Connect in the back of the net

Taken from Gambling Kingz

For Liverpool fans, 2011/12 was an emotional roller coaster of a season; with some ups, like winning the League Cup, but too many downs. In fact, far too many downs to normally cram into one season. 

It was one that began with aspirations of challenging for a Champions League spot, but Liverpool’s league form has stuttered and ground to a halt to become a hugely disappointing Premier League campaign. The cup form has been something of a saving grace – winning the League Cup and reaching the FA Cup final.

Winning trophies is fantastic, it’s what football is all about, make no mistake about that. However, in modern football, success is not only measured by the trophies that you win, but also by what competitions you are in and how far you progress in them. 

Nowadays, qualifying for the Champions League and going beyond the group phase is considered relative success; it’s where the big money that clubs need to compete is and it’s where top players want to be playing. 

So for all that lifting the League Cup or FA Cup is an honour and a great day out for the fans and should rightly be celebrated, it cannot and must not paper over the cracks of a poor league performance.

As a Liverpool fan for 30 years, I’m lucky to have experienced many, many highs; winning league titles, European Cups, FA Cups, League Cups, the UEFA Cup and seen some great players. There’s also been heartache and times of disappointment along the way, but I support my club through good times and bad. I don’t subscribe to the modern disease of expecting instant success and the constant hiring and firing of managers. 

However, it was clear to virtually all Liverpool fans that Roy Hodgson was not the right man for the manager’s job, nor was he ever. He took the team backwards at an alarming rate and his removal was not only necessary, it was overdue. 

At that point, the club needed uniting and Kenny Dalglish was the perfect man for the job. The hope offered to the fans from the ownership change and Dalglish back in charge of the team brought everyone together and that was vital. Fortunes on the pitch improved and with the new owners prepared to back the manager financially, the summer was one of optimism.

Splashing out £16m on Jordan Henderson, £20m on Stewart Downing, £7m on Jose Enrique and £7m on Charlie Adam was seen as a signal of intent. As established Premier League players, an adjustment period to English football would not thought to be required, they were expected to settle in quickly.

Taken from Calvin Ayre

The return on the investment thus far has not been what anyone associated with the club would have hoped for, but Jordan Henderson is just 21 and has shown real signs of promise in the second half of the season when playing in central midfield. 

Stewart Downing had a less than brilliant first season at Aston Villa, before going on to become their most consistent performer and was man of the match in the League Cup Final. Jose Enrique had a very good first half of the season, but was sloppy and over indulgent on the ball in the second half of the season as his form dipped. 

Charlie Adam was brought in after an impressive stint with Blackpool to try and fill the void still left by the departure of Xabi Alonso in 2009, but instead his lack of defensive awareness and tendency to not release early passes, created more questions than answers.

Liverpool’s opening day fixture was at home to Sunderland, who themselves had been busy again in the summer. It was a match that became the story of Liverpool’s season – Luis Suarez missed a penalty, the woodwork was struck more than once, easy chances missed and a goal given away. 

So, a game that should’ve been over comfortably before half time and finished up a 4 or 5 goal win ended as a draw.Too often this season, it has happened at Anfield: Liverpool dominate, fail to convert chances, hit the woodwork and end up drawing games they should’ve won. It’s this poor home record that has wiped out any hope of qualifying for a Champions League place.

Suarez’s reaction after missing his penalty vs Sunderland… Season changer (Taken from the Telegraph)

As well as the constant changing of formations and bringing players in and out of the team, playing some out of position has not helped the fluidity and confidence of the side. 

Had Andy Carroll’s perfectly good goal against Sunderland on the opening day not been wrongly ruled out, perhaps his season may have been different; but when he did start to show some form early 2012 after a difficult spell, he was dropped back to the bench. 

Whether or not Carroll has a long term future at the club remains to be seen, but has shown that when his confidence is up, he is an effective player. The £35m price tag around his neck is a heavy burden, not one of his own making, but still one that he has to carry and comes under more scrutiny for it. 

Downing was another with a big price tag, who started the season quite well and his partnership with Enrique was looking good, but he struggled for form when switched to the right and in turn, wingers having to cut inside onto their strongest foot starved Carroll of the kind of service he thrived on at Newcastle. 

Not playing to players strengths has certainly not helped the cause and this goes without getting into the controversial Suarez and Evra saga that undoubtedly had an adverse effect.

The controversial Suarez-Evra incident, cast an adverse effect on the Reds’ season (Taken from Espacio Deportes)

It can be easy to lambast players for underperforming and missing sitters, but the inconsistent team performances went deeper than that. Team and formation changes were too regular, questions were asked of match preparations with utterly lamentable performances against Spurs, Wigan and Bolton in particular. 

Clearly, improvement was needed from all the Liverpool Football Club staff. That being said, the sacking of Kenny Dalglish came as a surprise because despite the disappointments of the season, a trophy was still a long way from the mess that Dalglish had to repair from the debacle that was Roy Hodgson’s short lived tenure as manager. 

Most fans felt that Kenny deserved another season to be given the opportunity to improve the league position and performances, to try and get the club back into the Champions League positions.

As rollercoasters go, 2011/12 was the big dipper for Liverpool fans; with all the changes within the club, fans will be hoping 2012/13 is more plane sailing.

Written by Andy Wales
Follow me on Twitter @AndyArmchair

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