Ranking Liverpool's Top 5 Players of 2013/14 Season
Liverpool's successful climb of the Premier League table yielded a number of standout performers as the 2013/14 season progressed.
With the season now over, Brendan Rodgers' men can reflect on a job well done after securing their aim of a return to the Champions League, despite narrowly missing out on the title..
The partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge has been one of the main talking points of Liverpool's season as they became the first Reds duo since Roger Hunt and Ian St. John 50 years ago to both net 20 league goals in a season.
The emergence of young talent such as Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling has excited Liverpool fans in a way not seen for many a year, while Jordan Henderson has proved the doubters wrong to become an integral figure at Anfield.
This article will select five players who—in this writer's opinion—have stood out from the rest of the squad and performed at a high level throughout the course of the season.
Of course, there are those players who performed well but do not make the list. Read on to see which players did make the cut but first to see which members of the squad just missed out.
Just Missed the Cut: Jon Flanagan & Philippe Coutinho
Youngster Jon Flanagan can be very proud of the part he played as Liverpool secured a return to Champions League football for the first time since 2009.
The combative defender was given his chance during the 2-0 league defeat at Arsenal in November but truly cemented his place in the side with a faultless performance during the 3-3 draw with Everton three weeks later.
Flanagan has not looked back since and, despite his natural position being at right-back, looks to have made the left-back berth his own.
It is testament to how far the young Scouser has come that Roy Hodgson has named him on England's list of standby players for this summer's World Cup in Brazil.
Philippe Coutinho is another player who has really come of age during the second half of the season.
A shoulder injury picked up during the opening month disrupted the first half of the Brazilian's season, but came to the fore when the Reds needed him most as the season progressed.
A crucial equaliser away at Fulham set the path for the Reds to go on and win the game late on, but Coutinho's main moment of the season was without doubt his late winner against title rivals Manchester City at Anfield.
It was a goal that had Reds fans everywhere bellowing that their side was going to win the league.
It is quite astonishing that the tricky midfielder has been overlooked by Luiz Felipe Scolari for Brazil's World Cup squad, but Brazil's loss is sure to be Liverpool's gain next season.
Both players are unlucky to miss out on the definitive list and do so only because of the consistency of the level of performance shown throughout the course of the campaign by the five selected.
No. 5: Jordan Henderson
What a turnaround in fortunes the 2013/14 season has been for Jordan Henderson.
Chris Bascombe of the Telegraph reports how the midfielder was offered to Fulham as part of a deal to sign Clint Dempsey almost two years ago but turned down the opportunity to join the West London outfit.
Henderson's determination to prove himself at Anfield has paid off as the former England under-21 captain has become a key cog in Brendan Rodgers' well-oiled Liverpool machine.
The man signed by Kenny Dalglish in 2011 started all of Liverpool's first 35 league games (via ESPN), only missing three of the last four games through suspension.
Following an 11-match winning run, the Reds would drop five points from two of the three games Henderson would miss, all but ending their chances of a first Premier League title.
With Steven Gerrard now deployed in a deeper role, Henderson has on many occasion provided the legs and energy that has allowed his captain to be so effective from his new position.
Although Henderson was part of the England squad that travelled to Euro 2012, it is fair to say that not many would have tipped the Liverpool man to make the plane to Brazil for the forthcoming World Cup.
Like Jon Flanagan, it is testament to the season the former Sunderland man has had that there is a real possibility he could start England's opening fixture alongside his captain in the Three Lions' midfield.
Sir Alex Ferguson famously criticised Henderson for the way in which he ran, but following the level of performance shown by the midfielder this season, he would quite clearly run his way into Manchester United's mediocre midfield.
Henderson has been rewarded for the determination he has shown to stay and fight for his place at Liverpool and prove the doubters wrong.
It is inevitable that he will go on to have a long and successful career on Merseyside and has shown all the attributes to be a future Reds captain.
No. 4: Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling has come a long way during the 2013/14 campaign.
Despite starting the season on the fringes of the first XI, since Christmas the pacey winger has been nothing short of sensational.
It was obvious from the moment Sterling made his debut almost two years ago now that he was a talent, but this season he has added goals to his game—and big, big goals at that.
Sterling has found the net nine times throughout the course of the season (via ESPN), including a double during the 5-1 mauling of Arsenal and the opener during the crucial win over Manchester City in April.
As reported by Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail, Sterling's form during the second half of the season led to Brendan Rodgers labelling him as the "best young player in Europe."
Sterling will this summer have the opportunity to showcase his talent to a global audience after being named in Roy Hodgson's England squad for the World Cup in Brazil, with many expecting the youngster to start his country's opening fixture.
Despite initially breaking into the side as an out-and-out winger, the youngster has also shown his versatility by playing at the tip of a midfield diamond implemented by Rodgers during the closing stages of the season.
Arguably, the England man's best form came from the tip of the diamond position as eventual champions Manchester City were unable to cope with Sterling as he ran riot with licence to roam.
