competition for his starting berth and can’t afford to let his form slip. Simon Mignolet made a couple of costly mistakes last season, and would also like to kick on.
After last season, the target has to be to win the Premier League. But, whereas last year was a bit of a free for all with the established powers re-establishing themselves, and thus leaving themselves vulnerable to usurping to the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, this year Chelsea’s starting eleven looks monstrous, and City have tended to the holes in their squad. The path to the trophy will be harder this year for Liverpool, particularly without everyone’s favourite cannibal. I think in a vacuum, top four would be a good finish, but that won’t cut it after last year. I can see a hangover season for Liverpool.