In the midst of the Luis Suarez racism row, which currently surrounds Liverpool Football Club, I though I might try and take a bit of the edge off things by taking a look at the year ahead, which promises to be an even better year than the current one.
In 2011, Liverpool Football Club has witnessed the return of The King, the departure of The Kid and the arrival of a maverick genius who promises to electrify us for years to come.
We have also been witness to a big improvement in terms of performance and quality of play, even if the results haven't always reflected it. There are signs of promise at Anfield that have not been seen in a number of years. The future certainly looks bright.
It hasn't all been good, though. Injuries to Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva, coupled with the disappointments that have been Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing, have meant that Liverpool haven't reached the heights that fans had hoped they would.
In 2012, we can only hope that we see more of the good stuff and less of the bad. We can't read the future, but we can have hopes and dreams. With that in mind, here's 10 bold predictions for the twelve months that lie ahead.
I hope you enjoy.
During the long and illustrious history of Liverpool Football Club, much success and many pieces of silverware have made their way to Anfield and its trophy room.
Liverpool are serial winners of things; they rarely just win something once. One thing they have managed to do only once in their history is win the League Cup and the FA Cup in the same season. This happened in 2001, when they also added UEFA Cup No. 3 to the honours list.
With the Reds already through to the League Cup semi-finals and facing a favourable home tie in the third round of the FA Cup, Liverpool can look ahead to the second half of the season and view themselves as having a good chance of winning both.
At the start of the season, this would not have been seen as a bold prediction. Liverpool had just strengthened their midfield and defence, having spent £58million strengthening their strike-force in January.
Now, however, it does seem a little bold.
Liverpool currently sit sixth in the table, in large part because of their failure to convert their chances. Liverpool have missed multiple penalties this season and have hit the woodwork more than any other team in the Premier League. Despite their defence performing better than any other in the league, they have drawn games they should have won on too many occasions.
Adding to their current goalscoring woes and position in the league table is the suspension which hangs over Luis Suarez—an eight-match ban handed down by an over-zealous FA based on the "findings" of an "independent" panel.
Liverpool are sure to appeal this ban, and if the club's initial statement in the wake of the ban is anything to go by, this case is only just beginning. It almost certainly will not simply end with an appeal to the FA.
The bright spots for the Reds to focus on, however, are the return to training of Steven Gerrard and the January transfer window. Gerrard should return to first-team football in the new year; and the transfer window will give them ample opportunity to find themselves a top-class striker to take the pressure off Suarez and to fill in for him if he does, indeed, have to serve this ban.
Liverpool have in place the foundations of a quality team and really only need to make three or at most four additions in order to have a team capable of challenging for the title.
Were they to make two of those additions in January, then even with the possibility of losing Suarez for a number of games, they will be in a good position to finish in the top four. Outside of the league-leaders Manchester City, there's not a team in the league right now that looks truly top class.
If you want to sign top-class talent in today's market, the starting price for such talent is £20million. In 2011, Liverpool spend £20million or more on three different players—Luis Suarez, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, while Suarez was worth the money and is a top-class player, in the other two cases, they were paying more for nationality than actual talent.
Hopefully Damien Comolli will have learned from his mistakes, and as 2012 beckons, he will realize that Liverpool's money is best spent on the continent. Unless, of course, Arsenal fancy selling Jack Wilshere, which I don't imagine they will.
As I mentioned on the previous slide, Liverpool need three, possibly four top-class players in order to compete for the Premier League title. Those top-class players are going to cost in excess of £20million each in all likelihood.
I'm backing Comolli to spend big in 2012 because, despite all the hype about Liverpool's spending in 2011, their net spend was only in and around the £37million mark, meaning FSG's billions are yet to truly be made use of.
Liverpool's current transfer record stands at £35million for Andy Carroll.
Being the record signing at Liverpool has been something of a poisoned chalice for strikers in the last sixteen years, with the sole exception of Fernando Torres.
Stan Collymore, Emile Heskey and Djibril Cisse have all failed, some of them miserably, to live up to the expectations placed upon them.
Andy Carroll has thus far had a worse first year at the club than any of the previous four record-holders. So perhaps it would help him if the pressure of being the record signing was lifted from his shoulders and placed on someone else.
