Sport Soccer

Sunday 21 January 2018

Have Liverpool blown their best chance of Premier League glory?

Steven Gerrard's wait for a league title continues
Steven Gerrard's wait for a league title continues

Have the Reds squandered the best opportunity to end their title famine, or is Brendan Rodgers building nicely for next season?

Yes – Rodgers will never get a better chance to bring the title to Anfield

The widespread belief following Liverpool’s deflating end-of-season is that not only has this year’s title gone begging, so too their prospects for the next season.

As bleak as this sounds, there are valid reasons for such pessimism. True they finished just two points adrift of Manchester City, but they will struggle to match their form of 2014 over the course of an entire season.

The dropped points to Palace and Chelsea, so crucial in the overall outcome, were the only matches since the turn of the year they failed to claim three points.

A staggering run by any stretch, which makes talk of a title meltdown grossly unfair.

City and Chelsea are only going strengthen their squads considerably in the summer. So too are United, though time will tell if their period of transition will extend for another season.

Liverpool’s squad player-for-player struggles in comparison to their rivals. Their starting XI undoubtedly can hold their own, but the strength in-depth is simply not there.

Andre Schurrle, Fernandinho, James Milner and Alvaro Negredo were sprung from the bench at the weekend and both squads are set for new faces over the summer.

Speaking of squads, the Reds were fortunate that injuries didn’t play havoc with their progress. Granted Jordan Henderson missed the Chelsea defeat and Luis Suarez missed the opening six games through suspension, the Uruguayan missed just one game subsequently. Steven Gerrard played 30+ games and more time on in the medical room next year could dreail their ambitions.

Rodgers will expect, privately at least, to mount a serious challenge next year, but it seems highly unlikley they will be be afforded the opportunities presented this season.

No – Expectations were exceeded and provides a solid foundation for next season

It is easy to forget that Liverpool have made huge strides this season. When the disappointment of failing to finish the job subsides, supporters will point to the fact that they climbed five places and 23 points in just a season.

A title would have been hugely welcomed, but the bigger picture is the club is going in the right direction.

Rodgers’ philosophy, so often derided during their struggles the previous year, will have another year’s experience.

The strike-force is the best in the league and midfield has been bettered by few. Steven Gerrard has taken quickly to his new surroundings, Jordan Henderson is a player re-born while Raheem Sterling has been one of their players of the season.

Liverpool's Raheem Sterling has enjoyed a fine campaign

Defence has been the Achilles heel, but a couple of key signings can address this issue.

The general consensus is that City, Chelsea, Arsenal and United will strengthen, so that will leave the Reds trailing, but does that mean that fresh faces won’t be seen in red colours for pre-season?

Adam Lallana would be a great addition and the current crop was perhaps a slip away from the Premier League. It’s not like the club needs serious rebuilding.

When the doom and gloom lifts, Liverpool will realise that they are well placed for a title challenge.

After Arsenal famously pipped the Reds in 1989, they came back the following year to make amends.

The red half of Merseyside will be hopeful that lightning will in fact strike twice.

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