Despite their eventual loss in the Premier League title race to Manchester City, Liverpool's 2-1 home victory over Newcastle on the last day of the season continues to prove that Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool side are on their way to glory.
In an emphatic comeback win at Anfield, Liverpool overturned their drab first-half performance—with Newcastle going in up at the break—to produce another dominant display.
Rodgers' side eventually exhibited their trademark attacking football, with flashes of the brilliance that has typified their season.
FT at Anfield, Liverpool turn it around to win 2-1 and end the season on a high and in second place. Tremendous campaign for LFC.— Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) May 11, 2014
A Martin Skrtel own goal was cancelled out by a pair of identical goals—Daniel Agger and Daniel Sturridge touching in Steven Gerrard free-kicks—and red cards to both Shola Ameobi and Paul Dummett of Newcastle worked to seal the three points for the Reds.
It was a game in which encapsulated the Reds' season in many ways, with attacking prowess compensating for defensive deficiencies, and this is something that Rodgers will be looking to adapt over the summer.
However, with Liverpool finishing in second place in the 2013/14 Premier League, two points off winners Manchester City, credit must be given to Rodgers for restoring pride to a footballing power that was slowly fading.
The Rodgers Effect
Speaking after Sunday's victory at Anfield, Rodgers' first words to the press were to congratulate his title rivals on their league win.
Brendan Rodgers asked what his first thoughts are after the game. He responds: "Congratulations to Manchester City."— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) May 11, 2014
This is a response typical of a manager who has overturned the fortunes of a waning side in remarkable fashion, and it is with this grounded dignity that Liverpool's foundations will be built for seasons to come.
Initially sceptical, given the manager's modest success at Swansea City in the Premier League, along with abject failures at Reading and Watford in the lower leagues, the Anfield faithful have now been well and truly won over by their manager, with good reason.
What is often lazily labelled a "transition" season, 2012/13 ended an encouraging one for Rodgers' Liverpool, with the acquisitions of Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in January allowing the Ulsterman to finally realise his footballing philosophy with a combative squad.
That the manager has gone from an initial seventh-place finish to runner-up in one season shows the progress that has been made under his stewardship.
2nd, 101 goals, 84 points, CL is sensational progress & will be catalyst for accelerated growth. A good summer & #LFC will be in mix again.— Simon Steers (@sisteers) May 11, 2014
Now in looking forward to another season challenging in the Premier League—and now in the Champions League following automatic qualification—Rodgers can use the positives of this season to work his way to glory with the club.
Much is spoken of the infamous "Liverpool way"—a brand of honest, free-flowing attacking football—and this is something that Rodgers has clearly looked to restore in his first two seasons with the club.
As seen with their phenomenal 101-goal haul this season, this has worked to great effect for the Reds.
Big victories have seemingly punctuated each step of Liverpool's ascent in 2013/14, with a 5-1 victory over Arsenal a true highlight.
Luis Suarez was unlucky against Newcastle not to add to his 31-goal tally for the Premier League season and break the 38-game league record in terms of goalscoring—a majestic curled effort to lob Tim Krul was questionably ruled out on Sunday—but his contribution remains invaluable nonetheless.
Sturridge weighed in with a further 21 goals, with only Manchester City's Yaya Toure joining the Reds' strike partnership in achieving the much-vaunted 20-goal benchmark for a Premier League season.
The pressure has weighed on the pair at times this season, and despite the late form of Gerrard and Raheem Sterling working to relieve this somewhat, Rodgers will likely look to supplement his already-vast talents to achieve glory next season.
Thank you, @LFC! Scoring goals is the difficult part in football. Next season the easy part will be sorted too, and the trophy is ours.— Vegard Heggem (@vedgy) May 11, 2014
The "easy part" ex-Red Vegard Heggem is alluding to is the defensive aspect of the game, a side which Liverpool have ultimately struggled with this season, and may well have been the main factor in their failure to win the Premier League.
Despite scoring 101 goals, the side conceded 50—13 less than title-winner Manchester City.
Another dismal performance from England international Glen Johnson at right-back, for example, shows the work that needs to be done over the summer.
Generally considered an adept attacking force with a questionable defensive presence, Johnson has failed to perform in either area this season.
Elsewhere, inconsistency between central defensive partnerships has further led to struggles in the Reds back line, with Skrtel the only virtual ever-present.
Against Newcastle, and throughout the season, nerves have stemmed from this and have affected performances.
However, prior to the Anfield encounter, Rodgers was quick to outline the defence to be one area that requires a serious overhaul in terms of personnel, as per James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo:
"You can’t go away to Old Trafford, Southampton and White Hart Lane and not concede yet let in three at Stoke, Hull, Cardiff and Palace. That’s down to concentration, it’s not structural. It certainly won’t happen next season that’s for sure."
Only so much can be evolved over the course of two seasons, and that Rodgers' side have managed to achieve so much despite these deficiencies—that will likely be worked upon—is telling of the manager's monumental effect on the side.
Under Rodgers, the Liverpool way has been returned, pride has been restored and the Reds are on their way to glory once more.