Liverpool have been linked with players like Eden Hazard, Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuain over the past couple of months. In all likelihood, it would cost more than the £35million spent on Carroll to bring any of them to Liverpool.
Given the history of the effect the record has had on previous strikers, it might be best to consider Athletic Bilbao's Javi Martinez, who has been rated by his club at £36million.
With the return of the King has come the return of Fortress Anfield. Liverpool have lost only once at home thus far in 2011—to Tottenham Hotspur at the tail-end of last season.
Next year, I predict they'll go one better. That's pretty much all I have to say on this one, so moving on.....
There have been calls for Kenny Dalglish to be knighted for a couple of years now. Those calls were amplified at the last anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, when it was announced that his name was going to be formally put forward for consideration.
To date, the knighting of our King has not happened, but the signs are promising. Perhaps finally a football manager will be knighted for what he's done in his life as a whole rather than just in sport.
Out of form, out of favour and, quite soon, he might be out of time, Andy Carroll has been an enormous flop thus far since his mega-money move from Newcastle eleven months ago. It simply cannot get any worse—and by it, I mean him.
He simply can't play any worse than he already has, and thus, he surely must improve. With Suarez possibly missing for an extended period, Carroll must start doubling his efforts in training and in substitute appearances to show Kenny Dalglish that he deserves a chance.
When he gets that chance, he has to take it. He has to forget the price tag, the pressure and all the rest and turn his mind back fourteen months to a time when he was scoring goals at Newcastle.
I really don't care at this stage how he scores, he simply has to start scoring goals.
Downing has supplied more than enough crosses for Carroll this season, the failure to get on the end of them has been down to Carroll.
He needs to stop lumbering about and preening like a dressage pony and start charging into defenders, putting his body on the line and getting his head in where it hurts. It's that simple.
Like I said, I don't care how he scores. If a clearance rebounds of his backside and dribbles across the goal-line, that's just as good as a screamer from 30 years that takes the net off the hooks.
I'm going completely against my better judgement and predicting a big year for Andy Carroll next year. Twenty goals in all competitions.
Everyone is aware that over the last few years, Liverpool have looked at a number of different ways to expand Anfield. At the same time, they have been exploring the possibility of building a new stadium on a new site.
While I'm sure that the preference for both the club and the vast majority of fans is to remain at Anfield following major expansion, it is becoming more and more likely that that will not be possible. Given Anfield's location and the lay-out around the stadium, expansion would likely be limited to 60,000 at most.
That simply is not enough, and in the new year, the Reds will, in my opinion, announce that they will leave Anfield for a new stadium on the designated site at Stanley Park. There they can build a much larger stadium that will have the capability of not only a larger initial capacity but also further expansion.
The aim for this season is a top-four finish and success in the domestic-cup competitions.
The aim for next year will be a challenge for the Premier League title.
As I mentioned previously, Liverpool are only a few players away from having a very good team capable of making a challenge for the title. In fact, had luck not gone against the Reds so many times this season, they likely would be well situated in the top four this season and, with a couple of January signings, could have been looking at a top-two or -three finish this season.
In the January and Summer transfer windows, I expect the players required to arrive and for Liverpool to launch an assault on the title next season. With a strong first half to the season being key to a title challenge, I hope to see them at the top of the table this time next year.
For one reason or another, he's never been a man to stay in a job for too long. And I don't see his time at Liverpool being any different. His three years at Tottenham are the longest he's held a senior position at any club, and I don't see him bettering that at Liverpool.
With Kenny Dalglish becoming more settled and comfortable in his position, he may look to seek more control over footballing affairs, particularly in relation to transfers. That could lead to a conflict with Comolli, who likes to run things his way.
While Comolli is Kenny's boss, FSG run the club, and they will know that Kenny is far more important to the club's future and to its fans than the Frenchman.
So there you have it, my 10 bold predictions for Liverpool Football Club for 2012.
I have no real basis for these, other than what I've already written. For the most part, these are bold predictions on my part rather than likely outcomes.
As always, feel free to leave your thoughts and predictions for the year ahead in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading.
If you have a couple of minutes to spare, why not vote for your all-time favourite Liverpool FC goalkeeper? - http://bleacherreport.com/articles/995022-liverpool-fc-readers-choice-vote-for-liverpools-greatest-ever-goalkeeper