One of the most eventful seasons in the club’s history has gone by. It is true that Liverpool supporters would rather have trophies associated with the term ‘eventful’, but they got the next best thing – a refreshing overhaul from the highest to the very lowest level of the club.
That was only the overall picture, though. The optimism has only set-in again since January and the arrival of the ‘King’. Before that, the season was marred by a horror show of mismanagement, embarrassing press conferences, financial worries, administration threat, fan protests, failed tactics and a sulking Fernando Torres.
Quite unbelievably, though, Liverpool were free of all these predicaments by February. In the end, Liverpool finished in sixth place, missing out on Europe and after languishing in the relegation zone this season.
We take a look back at the season in our own unique way choosing a winner among the best and worst moments of the season.
Most significant change
Liverpool football club has undergone major changes since the end of last season. The first change was in the managerial hot seat where Rafael Benitez’s reign at Anfield was handed over to Roy Hodgson on July 1, 2010. Roy was the darling of the English media and although Benitez’s exit was an emotional one, the club’s supporters had accepted that it was time for a change. However, there were huge doubts about Hodgson’s ability to take Liverpool forward; doubts which were vindicated later by his poor signings and lack of results.
Liverpool also underwent a change in their shirt sponsors from Carlsberg, who had been with the club for 17 years, to Standard Chartered for the next four years, at least. This was another major change at the club since the new sponsor’s £20m-a-year deal was much more lucrative than the old £7.2m-a-year deal.
October 15th, 2010, though, was the date of Liverpool’s most significant change of the season – ownership of the club was taken over by New England Sports Ventures (NESV). Officially called the ‘Fenway Sports Group’ now, the American sports investment company not only put an end to the miserable, false-promising reign of George Gillett and Tom Hicks, but also saved the club from potentially going into administration and suffering a points-deduction due to the large amount of outstanding debts owed to RBS. The takeover was not a smooth affair, though, with the former under-fire owners pulling off all kinds of efforts to stop the sale.
Damien Comolli (left) and John W. Henry (right)
There are a number of reasons why this takeover became the most significant moment of Liverpool’s season. The principal owner of Liverpool, John W. Henry, immediately made changes that benefited the club and sang all the right tunes when it came to pleasing the fans. He appointed Damien Comolli, who had prior experience with Tottenham, as director of football strategy to make intelligent strides in the transfer market. He put in a special emphasis on the restructuring of the Liverpool academy. And his ruling out any plans of ground-sharing has made him a favourite with the fans. On top of all that, the funds from the sale of Fernando Torres were immediately invested back into the squad.
But the new owner’s brought about the most vital alteration at the club with the signing of Kop hero Kenny Dalglish as manager to replace Roy Hodgson; a decision that turned around the season and eradicated all of the doom and gloom surrounding the club. Since the arrival of the new owners, as skipper Gerrard aptly put it, ‘it feels like Liverpool again’.
Three friendlies at the start of the season. Liverpool scored zero goals and lost two of them. If only the early signs were paid heed to and the danger, that was Roy, was averted sooner.
Most memorable win
Liverpool 3-1 Man United – 6 March, 2011 – It was a day to cherish as a Suarez special, a Kuyt hat-trick and a dominant display ensured Liverpool out-passed and completely outclassed Manchester United at Anfield. As it turned out, it wasn’t the visitors’ only 3-1 thrashing of the season.
Most embarrassing defeat
Liverpool 2-2 Northampton (2-4 on pens) – Sept 22, 2010 – Northampton were languishing in 17th in League Two; three divisions lower than Liverpool. So, when they visited Anfield in the third round of the Carling Cup, surely a routine win was to follow? Unbelievably, Liverpool were the side that hung on for extra-time, and then scored in the dying moments of extra-time to take the game to penalties. If all this wasn’t shameful enough, Northampton’s heroes kept their nerve better than the home side to convert all their penalties.
Although disappointing on the whole, the season threw up some wonderful performances in a red shirt. New signing Raul Meireles settled into the club extremely well and his dynamic box-to-box efforts, crucial goals and heroics were one of the stories of Liverpool’s season. So was Mr. consistent Dirk Kuyt’s play this season. The right-wing occupying Dutchman was often the defining element in games throughout the season and ended as the club’s top scorer. Luis Suarez was a top notch performer himself. The Uruguayan has become a fans’ favourite since joining the club with performances in the red shirt that have dazzled the whole world.
It was Lucas Leiva, though, who completed his turnaround at the club and put in surprisingly dominating performances in midfield to become Liverpool’s most valuable player of the season. He may not have the ability of a Xabi or be as dynamic as Mascherano, but the Brazilian makes it up in simplicity and effort. Expect him to play a major role next season, as well.
Lowest of all low points
2-0 Defeat to Everton at Goodison Park left Liverpool languishing in 19th after eight matches. While the performance deserved a heavier defeat, Roy Hodgson claimed this was his side’s best display in eight matches. Perhaps, he was a bit confused when he was told his main objective was to lead Liverpool to the 19th.
Goal of the season
Although Torres’ second goal against Chelsea was one that made every viewer stand up and applaud, Raul Meireles’ strike at the Molineux was a lesson in how to shoot a perfect volley. The Portuguese’s exceptional technique was on display throughout the season.
Most significant win
Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool – 6 Feb, 2011 – It was the day when Liverpool supporters really started to believe in their King’s revolution. Kenny Dalglish’s tactical masterclass over Carlo Ancelotti ruined Fernando Torres’ unveiling at Stamford Bridge. The way a mid-table Liverpool dug in, stuck to its game plan and succeeded in nullifying Chelsea was a joy to watch.
