Ballon d’Or: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar?

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Suarez, Neymar and Messi see the ice-cream man. Credit: PA

Yesterday’s announcement that Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and A.N. Other are the nominations for the 2015 Ballon d’Or will have come as a surprise to precisely zero football fans on this great planet we live on. Since 2008 (that’s seven awards for those who can’t do maths), the FIFA World Player of the Year/Ballon d’Or (as it was renamed in 2010) has been won by either Ronaldo or Messi.

Four of the prestigious trophies belong to the sublime Argentine, who has finished either first or second every year for the past eight awards, whilst ex-Red Devil Ronaldo has three. He has finished in the top three every year except 2010 in the same span as Messi.

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Ronaldo realises he won’t win another Ballon d’Or. Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images

The third nominee has never really been in with a shout of winning and no one has consistently reached the same heights that these two deities of football has. Since 2008, there have been five other players who have made up the top three: Fernando Torres (when he was actually able to hit a cow’s bottom with a banjo) Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Manuel Neuer and Franck Ribery.

This year, the third prize will be going to Brazil’s Neymar. One who has always split opinion, it may now be time to recognise that he is one of the world’s best and at just 23 years of age, the Ballon d’Or is his to lose in the next ten years.

But should the third prize be going to a different part of Barcelona’s attacking trio, Luis Suarez? Let’s take a look at club and country stats for the four players in 2015:

Messi Ronaldo Neymar Suarez
Games 56 52 59 52
Goals 48 48 45 40
Assists 24 14 9 21

Barça’s MSN attack force, so named because of Luis Enrique’s passion for the Microsoft messaging system that anyone born in the ’90s used, is quite staggering. Messi averages 0.85 goals per game, whilst Suarez sits on 0.77 with Neymar at 0.76. Eclipsing them all is Ronaldo though, who hits the back of the net 0.92 times per game.

Goals are great. Everyone loves scoring goals; hitting the ball into the top corner from 25 yards, tapping home after a drool-inducing team goal, or scoring a bicycle kick in the last minute to give your team all three points. They’re pretty great. But the mark of a true striker, especially in the best teams in the world, comes in his decision-making. More specifically, his assists.

Messi leads the way with 24 assists, an average of 0.43 per game. However he doesn’t really count since his feet were blessed by a sorcerer as a young child which enables him to find space and make passes that should not be possible. Ronaldo and Neymar are both lagging behind as they combined for just 23 in 2015, making Suarez is the key player here.

21 assists in 52 games gives him an average of 0.4 per game, and makes him the complete striker. This was evident during his time at Liverpool, where he recorded 23 assists for the Reds in the Premier League whilst scoring 69 times in just 110 matches.

The ever-hungry Uruguayan has tasted victory in 40 of his 52 games this year, giving him an astounding win percentage of 83%, matched only by Neymar. In contrast, Messi’s is 77% and Ronaldo’s is at a substandard 63%. Tim Sherwood will be having words.

In truth, if anyone should make way for Suarez it should be Ronaldo. The Portu-geezer just doesn’t have enough influence in his side, and using Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema as an excuse just doesn’t fly since MSN work so well together. Ronaldo is the most individual player out there, especially when it comes to international football (although with the lack of quality in Portugal’s side this is hardly a surprise), but he’s just not had a good enough 2015 to retain the Ballon d’Or and make it three in a row.

Obviously Messi will win. At time of writing, the little genius’ best odds at Oddschecker.com is 1/8 at Betway. His shortest are 1/14. Ronaldo’s shortest is 7/1 with William Hill (his longest is 12/1), whilst Neymar’s worst is out at 8/1 with various sites. His longest also stands at 12s.

In a perfect world, Suarez would claim second whilst Neymar would be third. But as this is not that, Ronaldo is likely to bag runner-up with Neymar third.

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Bourne to be dull

Christian Benteke celebrates his winner. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)

Christian Benteke celebrates his winner. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)

Another week, another television game, and another terribly dull 1-0 win.

This week’s rescue came courtesy of Christian Benteke, who prodded home his first goal for the club on his first Anfield start. It shouldn’t have even stood, in truth, as Stoke saviour Philippe Coutinho was offside moments before.

Full credit to Bournemouth, mind. The newly-promoted team took the game to Liverpool early on and had a goal rightly disallowed, but overall they were unlucky not to take at least a point back daarn saarf.

Moral of the story: Rodgers simply must change things up before next week’s Monday Night Football or Liverpool will get embarrassed at the Emirates.

