Aug 12, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
What do you get when you take the Player of the Season, add an unclogged fixture schedule, a pinch of tactical genius, a cup of top goalkeeping, sprinkle in a dash of youthful talent, and garnish with a seasoned on-the-field leader?
Why, you come a slip away from a Premier League championship, of course.
Unfortunately, with last year fallen through the grasp and gone forever, some of those ingredients are missing now, and Liverpool can’t exactly go to the grocery store and pick up another Luis Suarez out of the bread aisle.
Liverpool’s magical season last year should have earned them the Premier League title, except for the part where it didn’t. Now, with it all to do again, it will be hard for the Reds to repeat everything that helped move them to the top.
Now don’t get me wrong, they earned every bit of their second-place finish, and probably should have won it all.
But there were plenty of contributing factors that are no longer around in the brand new season.
First, every team around them got better. Arsenal got better. Manchester United got better. Chelsea got better. Manchester City got marginally better with an already loaded squad. Tottenham will be better. Last season, it seemed nobody wanted to win the league, but somebody had to. This year, that won’t be the case.
Another ingredient to last season’s success was their lack of other fixtures to keep the squad tied down, draw their attention away, and tire the players. They weren’t playing in Europe, were knocked out in the fifth round of the FA Cup, and eliminated in the third round of the League Cup. Across those two domestic competitions, they played just five matches.
This season, all that appears to be different. They’ll have the Champions League to contend with (not that that’s a bad thing by any means, but in a vacuum, it can only distract from their domestic season), and surely will look to progress further in the cup competitions.
But through it all, when asked about what his goals were next season, the only one manager Brendan Rodgers mentioned was the same one he targeted last year. “The first aim is to qualify for the Champions League, and then try to build your way up through. That’s what we did last year, going into every game just focusing on the next game.”
Despite all this, Rodgers doesn’t believe there will be much of a change. “There’s no great difference [from last season],” he told me after Liverpool’s win over AC Milan in Charlotte. “We’ve brought players in that understand the way of working, and obviously there are a lot of players that were retained from last season.”
But then, he recanted just a touch and admitted one difference. One key difference that may just be what the club needs to make up for what they no longer have on their side. “I think what we have this year, we have a greater belief. We were probably surprised for most of last season.”
He then talked about their preseason game against the Italian side. “I think you see tonight with the level of our football…what pleased me tonight was their maturity.”
It will be just that, the club’s experience of having challenged for the title last season, that will carry them through any sort of similar situation this season, should one arise.
Younger players such as Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen, and Jon Flanagan will have to help take some of the pressure off Daniel Sturridge’s shoulders, and having been through last year’s title fight gave them a priceless wealth of knowledge.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario this year where other clubs haven’t surpassed Liverpool with big-money purchases from abroad and a level playing field in the fixture congestion department. Hard, but not impossible. And even if Liverpool finish as low as fourth, and do maintain their Champions League status, the atmosphere surrounding supporters should be positive.
Brendan Rodgers has, since his arrival, instilled a belief of the long-term project. And even if this club takes a step or two backwards this season, that gold nugget at the end of the tunnel is still very much intact.
And who knows. After laying out next season’s goals, Rodgers said with a smile, “It’s very difficult to forecast in football.” True that. Maybe this season, Gerrard will stay on his feet, and the slipper will fit.
2014 MLS Cup rematch: For the New England Revolution, it’s a new season, different game against LA Galaxy
May 29, 2015, 4:10 PM EDT
On Fox Sports 1 this Sunday, the New England Revolution face LA Galaxy in a 2014 MLS Cup rematch.
May 29, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Chelsea’s title-winning team dominates our picks. But there are still plenty of surprise inclusions.
May 29, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT
As the soccer world continues to react to Sepp Blatter’s fifth-term as FIFA president, his 72-year-old former VP is basically telling the law to take a long walk off a short pier.
May 29, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
We’re in the shadow of just one rushed afternoon, and the FBI and others are watching the money float off the yacht, hoping to strike.
May 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
This award went down to the final vote. Do you agree with our pick?
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein withdraws from second vote; Cocky Blatter speaks in power, references “offshore” future
May 29, 2015, 1:28 PM EDT
“I’m not perfect. Nobody’s perfect, but together we go.” Inspiring.
May 29, 2015, 1:02 PM EDT
There were 209 votes, and nations could abstain from voting as well.
May 29, 2015, 12:47 PM EDT
Can the Gunners win a second-straight FA Cup? Sherwood’s Villa stand in the way.
May 29, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT
Aston Villa is hoping to keep the 24-year-old Belgian, who has scored 49 goals in 99 matches since coming to the England from Genk in 2012.
May 29, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT
One man dominates our votes. He probably dominates your picks too…
May 29, 2015, 11:06 AM EDT
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein and Sepp Blatter have addressed voters ahead of Friday’s presidential election, and we’re onto the vote.
May 29, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT
The United States kicks off its U-20 World Cup run with a match against Myanmar at Midnight, and will look to emerge from a relatively winnable group with Ukraine and hosts New Zealand.
May 29, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Kane, De Gea, Hazard… who came out on top?
May 29, 2015, 9:09 AM EDT
The once-capped Austrian played club ball with LASK Linz in his home country until 2012.
May 29, 2015, 8:10 AM EDT
Thankfully, the anonymous threat led to nothing, though it’s worth noting the media wasn’t immediately told there was danger.
May 29, 2015, 7:53 AM EDT
Manchester United is among the other clubs said to be targeting Clyne, but the back is said to prefer Liverpool.
May 29, 2015, 7:30 AM EDT
Week 13 of the 2015 MLS season is here! What games are must-watch this weekend?
May 28, 2015, 11:13 PM EDT
The U-20 World Cup kicks off late Thursday night (US time). Get yourself caught up on what — and who — to watch.
May 28, 2015, 8:52 PM EDT
Landing Ancelotti would be the best thing AC Milan have done in years.
May 28, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT
Sunil Gulati is putting his not only talking the talk, but walking the walk, with regard to much-needed reform in world soccer.
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- Blatter’s “Wolf of Wall Street” moment could play out the exact same way 1
- Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein withdraws from second vote; Cocky Blatter speaks in power, references “offshore” future 24
- FA Cup final preview: Aston Villa underdogs in Arsenal’s pursuit of back-to-back cups 0
- 2014-15 Premier League season review: PST’s Player of the Season 5
- Al-Hussein, Blatter address voters ahead of presidential election; First vote coming 6