Although performances away to Man City, Stoke City and Everton left supporters ripping their hair out, and home defeats to Blackpool and Tottenham produced some woeful football, the worst performance came during the festive period.
Liverpool 0-1 Wolves – December 29, 2010 – For the second-season running, Mick McCarthy’s side has featured in Liverpool’s worst performance that had the crowd Yawn-ing rather than Ynwa-ing. Liverpool not only sat back and happily conceded 45% possession to the bottom-most club in the league, but also played atrocious football that mainly involved thumping the ball long to a distraught Torres to pick up the pieces. No wonder the Spaniard left the club a month later – it was simply traumatic. And he hasn’t recovered since.
Good ol’ Roy Hodgson – pick your favourite.
“I like a high-tempo passing game”
said Roy just after joining the Reds. He just never liked implementing it.
“I never really expected to win at Birmingham”
after a goalless draw at St. Andrews, where no visiting team dares to dream of a win.
“As good as we have played all season”
after loss to Everton. The performance was the worst till then and the club was grateful for only a 2-0 defeat.
“A famous victory”
following a 1-0 win at The Reebok. After all, it was Liverpool’s first win at the Reebok since the season before.
The arrival of Kenny Dalglish in January marked the beginning of a mini-revival at the club. From a club lying a few places above the relegation zone, Liverpool ended the season as outsiders for Champions League qualification and just missed out on a place in the Europa League.
The King is back, to rule Liverpool and aim for England!
While Dalglish’s win percentage was 56%, Hodgson’s was only 35%. King Kenny also secured 33 points in the league; eight points more than Roy having managed two games less. Apart from the statistical superiority, Kenny brought flowing football back to Anfield, brought the best out of struggling players like Maxi Rodriguez and his faith in playing youngsters was also hugely rewarding.
The supporters went from desperately seeking an end to the season in January to a season they couldn’t get enough of, in May; all due to the arrival of one man.
Paul Konchesky – cost money, cost goals and cost Glenn Johnson his favourite position. He was subsequently loaned out to Nottingham Forest in January.
Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic were saved this special tag by the lack of transfer fee. Christian Poulsen was saved by the lack of game time.
Raul Meireles arrived at Anfield from Porto with a reputation of being a dynamic player in midfield. He settled in with ease and the tattooed Portuguese became a cult hero with the Kop this season. His absence in midfield was always heavily felt. He is also known as Roy’s only good contribution to the club.
The way Luis Suarez (v Man Utd) nutmegged and twinkle-toed his way past three United defenders to set up Dirk Kuyt made the Uruguayan an instant hero with the Kop. It also made Van Der Sar lose his marbles, for a while.
Best young player
Martin Kelly – a product of the Liverpool academy – for his wonderful speed and positional sense which made him solid at right-back and lethal down the wing. An injury cut short his season.
Jay Spearing performed exceptionally well in the absence of Gerrard and while Jonjo Shelvey looked uneasy most of the times, glimpses of his talent were there to be seen. Wing backs John Flannagan and Jack Robinson became popular youngsters after being called upon as emergency replacements and managing to show immense maturity in handling the big league.
Best never-say-die spirit
At The Emirates when Liverpool went behind in the 96th minute, only to equalise in the 102nd. Special thanks to Emmanuel Eboue.
Best audition for a move away
Fernando Torres‘ amazing double against Chelsea. Roman was fooled, and so were you.
Andy Carroll’s £35m signing – “all in”, quite literally. On the upside, he is doing better than Torres at his new club.
Most missed absentees
Due to injuries, both, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger, were a big miss for Liverpool throughout the season. While the skipper never got around to playing regularly with only 20 starts in the league, Daniel Agger’s solidity at the back and the ability to pass the ball out of defense was sorely missed. The Danish international started only 12 matches in the league.
Wayne Rooney, as always.
Best Torres impression
David N’gog – Poor body language, poor touches and poor finishing. Couldn’t Chelsea just take him instead?
Best behind-the-scenes performer
Steve Clarke was Kenny Dalglish’s first signing after taking over control of the team in January. It has turned out to be Dalglish’s best signing. Since Clarke’s arrival, Liverpool’s leaky defense has been reluctant to concede goals; a fact that led to the club’s mini-revival.
Steven Gerrard: “Lionel Messi can do some amazing things, but anything he can do, Joe Cole can do as well, if not better. I really fancy Joe for the [player of the year] award this season “.
Joe Cole is expected to leave the club in the summer, and so is Gerrard’s freedom of speech.
Fernando Torres. Self explanatory.
Breath of fresh air
Luis Suarez – ending a long wait for a genuine flair player at the club since Harry Kewell, or the dawn of time.
What an impact the Uruguayan has made!
Most loved former Red
Javier Mascherano for dedicating his Champions League winner’s medal to the Liverpool supporters on Sky Sports and making Gary Neville watch from the studio.
He was, only temporarily, the most hated former Red when he refused to play for the club to manufacture a move to the Catalans. All is forgiven.
“You should’ve stayed at a real club” – sung in the away section for Fernando Torres when Liverpool took the lead at Stamford Bridge. He really should have.
Most weird ritual
Jose Reina lashing the ball into the crowd, in frustration, after conceding a goal. Not surprisingly, he stopped short of doing that when his error conceded a point to Arsenal on opening day.
Miracle of the season
Maxi Rodriguez scoring two hat-tricks in one season. Lucas has reportedly called “dibs” on his magical boots when the Argentine leaves the club.
A special mention for Martin Skrtel, who played every minute of every league game for Liverpool.
If that happens again, we are in for another tough season.