Liverpool player ratings

Simon Mignolet – Looked confident and solid. Made some assured saves despite one misjudgement which he palmed away for a corner. 7

Nathaniel Clyne – Pretty much the same as last week. Dealt with most things that came his way and made a couple of good runs going forward. 7

Martin Skrtel – Took him 20 minutes to settle in and was lucky not to give away a penalty for doing a Martin Skrtel and opting to drag an attacker to the ground rather than mark him. Was a bit shaky all night. 5

Dejan Lovren – See above, minus the penalty incident. 5

Joe Gomez – Again, good but not great. However for an 18-year-old being thrust into the starting XI, he was very assertive. 6

Jordan Henderson – Unspectacular but controlled play by running and passing. Standard Hendo. Inexplicably taken off after just 51 minutes as Rodgers decided to follow Mourinho’s example and take part in ‘substitute your captain week’. Got an assist with a lovely cross. 6

James Milner – Ran and passed a lot, never threatened going forward. Ballooned a 20 yard free kick into Goodison Park. 6

Philippe Coutinho – Tried to dictate the attack but not much fell for him. Missed a gilt-edge chance from just 12 yards out and chased. 5

Adam Lallana – Seemed to get the ball a lot but never did anything with it. Must get dropped for Arsenal next week. 3

Jordon Ibe – Blasted a couple of shots miles away from the goal but was largely ineffective. 4

Christian Benteke – Made a decent run to get in position for his goal, but it was a 3-yard tap-in after all the defenders stopped trying to catch him offside. A paraplegic nun born in 1910 could’ve scored it. Hit the bar from six yards out late on. 6

Substitutes

Emre Can (Henderson, 51) – An extremely bizarre decision to bring him on for captain Hendo, and nearly went off two minutes later after being kicked in the head. Did what Henderson did but with still amazing hair, and was confident going forward. 6

Firmino (Ibe, 70) – Had a couple of flashes of excellence but 20 minutes is not long enough for him, especially 20 minutes of being on the back-foot. 5

Moreno (Coutinho, 81) – Lost his place for reasons unknown after a great season last year, and looked like a man on a mission in his nine minutes. Made an outstanding 50 yard run to win a free kick on the edge of the box. 7

AFC Bournemouth player ratings

Artur Boruc – Could do nothing about the goal but had very little else to do all night. 6

Simon Francis – Had to deal with Ibe most of the night and was generally rather successful in doing so. 6

Tommy Elphick – Had a goal ruled out after just five minutes for using Lovren as a climbing frame, but otherwise did well against Benteke. 6

Steve Cook – Again, did well with most of the crosses Liverpool put in but never really had to strain himself. 6

Charlie Daniels – Kept Lallana quiet (like that’s tough) and did his best against Firmino. 6

Matt Ritchie – Much of the Cherries’ attack went through him, and he was desperately unlucky not to equalise when his piledriver hit the outside of the post. 7

Eunan O’Kane – Spent more time defending than attacking but looked good. 6

Andrew Surman – Never had much of an impact. 5

Max Gradel – May as well have not been playing. About as useful as a vacuum cleaner on the moon. 2

Callum Wilson – Couldn’t get much going for himself but spread the attack well. 6

Joshua King – Didn’t do all that much for anyone, but made a few good passes. 5

Substitutes

Lee Tomlin (King, 61) – Had a couple of shots and did well in his half an hour. 6

Adam Smith (Gradel, 81) – Never had chance to get in the game. 5

Dan Gosling (O’Kane, 87) – Possibly didn’t touch the ball in his few minutes

Referee

Craig Pawson – Did well but didn’t have much to do. Gave out five deserved bookings and kept everyone in check. 8

Hardly revenge, but a win is a win and Liverpool are Stoked with three points

Coutinho and co. celebrate an undeserved winner. (Getty)

Coutinho and co. celebrate an undeserved winner. (Getty)

It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t exciting, and it wasn’t deserved. If football allowed negative goals for boredom, this game would’ve finished -5 plays -5. Well, -5 plays -4 thanks to Philippe Coutinho’s 86th minute wonder strike that gave Brendan Rodgers’ side all three points to start the new season. Certainly beats getting hammered 6-1, at least.

I could go on and on about how it’s the start of a new era without Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, but no-one associated with the club should care about that. They’ve gone and now we need to focus on the season ahead.

In truth, we looked okay at times. Stoke, kings of the transfer market, also looked okay. Both teams will want more than ‘okay’ in the future, but it’s opening day and there’s still months of football left to play. However given the heaps of signings both clubs have made in the last month, this game should not have been the snooze-fest it was. Two hours of my life I’ll never get back…

Stoke City player ratings

Jack Butland – Had literally nothing to do all game but made a decent save for the cameras from Martin Skrtel. Absolutely powerless to prevent Coutinho’s winner. 6

Glen Johnson – Assume you didn’t watch the game. Take the idea you have of how you think Glen Johnson played. That is how he played. Uninspired as ever and scooped a good chance from just 12 yards out into the next county. 5

Geoff Cameron – More often than not, he beat Christian Benteke in the air and generally marshalled the defence. 6

Marc Muniesa – Made a wonderful challenge on Jordon Ibe in the box, but was invisible otherwise. 6

Erik Pieters – Had nothing to do, really. Got injured after 45 mins, well before Liverpool got anything going upfront. 4

Glenn Whelan – Could’ve been replaced by a dog on its hind legs and it wouldn’t have made a difference. 4

Charlie Adam – Another ex-Anfield player and another load of rubbish. Not back to his usual self with the ball yet, but without it he was; should’ve been booked for pushing James Milner and was booked for a poor tackle later on. 5

