So, where to begin?
It’s been an eventful year, has 2011.
First, a brief summary of my take on Liverpool’s 2011.
We began the year by ditching Roy Hodgson, whose charisma could rival an ostrich’s, and whose ability to handle pressure at the highest level reminds one of Paul Konchesky. In his place, of course, came Kenny Dalglish, dubbed so affectionately “King” by many Kopites (but has yet to fully justify this tag in my EPL eyes). Then Luis Suarez came in, followed quickly by Andy Carroll, while Liverpoolfc.tv tried their best to hide Fernando Torres’ departure under the covers.
They failed. As hyped up as the new Keegan-Toshack partnership was, Torres’ transfer request and last-minute deal was the story I put all my attention on. And it was a story that made my February one of lethargy, jadedness and general miserableness. Scratch that – I still haven’t gotten over it.
Moving on (for now). There was the great home win against Manchester United, in which Dirk Kuyt set the unofficial world record for shortest yardage for a hattrick. And of course, I personally witnessed his last-gasp penalty equalizer at the Emirates, and Maxi Rodriguez’s hattrick against Birmingham at Anfield a week after. Even Joe Cole got a goal. That’s definitely one for the history books.
Of course, we would finish the season with a well-deserved defeat to Tottenham, which meant no European football this season. Blessing in disguise? Considering that we could be beating both United and City en route to the Europa League final in 2012, I’d think not.
Then came the summer. We brought in the overrated, overpriced Stewart Downing. We brought in the overrated, overpriced Jordan Henderson. We brought in the overrated, just-about-right-priced Charlie Adam. We brought in the underrated, good-priced Jose Enrique. We brought in the underrated, free Craig Bellamy. If you think about it, effectiveness and cost have followed an inversely proportional relationship for our summer signings. That’s Moneyball for you.
Oh, and we let go of Alberto Aquilani because our attacking midfield position was so permanently occupied by an injured Steven Gerrard that Aquilani would’ve had a lot of trouble fitting into our strongest eleven. We also had Raul Meireles on the books for that very position, but of course we let him go too, without finding a replacement.
No matter – we started the season with a bang. Well, a bang first half. Then the boys set us well on our magnificent unbeaten and unwinning home run with a second-half capitulation against Sunderland. Our attack kept setting up chances, but we couldn’t take advantage. But it was only the first game of the season, and surely after a few games the goals would start coming after the team had more time to gel on the pitch.
Except that didn’t happen.
This, for me, has been the story of Liverpool’s 2011. If I were to sum 2011 up in one doubly-hyphenated word, it’d be this:
Imagine what could’ve been if Torres stayed, at least for the remainder of the 2010-2011 season. Imagine what could’ve been if he struck up a partnership with Suarez. And – just imagine – Suarez, Torres and Gerrard. What could’ve been.
Imagine what would’ve been if we finished off even a third of the chances we create. Imagine what would’ve been if we turned the dominance, possession and goalscoring opportunities into goals and points. Imagine, if it weren’t for such wasteful finishing and infuriating ineffectiveness, the points we’d have on board by now. What should’ve been.
Kenny’s has been a mixed start. The football we’ve started to play has been sumptuous at times, absolutely breathtaking at others. As he himself has said on numerous occasions, the only result we’ve actually deserved to gain nothing from was that dreadful performance at White Hart Lane. All the others – we should’ve taken home all three points.
The finishing has been profligate, to put it nicely. The lack of a real cutting edge has shown through in Gerrard’s absence, and I still have yet to be fully convinced by Suarez, who, for all his trickery and unpredictability, lacks the deadliness and finishing prowess of a truly world-class striker. Add his controversial personality in, and we’re in for a rough ride with this fella. For me, my true affections still lie with Torres, and it hurts to see him in his current state at Chelsea. Schadenfreude doesn’t even come into the picture.
So, 2011 was always going to be a year of transition. And to be fair, in hindsight, the transition happened at a much quicker pace than I thought. It happened so quickly that I’m frustrated because we don’t have the goals, the points and the league position to show for our performances this first half of 2011-2012.
They say we should compare this with our relegation form last year. They say we should be very proud of having come so far from such a wretched period in our club.
But I won’t have any of it. This is Liverpool Football Club. This is the team that made waves in the Champions League just a few seasons ago. This is the team that came second, that would’ve finished as champions in most other seasons, just two calendar years ago. To be glad that we’re in our current position just because we were serious relegation candidates a year ago is to be complacent, and I won’t have any of it.
But I suppose the silver lining from this is that the finishing is generally the only thing I’m disappointed about. Sure, Downing’s been a flop, I don’t take too nicely to Suarez, and I couldn’t understand for the life of me why Kenny refused to play Maxi, but the performances have generally been of a high standard. It’s just frustrating that all the pieces are in place, but that we’re just missing that final, final touch to turn dominance into points. I certainly hope we’re making moves to rectify that.
Because if we are, we’ll be in for a hell of a 2012.
And here’s to exactly that: a hell of a 2012.