3 Unsung Heroes of Liverpool's Fantastic 2013/14 Season

Scott BurnsFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2014

3 Unsung Heroes of Liverpool's Fantastic 2013/14 Season

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    Liverpool have without a doubt had their share of standout performers during the 2013/14 season with the likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard earning plaudits on a weekly basis.

    While Suarez is expected to take home the majority of end-of-season awards both inside of Anfield and out, there are others who have also been vital in the Reds' rise to the summit of the Premier League table.

    Jordan Henderson has won over both fans and pundits alike after two seasons of disappointment, while Raheem Sterling has shown that he has the ability to be a key player for club and country for years to come.

    While the aforementioned individuals have received compliment after compliment and vast media praise to an extent that all five are expected to feature for their countries at this summer's World Cup, there are those that have quietly gone about their business away from the headlines.

    Martin Skrtel has marshalled a back four that has changed on what seems to be a game-by-game basis, while Simon Mignolet has had a debut season to remember in the Liverpool goal.

    This article will select the three players that—in this writer's opinion—have been vital to the Reds' season despite not getting the praise they perhaps deserve.

    They were selected based on their individual contribution to Liverpool's season. Read on to see which players make the final three.

No. 3: Philippe Coutinho

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    Big things were expected from Philippe Coutinho after the immediate impact made by the midfielder following a January 2013 transfer from Inter Milan.

    Despite a somewhat relatively slow start to the new campaign—a campaign disrupted by injury after just four games—Coutinho has been a vital cog in Brendan Rodgers' side since the turn of the year.

    The Brazilian has only five league goals to his name this season, per ESPN, but when those five goals are analysed, it appears the midfielder has a knack for scoring important goals.

    Coutinho's strikes have come against fierce rivals Everton and Champions League hopefuls Tottenham. Two more came against title rivals Manchester City while the other was a vital equaliser during the latter stage of his side's 3-2 victory over Fulham.

    Coutinho's fifth and most recent strike could well turn out to be one of the most important goals in the Reds' long and illustrious history.

    The midfielder's 78th minute strike against Manchester City means Rodgers' side are in pole position to land their first league title in 24 years and are in control of their own destiny.

    What has perhaps gone unnoticed by fans and pundits alike is the vast improvement in the Brazilian's work defensively.

    The diminutive midfielder proved against Manchester City that shirking a challenge is not in his nature, twice going toe-to-toe with City powerhouse Yaya Toure.

    His season has been far from perfect though. The Reds No. 10 is often the man sacrificed when Rodgers looks to tinker with his side's formation, sometimes making way for Joe Allen or Lucas.

    Despite this, it cannot be ignored just how big a role Coutinho has played in the Reds' rise to the summit of the Barclays Premier League. If ever a single goal could earn a player legendary status inside of Anfield, then Coutinho's late strike that left Joe Hart helpless could well be the one.

No. 2: Simon Mignolet

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    It is quite possible that if not for Simon Mignolet, the Reds might not be entering the final four games of the season as favourites for the title.

    Mignolet's late penalty save from Jonathan Walters on the opening day of the season set the tone for what has been a quite remarkable debut season for the Belgian.

    With the Reds hanging on to a one-goal lead, the big keeper guessed right to prevent Stoke City from taking a share of the spoils away from Anfield.

    The man signed from Sunderland went on to make crucial saves in each of side's first three games (all 1-0 wins). World-class stops against Christian Benteke of Aston Villa and Nani of Manchester United meant the Reds began the season with three consecutive clean sheets.

    Despite Mignolet's success, there have been a few errors along the way. The Belgian was at fault for goals by Samuel Eto'o and Alvaro Negredo during festive defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City.

    However, the Reds keeper has single-handedly kept his side in games throughout the course of the season. November's 3-3 draw with rivals Everton saw Mignolet make save after save from striker Romelu Lukaku in a game that could have been over long before Daniel Sturridge's late equaliser.

    Mignolet's kicking can at times be questionable, but his shot-stopping ability, command of the penalty area and ability to fish a dangerous cross out of the air and into his chest has justified Rodgers' decision to offload Pepe Reina and replace him with the popular Belgian.

    The fact that the Reds have conceded 42 goals in just 34 league games should not discredit the job that Mignolet has done during his first season at Anfield. This Liverpool side appears to attack first and defend later, and if anyone has been a victim of that philosophy, then it is the Reds keeper.

    If he ends the season with a Premier League winner's medal around his neck, it will matter not. Mignolet looks to be at home at Anfield, and playing for one of the country's biggest clubs has not phased him in the slightest.

    The signs are there that the man signed for just £9 million last summer will have a long and successful career on Merseyside.

No. 1: Martin Skrtel

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    The 2013/14 season didn't start too well for Martin Skrtel. The centre-back found himself out of the side and playing second fiddle to Kolo Toure and Daniel Agger.

    An early season injury to Toure meant Skrtel was soon recalled, and the Slovakian capped his first start of the season with a man of the match display during the 1-0 victory over Manchester United.

    Since that day, in a back four that has been chopped and changed, Skrtel has remained a constant. Despite scoring a couple of freakish own goals, he has been mostly faultless. In the Reds run of 10 consecutive wins, he has been imperious at the back.

    Along with marshalling a back four that has at times been heavily criticised, Skrtel has chipped in with his fair share of goals.

    The no-nonsense defender has seven goals to his name, per ESPN, and like Coutinho, he has a habit of scoring in big games.

    Four of Skrtel's seven goals have come against the Reds' title rivals. The defender scored two in the opening 20 minutes of his side's 5-1 victory over Arsenal and was also on the score sheet against Chelsea and Manchester City.

    In fact, Skrtel has more goals against Liverpool's title rivals than Luis Suarez.

    During Liverpool's remarkable winning run, Skrtel has displayed the kind of leadership qualities required in a title race as close as the one that is unfolding this season.

    He has gone from second choice to without question Liverpool's No. 1 defender. Skrtel is as tough as nails and puts his body on the line each and every time he pulls on the red shirt.

    While the likes of Toure, Agger, Glen Johnson, Mamadou Sakho, Jose Enrique and Aly Cissokho have been in and out of the side as a result of poor form and injury, Skrtel has started 32 league games in a row and has been a colossus since the turn of the year.

    The Slovakian, along with the likes of Gerrard and Agger, has been through the good times and the bad at Anfield. At times, it has appeared that he may be on his way out of the club as countless centre-backs have been brought in.

    Skrtel will be looking to add a Premier League winner's medal to the solitary Carling Cup medal he has earned during his six-and-a-half seasons at Anfield, and he deserves it as much as anybody.

    Who do you think have been Liverpool's unsung heroes of the 2013/14 season? Comment below on players you think deserve a mention.