As the season draws to a conclusion and Liverpool are still (arguably) in with a shot at Champions League football, Reds fans will look back at the second half of the season and wonder what might’ve been. If only we’d had the foresight, or the benefit of hindsight, we may have been looking at a title run-in over the next 6 games. It hasn’t been a vintage season by Liverpool’s recent standards but then, it hasn’t been one by anybody’s standards. However, the past few months have offered some positives for us so it is probably a good time to look back at the players who have shined the most for Liverpool this season.
From the back, the choices are obvious and given the poor defensive performance this season, there’s really only one candidate; only one man that has kept his head and not let himself dip while those around him struggled: Pepe Reina. The man is already a legend at Liverpool, and if a season was to go by without him being a candidate for Liverpool’s PoS, then you will know that it is a good indication that the Reds have suffered badly throughout. So it perhaps a big thanks to him that we didn’t find ourselves in a worse position before there was a change in management in January. Having played 44 games this season, he has still managed to keep 17 clean sheets and made over 100 saves.
Through to midfield and we have 2 surprise candidates: Lucas Leiva and Raul Meireles. Surprising because back in September, Lucas was still a ‘liability’, a joke and had been pushed toward the exit before the new manager had even had a chance to assess him. Luckily for Liverpool, he opted to stay and has gone on to have his best season in a Red shirt by a mile. He has grown in stature, matured to a level close to the world-class destroyer that was Javier Mascherano. And while he may not quite be there yet, the hopes are high for Lucas and he may well one day be on a par with the great Argentine. Having played 39 games this season, he has contributed only 1 goal and 1 assist. Some detractors may point to this as an example of how little he has improved and in all honesty, it is a side of his game that needs improvement but that is not what he is there for. What he does do is break down the opposition and keep things moving and tidy in the middle. And this he does with great authority and energy; making numerous tackles and with one of the highest pass-completion rates in the league, Lucas is a standout candidate for the PoS.
As for Meireles, the past few weeks have seen him seemingly winding down as the season draws to a close. But I suspect that is less to do with complacency and more to do with his energy levels dropping drastically as who comes to the end of a very hard first season in the most physically brutal league in Europe. The first couple of months saw Raul flit in and out of games but he soon got his head and his body around what was required to make it in the Premier League and before we knew it he was emerging to control games and have a positive effect on the Reds passing and rhythm. The highlight of the Portuguese international’s season came during the absence of the captain for a number of weeks when he was given his preferred role in the centre of midfield, where he excelled, contributing goals and assists and dominating midfield. Unfortunately for Meireles (and perhaps also Liverpool?), once fit Gerrard was slotted straight back in and his form dipped slightly. Next season will be the important one for Meireles in as much as he will be scrutinized much more having already bedded in and that whoever is managing the club by next August will have to find a way to accommodate him in a packed midfield. Meireles enter the last six games of the season having played 36 games, with 5 goals and 5 assists.
Closing out the candidates is a man that many would never consider standout material for the PoS: Dirk Kuyt. He has probably as many detractors as Lucas; dividing opinions in the way only Marmite can. But this season Dirk has risen, time and time again, when others have kept their heads below the firing line, and delivered the important goals when it mattered. For his tirelessness and near mythical work rate, Kuyt puts a lot of his younger and more illustrious team mates to shame. With 35 games under his belt this season, he has chipped in with 11 goals and 5 assists. It is also worth pointing out that he is Liverpool current top-scorer this season.
In conclusion, there is really only one winner in my mind; he has proved time and again this season that he has a spirit and a backbone – and some pretty huge cojones, if you’re Mexican – that would make a Spartan proud and has a rapidly improving game that will only mature, like a good wine, with age: Lucas Leiva.
Who do you think should be given the honour?
Read more of David Tryer’s articles at Live4Liverpool
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