10 Best Reasons for Hope at Liverpool
2012-13 has been a mixed season of ups and downs for Liverpool, positives immediately thrown into harsh light by negatives, inconsistency and the spotlight on players for wrong reasons.
Taken in isolation, any or all of these might be enough to send fans running for the hills, convinced that another season (or more) of desperate underperformance and toil will be upon them after the summer.
Fear not, though, ye Kopites, for there is much reason to rejoice and remain hopeful of what the near future could mean for Liverpool FC. Here are the 10 best reasons to believe that the best of the last couple of decades is yet to come from this club.
Improved Results over the 2nd Half of the Season
A new season, a new manager, several new players and more than a few new members of the backroom staff. 2012-13 was always going to be a difficult period of adjusting for plenty in Red, and results at the start of the campaign suffered as a result.
From the start of the season up until the end of November, Liverpool had won just three Premier League games from 14 and sat in 12th place, after taking just 16 points altogether—an average of 1.14 points per game. The same rate over the course of a season would mean around a 43-point total.
Now, after 35 league games, the Reds are in seventh place, having won 14 times. That means they have tasted victory in 11 of their last 21 matches, taking 38 points in that time span—an average of 1.8 points per game.
Extrapolated over the course of the season, that would give the Reds around 68 points for the campaign, enough to be in fourth place or within two or three points of it during most recent seasons.
It still points to plenty of work needing to be done going forward, but also undeniably toward progress over the past five months on the pitch.
Success of January Transfer Window Gives Lessons to Be Learned
If there were some supporters—and no doubt members off staff—left a little disillusioned with the total sum of Liverpool's summer transfer window, they should have been very much placated at the end of January 2013 with the Reds' business.
Out went two extremely high earners in Joe Cole (to West Ham, free) and Nuri Sahin (returned to Real Madrid from loan spell) and in came two fine young talents in Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. The switch in balance in the Reds' squad since then has been evident, with at times almost too many attackers performing too well to be left out of the side.
While Coutinho has gained recent (and deserved) plaudits for his excellent role as an attacking playmaker, Sturridge's contribution should not be overlooked despite a couple of injuries and subsequent suspect performances.
Between the two, they have contributed 16 goals for Liverpool in just 21 matches.
That shows the immediate levels of performance and promise that is required for all future incoming transfers for Liverpool. Regardless of age, price tag, experience and any other factor, a good mentality and ability on the pitch are what should be taken into account above all else.
Liverpool got it spot on in January, and fans can be hopeful of repeat performances going forward.
The levels of quality needed, importantly, should also now be apparent to those who make the decisions on which players to target—perhaps therefore ruling out one or two names who have appeared in the global media over the past few months.
Raheem Sterling and Suso
With all the excitement surrounding those two newest arrivals, it shouldn't be overlooked that two of the players who helped carry Liverpool's attack over the first half of the season were both untried youngsters, teenagers who very much held their own against seasoned rivals.
Raheem Sterling and Suso have not featured too much for the Reds since the turn of the year, but Sterling (age 18) has made 24 league appearances this term and Suso (19) has played 19 times in all competitions.
Both players have huge futures ahead of them and, having both signed long-term contracts, both should get the chance to show their full range of skills at Anfield over the coming years.
An Impressive Academy Set-Up with Plenty More Prospects to Come
Liverpool's first team is on the up, the youngsters are still progressing...what of beyond that?
Thankfully, the club's academy set-up is similarly first class and very much focussed on long-term, sustainable contribution to the well being of the club, with the main aim of course being to provide a number of players each year who can compete for a first-team role.
Academy director Frank McParland, director of coaching Rodolfo Borrell (pictured) and under-21 manager Alex Inglethorpe are very much a team working to a common set of goals and guidelines, and they have full belief that their work will bear fruits.
Inglethorpe, recently arrived from Spurs, holds several players from the under-18s and below in extremely high regard, as well as a number of players in his current crop. Any or all of these might go on to prove their mentors right and progress to Liverpool's first team, if their approach to training and progression remains on the same lines.
McParland remains steadfast in his hope that the academy system can provide up to 50 percent of the Reds' first-team squad given time, and with the likes of Martin Kelly, Andre Wisdom and Jack Robinson already involved, they have made a good start over the past couple of years.
Those who will come afterward could prove even better additions.
Comments attained first-hand from interviews with the three staff members at the Liverpool Academy in Kirkby, March 2013.
Luis Suarez...or a Bucketload of Cash
Like or not as Liverpool supporters, there are going to be frequent transfer rumours this summer surrounding the future of Luis Suarez.
The 30-goal attacker is arguably the most exciting and effective forward in Europe outside of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and since the Reds can once more not offer him Champions League football, questions will be asked of whether he needs to leave to further his career.
Liverpool don't want to sell him, of course, but they may have no option.
It won't exactly be a case of win-win for the Reds, but if he stays, then they keep their best player—and if he departs, Brendan Rodgers' rebuilding plans will get a boost to the tune of around £40 million, perhaps even more.
Either way, there should be no shortage of attacking excitement next season at Anfield.
Increasing Commercial Viability of the Club
There are some fans who believe that owners FSG are in it to turn the club into a profitable venture, then sell to the highest bidder.
