Liverpool: 2011 review and look ahead to 2012

It’s that time again. As we pull the curtain on another year. A time to reflect, a time to take stock and a time to look forward. 

By way of reflection, well what a year 2011 has been for Liverpool. Kenny Dalglish became the Liverpool manager for the second time, replacing the beleaguered Roy Hodgson. Most Reds will admit a change was due, even given the short time that Hodgson was in charge. The club had become stagnant under Rafael Benitez and Hodgson, for all his good intentions, done little, if anything to improve the situation. Dalglish’s first month in charge was nothing if not eventful. We saw the departure of Fernando Torres which surprised most people be they supporters of LFC or not. The £50m transfer income was quickly spent on Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez for £35m and £23m respectively as Dalglish showed he was not intending to ease himself into his second tenure in charge lightly.

Immediately the effect of Dalglish was evident around the club, the supporters and the players with a new found belief and togetherness instilled by Dalglish and his new number two, Steve Clarke. The most notable performance in the early part of the year, had to be the mauling of Manchester United by three goals to nil at Anfield, Dirk Kuyt finishing with a hatrick, all three goals made by Suarez. The team passed the ball more in that game alone than I remember them passing throughout the whole of Hodgson’s tenure. One could argue that’s a tad harsh but it was clear that the passing was somewhat ‘economical’, shall we say, under Hodgson.

The aquisitions of Jordan Henderson, £20m, Charlie Adam, £7m and Jose Enrique £6m in the summer, along with the free transfers of Craig bellamy from Manchester City and Alexander Doni from Roma signalled the new ‘Gaffer’s intent to instil a new more skillful and attacking look to the laboured Liverpool team. The transfer of Stewart Downing from Aston Villa for a fee believed to be in the region of £20m took Dalglish’s spending to over the £100m mark since his return. A clear statement to the rest of the Premieship that Liverpool could challenge once again, the bigger wallets in the Premiership after the calamitous ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

We can’t forget of course the late purchase of Sebastian Coates to join his compatriot Suarez and the last gasp transfer request from Raul Meireles  that took him to Chelsea on transfer deadline day. The fact that he and Torres have been like chocolate fireguards at Chelsea is only testament to Dalglish and the new Liverpool.

By way of taking stock, well the season has by no means been a disaster with the Reds occupying sixth place, below Chelsea on goal difference. The defensive confusion and inconsistency under Hodgson is now a thing of the past and Liverpool have the meanest defence in the Premiership thus far this season. The only down side has been the lack of goals and the tally of 24 is no real reflection on the style of play which has been full of creativity, productivity and attacking verve and one has to admit the team has been unlucky hitting the woodwork an incredible 18 times this season. 

We have seen the return of Steven Gerrard from an injury-blighted season to change the most recent game against Newcastle, and get himself on the scoresheet to-boot. A welcome return. The biggest blow has to be the untimely injury of Lucas Leiva who has been the clubs most improved player over the last 12 months. To think the guy was often derided by the supporters since his arrival. What we all forget is that he’s still only 10 days short of his 25th birthday. Arguably Benitez’s most enduring signing coming into his prime at just the right time. Gerrard realistically only has another two perhaps, at a big push, three seasons at his current level so it’s pleasing to see that Lucas could well take over the mantle.

Looking forward, well I’m optimistic for Liverpool this coming year. I always am, and I have been for almost 40 years now. As enthusiastic for every new year as much as every new season. I’d like Andy Carroll to come good. Perhaps not take five years though, as Lucas did! I think he needs a run of games, the odd goal to bobble over the line off his backside and then the rest will hopefully be history. He was unlucky against Newcastle… Again hitting the post so his luck has to turn at some point. The same goes for the whole team. It’s not as if they’re not playing well or not creating chances and for that every Red has to be looking forward to 2012 with relish.

The team has finished the year with a win, and that’s all that can be asked of them t this point. They not only won but won emphatically even scoring all four goals in a 3-1 victory! Next up is a massive fixture away to Manchester City and a game the fans can be very positive about given the performances against the Sky Blues so far in Dalglish’s reign.

Overall I think Reds supporters can be proud, encouraged and, yes, optimistic for the year ahead. The race for European football is by no means over and there’s a lot of football to be played between now and May.

It only leaves me to wish all Football supporters of any team or denomination (but especially the Reds of Liverpool) a safe, happy, healthy and wealthy 2012. Enjoy the football, support your team through thick and thin and never lose the faith because remember, “It’s a funny old game”.

Ben Green @Koptimes

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