It’s wrong to look back at a season and start marking the results that cost you the title. It’s a loop of pain and regret you can’t walk out of. By any standard, this was an excellent season for Liverpool – from Brendan Rodgers bringing back the faith, to Luis Suarez scoring at will and Steven Gerrard making his legend grow in both positive and negative. Sometimes there’s more to take than just the bottom line which is making it back to the Champions League, but missing out on winning a championship.
For those who didn’t live on planet earth for the last month: After beating Manchester City 3-2 in a huge match at Anfield, Liverpool took control of their own destiny at the top of the league, and seemed primed to win their first league title in 24 years. After a rough trip to Norwich, Liverpool lost their cool and their head against Chelsea at Anfield. It was bad luck more than anything else, but it happened.
In hindsight, it doesn’t matter what Liverpool would have done in their final two matches: Manchester City kept on winning against Everton, Aston Villa and at the end in the coronation match against West Ham. The draw against Crystal Palace was something of a symptom, but those three goals being conceded in the final 11 minutes didn’t cost Liverpool the title. When looking for one match in which it happened, it has to be the Chelsea visit to Anfield.
The biggest thing for Rodgers will be building on this success. Fans might not like it, but the name of the game these days is making the Champions League repeatedly. Everything else is a bonus. Unless you are the manager of a club that is truly setting transfer records like Manchester City or Chelsea, finishing in the top 4 should be how you job is being judged. For this season to be worth something, Liverpool need to finish around the same place next season.
Keeping Luis Suarez is something of a must. There are simply no players around at his caliber that Liverpool can bring over. Suarez has less reasons to leave now that he has Champions League football and he was part of a team that was competing for titles. But if Real Madrid start offering things it’s difficult to refuse? Liverpool are a massive club with very few moments of success in recent years. The only way up is by showing that their best players aren’t treating them as a stop on the road to stardom.
Steven Gerrard isn’t a loser. He was just unlucky. Players shouldn’t be judged and compared by the number of titles they’ve won. Gerrard has never played for the best team in the Premier League, and probably not one of the top two in the league. Without him I’m not sure Liverpool are even close to winning the title this season. His sheer will, leadership and energy were worth a few points during the season. It would be nice to see him leave the game, whenever that happens, with a Premier League title to his name.