Others believe that the work they are putting in is merely to make it a sustainable, long-term business which can compete on and off the field.
Either way, one thing is clear—the commercial aspects of the club have never been in ruder health. If this makes the club more appealing to potential investors, perhaps it is again to the benefit of the team, rather than to its detriment. If FSG genuinely have long-term intentions, then it certainly makes Liverpool a more manageable and viable going concern.
Following deals involving Garuda Airlines, international betting companies, Maxxis Tyres, Jack Wolfskin and many more commercial partners, news most recently broke that Liverpool were in discussions with Qatar-based telecommunications company Ooredoo over a shirt-and-stadium sponsorship deal (via Telegraph).
Whether or not current sponsors Standard Chartered are replaced, the fact that the Reds are attracting such affluent and heavy-hitters shows that off the field, things continue apace in the right direction. Mid- to long term, this is not merely important but vital to self-sustainability and competing in the transfer market.
Further Stadium News
This coming summer, the club should take the next steps to finally ending the years of doubt and disappointment surrounding Liverpool's lack of a new, or improved, stadium.
Last October, the club announced that they would no longer be going ahead with plans to build a new stadium at neighbouring Stanley Park.
Ayre told Sports Illustrated that an announcement on the next stage of the redevelopment could come as soon as May.
"In order to extend Anfield, we need to acquire a bunch of privately-owned property around the stadium," he said. "We're making really good progress with that. We have a meeting coming up in the next few weeks with the city council and ourselves and stakeholders. We said some months back it would take several months to improve that property acquisition situation. We're definitely on target so far. The No. 1 priority is to stay at Anfield, but there are two or three hoops to go through. The first is property acquisition, the second will be planning and the third will be to build the thing. I would guess our next announcement on it will come sometime in May or June."
Be it Anfield or Stanley Park, a naming rights deal or remaining as-is, fans now just want to see decisions made and action taken over an issue which has dragged on for more than a decade without results.
Whether it is the right decision is, of course, most important and is partly the reason why it has taken so long, as it could affect the next 50 years of more of Liverpool's existence. Come summer, though, the Reds could finally be on the home straight in this particular area.
The Manager's Faith in an Attacking Method of Play
Like owners FSG, manager Brendan Rodgers still splits opinion amongst fans to an extent.
Some believing he has done well in his first season to balance the squad, lower the average age, bring through a crop of youngsters, integrate new players to the side and encourage a more adventurous style of play.
Others maintain that he has yet to fully grasp the qualities needed in Liverpool players, has failed to improve the defensive side of the team's game and should have secured a top-four, or six, finish.
Either way, Rodgers is here for the immediate future to stay in place and supporters will, by and large, continue to get behind him on matchdays. For the team, it is imperative to have a strong presence at the helm who has absolute belief in his own methods and tactics, and that is what they have in Rodgers.
In addition, he is certainly an attack-first coach who is hands-on during training and has demanded a final say on transfers.
What this all adds up to is a man who knows he is carrying the can for success or failure, and who still believes he can do the job regardless.
Like him or not, Rodgers is here, and in theory, he has the tools and the plan in place to take Liverpool back toward the top. Time will tell if he can put that all into practice.
Lack of European Football Must Give Way to Greater Focus on Preparation
Liverpool's unsuccessful adventure in the UEFA Europa League, the domestic cups and their low league placing means that—unless the Fair Play league turns up in their favour—there will be no European football on show at Anfield next season.
While this shouldn't ever be cause for celebration for a club which aspires to be a top team, it will offer an undeniable chance to focus on extensive preparations for each league game.
Liverpool simply have to get themselves back toward the top four next season.
That means, with a week between matches the majority of the time and no awkward Thursday-Sunday routines, everything can go into making sure that the players are physically, tactically and—vitally—mentally prepared to give 100 percent with a high tempo each weekend in the Premier League.
Too often during the 2011-12 season, when there was likewise no European football on show, Liverpool had a week between games yet put in listless, lifeless, inspiration-less performances, costing themselves valuable points.
They simply can't do that next season, and it will be down to Rodgers and his coaching team to ensure that they take full advantage of the relatively relaxed schedule.
Manager, Players, Fans, the Club: All Have Something to Prove Next Season
At times, Liverpool's 2012-13 season had an air of inevitable failure about it.
It was always going to be a season of change, a time of transition, but there can be no excuses for that next term. The manager will have decided which players are no longer able to compete on a regular basis and aid the search for three points; he will have identified areas of the team which need improving.
The board has to provide funds for the boss to make signings, and those in charge of arranging transfers must make sure they are taken care of quickly, and preferably early in the transfer window. Above all else, though, that they are the right deals for the club, and if that means waiting until August 31, then so be it.
The fans likewise have plenty to look forward to, watching the team progress, perhaps a longer cup run to aim for—and of course, the new Hillsborough inquests which are due to begin in early 2014.
Perhaps above all else, the manager and certain players will have so much to prove, to show that they are still capable of getting back to the top of English football, competing for major trophies and playing in the best European competition.
There is so much to look forward to at Liverpool football club—and so many reasons to believe that success is on the way.