Still believe. Liverpool fans can still be happy although the team will most likely come up short of winning the Premiership title. - EPA
Whatever happens, Sunday’s result will mean that season 2013-14 has been an unequivocal success for Liverpool. That’s because the team had met their main target, which is Champions League qualification.
The truth will all depend on the final game. Should Liverpool win the league by the stroke of good fortune, then it would have been a dream season. Tears of joy will be shed and hangovers a plenty will be dealt with on Monday.
If we lose, then it will feel like getting kicked in the teeth because of how close the team were to breaking their title hoodoo.
Regardless of the outcome, the final standing will not obscure what the team need to do for next season.
Here’s my shortlist:
1. Fix the defence. It was a surprise that Liverpool gave up a three-goal lead against Crystal Palace in their penultimate game but it wasn’t a shock. That’s because Liverpool’s defence has been leaking goals all season long. Even in their magical 11-game winning streak, the team only kept three clean sheets and gave fans plenty of nervous moments.
Glen Johnson has been playing on fumes during the final stretch of the season and for a player who plays basically one game a week, it raises eyebrows. Sauntering down the flank is now a big no-no and to me, and unless he is carrying an injury, Johnson is no longer dynamic enough.
Central defence has also been in shambles, with Mamadou Sakho given little time to acclimatise but asked to do quite a lot. Martin Skrtel raised his game and Daniel Agger seems to have lost the confidence of Brendan Rodgers. There is so much that needs to be tightened and improved at the back, as even Simon Mignolet looked shaky far too often.
2. Cut out the messing about in attack. The reason why Liverpool masked their defensive liabilities is because of the potent attack. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were brilliant for much of the season but faded towards the end. Maybe it was because of the pressure and expectations or, all the accolades showered on them. But as the season went along, and especially towards the end, both were trying to wriggle their way through defences and pass the ball around instead of being more direct. Returning Fabio Borini will help and also put pressure on both strikers to maintain their form.
Raheem Sterling was immense during the winning streak but just ran out of gas towards the end. He is 19 and his body is still maturing but his directness is crucial for next season. I hope he continues to improve his game and strength, which should be emulated by Philippe Coutinho.
3. Beef up central midfield. Jordan Henderson’s suspension coincided with the dip in form and style and, it really doesn’t surprise me that it happened. Suarez got the plaudits but it was Henderson who was the glue of the team. His motor and drive was missed in the past three games and was the difference in how the team play. Lucas Leiva laboured to fill in for Henderson as his game is different. Plus, it was unfair for him to step up with the energy Henderson gives as he plays differently and was coming back from injury.
The transfer season will bear watching with close scrutiny. With Liverpool having too thin a squad to challenge although it managed to do so this season, Champions League commitments will mean the squad need to be beefed up. Whoever identified early season targets like Willian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should continue to do so and Liverpool need to buy established talent to mount a challenge on multiple fronts next season. The team need to beef up their defence, midfield and attacking options and it will be interesting to see just who they buy to meet their needs.
Jagdev Singh Sidhu is hoping for a footballing miracle.