From the dizzying run towards a first ever Premier League title last season, which evaporated with Luis Suarez’s tears at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park, to a midtable scrap, 2014 was a rollercoaster for Liverpool. The Reds saw their Uruguayan exit, have been without Daniel Sturridge for some time and have endured the Mario Balotelli sideshow rumbling away, which all contributed to the slide.
But, 2015 has been, so far, much better for Brendan Rodgers and his side, who are now mounting a – albeit late – charge for Champions League qualification. However, could next season see another push for the biggest prize? We think so, and here are FIVE reasons why…
The rise of Jordon Ibe over the course of the past few days has opened the door for much praise to be sent in the direction of Anfield. The 19-year-old – who is exactly 365 days youngster than Raheem Sterling – was re-called from an impressive loan spell at Derby in January and was thrown into the starting XI by Rodgers for the first time this term away at Goodison Park… some test. However, despite playing at wing-back – Ibe is winger by trade – the teenager shone, and was a genuine outlet for the Reds down the flank. He once again starred against Spurs, with his driving forward runs and decision making in the final third making it hard to believe that he’s so young.
And Ibe is not the only youngster shining on the red half of Merseyside, with Lazar Markovic and Sterling 20 and Emre Can 21, just! As well as these first-teamers, Mamadou Sakho, Alberto Moreno and Philippe Coutinho are by no means ‘old timers’.
The first half of the season was one to forget for the Reds. The adjustment period from the exit of Luis Suarez was always going to be tough, and Daniel Sturridge’s injury only served to make the transition even more rocky. Losses to both Aston Villa and Manchester United were limp, yet home draws with Hull and Sunderland were particularly worrying given the lack of attacking guile on show.
— Tetyushkin Anton (@akito_661) February 11, 2015
But, the turning point came after Christmas as Rodgers switched to a 3-4-2-1 with Sterling up front, and the results have been staggering. The Reds are currently top of the 2015 form table with 20 points since xmas day, some turnaround. With the problems now looking a distant memory, maybe… just maybe next season can be a non-stuttering one.
Gerrard’s looming exit has given the end of the season a ‘farewell tour’ feel with ‘Gerro’s’ last clashes against some of the Premier League’s elite teams enough for lazy headline writers to relax for the coming months. Even though his powers are waning – his pace and power have faded – he 34-year-old’s move to LA Galaxy will leave a massive hole in the Anfield midfield.
But the man to plug the gap could be Can, who, despite playing in a back three recently, looks set to move up the pitch when needed. A cameo in the middle third against Spurs showed just what the 21-year-old German offers, with composed passing, energy, explosive power and driving runs all hallmarks of his game. The future is bright!
Bombed out of the XI for Brad Jones (who would barely make the team for many Championship clubs) ahead of the Man United loss, Mignolet’s future looked bleak. Goalkeeper links dominated gossip columns through January, but a welcome back into the side at Burnley – Jones got injured – has coincided with an upturn in performance from the ex-Sunderland man.
Mignolet appears to have grown in confidence with a solid back three in front of him, with the erratic Dejan Lovren’s exodus, potentially, playing a part. ‘Migs’ has always been a good shot-stopper, but he now appears more commanding in his area, while his distribution is now a little more assertive.
A £110m spend is unlikely to be repeated, but even if a top four finish is not secured, it’s likely that Rodgers will have some cash to splash. Divock Origi is already booked up to head in from Lille when his loan spell ends, while the lure of Anfield will always pull top players to Merseyside, even if Liverpool have struggled to get marquee men in for some time.