Sterling's importance to the Liverpool side was somewhat underlined as the campaign progressed, the SAS of Suarez and Sturridge often being referred to by fans as the SASAS to highlight the youngster's role.
Rodgers will hope his young gem will not return from the World Cup fatigued as has so often been the case with youngsters in the past.
It is crucial the Liverpool staff work with both England and Sterling to ensure a repeat of a Michael Owen-type situation is avoided next season
No. 3: Daniel Sturridge
The 2013/14 season was the season that Daniel Sturridge truly announced himself as one of the top strikers in the Barclays Premier League.
The striker finished the season with an impressive 21 goals in 29 league games (via ESPN), despite missing almost 8 weeks of the season through injury.
Sturridge's importance to the Liverpool side was underlined during the opening weeks of the season as Luis Suarez served the remainder of his eight-match suspension. The former Chelsea man was the match winner each of his side's opening three league fixtures (all 1-0) against Stoke City, Aston Villa & Manchester United.
Following Suarez's return to the fold, the duo's partnership flourished and was a major highlight as the Reds came close to securing that elusive Premier League title.
The two at times appeared to have an almost telepathic understanding as their partnership was compared to some of the great Reds duos of the past.
A total of 21 goals in a Premier League season is an achievement not to be sniffed at. Great Liverpool strikers of the past, most notably Michael Owen, have failed to reach the impressive milestone during their time at the club.
The striker described as a "gamble" by Sir Alex Ferguson appears to have found his home at Anfield and, like Henderson and Sterling, is expected to play a big part for England this summer after being named in the 23-man squad.
The former Chelsea man's biggest regret of the season apart from not clinching the league title will be fluffing his lines when presented with the perfect opportunity to score a Merseyside derby hat-trick, blazing a penalty over the bar.
This was, however, just one blip in a truly fantastic season for the England international, a season in which he has shown that he does belong at a top club and that he can be a real asset, both domestically and internationally.
No. 2: Steven Gerrard
Liverpool's captain fantastic has been vital as the Reds secured a return to Europe's elite competition next season, providing 13 goals and 13 assists (via ESPN) from a more deep-lying role.
Many of Gerrard's goals this season have come from set pieces, but what should not be taken for granted is the pressure of the situation the midfielder has found himself in on more than one occasion.
Two spot-kicks scored at Old Trafford (a third was missed) with the game on a knife-edge in front of a crowd of 70,000 fans baying for blood should not be undervalued in any way.
A few weeks later, as the Reds were in the midst of their 11-match winning run, Gerrard again twice found the back of the net from the penalty spot as the Reds saw off a valiant West Ham side at Upton Park.
Despite entering the so-called twilight years of his career, the England captain has rolled back the years and has dominated midfield after midfield as the season progressed, earning a place in the PFA Team of the Year alongside teammates Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.
Gerrard started the season in relatively quiet form (for him) but shone—after a tricky start—in the new role afforded to him by Brendan Rodgers.
The midfielder would find himself in a more withdrawn role but a role that enabled him to control games on a regular basis, providing assists and spraying 40-yard passes for his teammates.
Gerrard's season will perhaps be defined by those outside of Liverpool by the slip that allowed Demba Ba to effectively end the Reds' title challenge when they were in pole position.
The fans will move on, Liverpool will move on and Gerrard will move on. The Premier League title the one-club man so desperately craves once again fell through his fingers, but there is still time.
Many believe Gerrard may retire from international football after leading England in this summer's World Cup, and that can only be of benefit to Liverpool and that elusive league title a possibility yet.
No.1 : Luis Suarez
The newly crowned PFA Player of the Year has been the standout player in England all season, and his goals came within a whisker of leading Liverpool to the league title.
A total of 31 goals and 12 assists in 33 league games (via ESPN) saw the striker finish 10 goals ahead of nearest rival and fellow Red Daniel Sturridge in the list of the Premier League's top scorers.
Suarez this season was not just a scorer of goals but also a scorer of great goals. Memorable strikes against Norwich and Cardiff City were a particular highlight of the striker's season.
He also became the first Reds striker since Robbie Fowler in the mid-90s to score 20 league goals in consecutive seasons and equalled the record of 31 goals in a 38-game season.
Suarez inevitably swept the board at the club's end-ofseason awards, taking home three individual accolades to cap a memorable season for the Uruguayan.
The striker was visibly devastated at his side's failure to secure the Premier League title and was led from the pitch in tears by Steven Gerrard as the Reds blew a three-goal lead away at Crystal Palace.
The striker's obvious passion for the club, coupled with Ben Rumsby's report from the Telegraph that Suarez wishes to remain at Anfield for the foreseeable future, will be music to the ears of Reds fans all over the world.
The striker's importance to the Liverpool side can not be underestimated in any way, shape or form. It is vital that the Reds hang on to their star man if they wish to build on their successful season.
Suarez has been head and shoulders above anyone in the country this season and fully deserves the awards that have come this way. He is a clear winner on this list of top Liverpool players.
Do you agree with our top five? Would you have changed the order or are there others who should have been included? Leave your comments below.