Liverpool’s draw at Stamford Bridge last weekend effectively ended their hopes of a top-four finish and with it the lucrative prize of Champions League football.
Six points behind Manchester United, who also hold a far superior goal difference, it’s going to take a miraculous turn of events to ensure they finish any higher than fifth in what’s ultimately been a disappointing season for the Reds.
It was always going to be difficult to match last season’s efforts, a campaign that saw them thrill us all with some superb, exciting attacking football where they narrowly missed out on their first Premier League title.
But after losing their star man Luis Suarez in the summer, they have failed to replicate anything near what we witnessed last season, and as a result it looks like they are well and truly back to square one as a return to the Europa League beckons.
So what’s next for Liverpool and how can they turn it around?
The main priority this summer has to be the recruitment, and after last year’s efforts it’s imperative they do better in this aspect.
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Replacing Suarez was never going to be easy, but the likes of Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli, for whatever reason, have been huge disappointments. Given the fact they had just qualified for the Champions League, that presented the club with the perfect opportunity to strengthen the team with some top quality players, and with the funds from Suarez’s transfer everything was in place to do that.
But their failure to do so – having missed out on a number of targets – has proved to be their downfall, particularly given the injury problems suffered by Daniel Sturridge.
It’s going to be even harder a year on now they can’t guarantee Champions League football, but it’s an area that has to be addressed if they are to have any hope of pushing for the top four next season.
There are players out there that offer a solution to their attacking problems, and present realistic targets. The prime example being Christian Benteke of Aston Villa, who they should be doing all they can to sign. It would certainly be a positive start.
The lack of impact from Lambert, Balotelli and even Fabio Borini highlight the need for those players to be sold as it’s hard to see any of them making a significant improvement in the future.
But one player they have to hang onto is Raheem Sterling, and his contract situation presents another challenge for Liverpool this summer.
Their failure to make the top four has only fuelled speculation of a move to a Premier League rival, but the club have to stand their ground and ensure they don’t lose another star player for the second year running.
The wages don’t appear to be the issue, and so it’s imperative the club signal their intent for success next season by strengthening the side to show Sterling they mean business. Failure to do that will undoubtedly lead to the youngster pursuing a move elsewhere to a side with higher aspirations.
With talk that Brendan Rodger’s could be under pressure, it’s also important the club stick by their current manager and give him at least another season to turn things around.
The side haven’t kicked on as expected, but given the players at his disposal; it’s no surprise to see them come up short, a consequence that can’t really be put down to the manager. At the end of the day the squad has been good enough.
But they did put together a fantastic unbeaten run together during the middle of the season, and but for a costly sending off from Steven Gerrard against United, their season could have ended in a far more positive fashion. As it stands he’s still the best man for the job and certainly warrants another summer to try and turn it around.
The transfer window appears to be where Liverpool’s fortunes next season will be decided. It’s clear the squad needs improving and their ability or failure to add a few top class players to their ranks will determine the direction of the club.
Can they prove last season wasn’t a one off, or are they destined for another period of disappointment as the gap between themselves and the top four widens once more? It really is crunch time for Liverpool, and the next few months are going to have a big impact on which way the club goes.