Jon Walters – Still in Joe Gomez’ pocket. 3

Marco van Ginkel – touched the ball maybe twice in attacking positions. Had a goalbound effort blocked but was ineffectual otherwise. 5

Ibrahim Afellay – Not quite the debut the ex-Barcelona man wanted, but showed signs of what he can do. Had a well-hit volley blocked by Nathaniel Clyne early on. 6

Mame Biram Diouf – Won a header. Maybe. Was offside a couple of times. Peter Crouch would’ve been the better option. 5

Substitutes

Philipp Wollscheid (Pieters, 46) – Dealt with Liverpool well but didn’t have much to do outside of normal defensive duties. 6

Steve Sidwell (Adam, 78) – Had no idea he played for Stoke and may as well not have done today. 4

Peter Odemwingie (Afellay, 78) – See above. 4

Liverpool player ratings

Simon Mignolet – Made a couple of good saves and looked assured. Didn’t drop any crosses, which is another bonus. 6

Nathaniel Clyne – Solid defensively and going forward minus some poor passing, and made a great block to deny Afellay. 6

Martin Skrtel – Showed why he’s Liverpool’s best defender and didn’t put a foot wrong all day. Not that he had much to do, mind. 6

Dejan Lovren – Was lucky not to be sent off for an elbow on Diouf, and had Liverpool’s first shot on goal of the season just after the hour. 5

Joe Gomez – Applied himself excellently for a young lad, looked confident all game. Made a sloppy pass across the box but was superb otherwise. 7

Jordan Henderson – Ran and passed well. 5

James Milner – As above but on a booking for a foul on Adam that was not a foul. 5

Philippe Coutinho – Blazed one into orbit before curling in a beauty. Was poor aside from that, though. 6

Adam Lallana – Went for a pint after 10 minutes. 3

Jordon Ibe – Not too bad but went to the Raheem Sterling School of How To Only Use Your Right Foot. 6

Christian Benteke – Lost a lot in the air but made a couple of decent runs. 5

Substitutes

Emre Can (Lallana, 63) – Bossed the midfield with his gorgeous hair and general attractiveness. The Stoke players were probably put off by his mere presence. 6

Roberto Firmino (Ibe, 78) – Showed flashes of what he can do but 12 minutes isn’t enough. 5

Referee

Anthony Taylor – Made some horrible decisions throughout but just about retained control of it. In fairness, he was probably asleep. 4

TV Rights – Every Broadcaster for Themselves

 The other major financial factor surrounding football is the media. Since TV is the biggest broadcaster of the sport, this section will concentrate on that more than radio.

The three major broadcasters of football in the UK, Sky Sports, BBC and ITV, have fought over the rights for the Beautiful Game for years, with Sky often winning out for the right to show Premier League games. With other channels such as Setanta and ESPN entering the fray in recent years before opting out, it remains to be seen whether big-spending BT Sport can hold firm.

The evidence from the past year suggests they can, with the new-boys spending around £750 million last year to show 38 games per season for the next three years. They then shocked the footballing world in November by paying nearly £900 million across three years to be the only UK broadcaster allowed to show Champions League games.

The infograms here show how much UK broadcasters have spent to show football, whether it be live or highlights, for the 2012/13 season.

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Premier League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Premier League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the FA Cup this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the FA Cup this season

Football League

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Football League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Champions League this season

This chart shows the amount of money it cost broadcasters to show the Champions League this season

As it stands, according to the FA, 50% of revenue is divided equally all 20 clubs, 25% is awarded depending on a club’s final league position, with the final 25% distributed as a facilities fee depending on how many games are shown live on TV. Income from any foreign broadcasters, such as Al Jazeera Sport in the United Arab Emirates and NBC Sports in the USA, is divided equally amongst every Premier League club. Last season this amount was £18,391,726.

The amount it costs per season to show football has increased every single year, meaning that Premier League teams earn more and more revenue each year from simply playing in the league. In the 2012/13 season, QPR finished bottom of the Premier League and earned £5.8 million from media revenue, along with an extra £0.75 million from the FA for finishing 20th.

The winners of the league, by contrast, will rake in approximately £72 million for their hard work as opposed to the £61.4 million Manchester United earned in 2013. They earned £15 million on merit for finishing top, and this amount decreases by around £0.75 million the lower down a team finishes. The ratio of earnings from Manchester United to QPR was 1.53:1. Each team also received nearly £14 million from the FA for competing on top of the overseas broadcast payments, a number which fluctuates from season-to-season depending on their income.

Arguably the most interesting statistic, and certainly the most useful, is that a team is paid a minimum of 10 ‘facility fees’ – no matter how many times they are shown on live TV. Last season, the sides on TV the most were Manchester United (25), Liverpool (22), Arsenal (22) and Manchester City (21). The facility fee was around £550,000. This leads to the conclusion that if a team wasn’t on TV at least 10 times a season, the broadcasters (which was only Sky Sports at the time) must feel that they will bring in more money from advertising and sponsors by showing a game involving better-supported sides and paying facility fees to the teams that missed out as well as those involved.

These figures are only going to continue to rise and it will only be a matter of time before broadcasters pay over £1 billion for one season of Premier League rights, which is an astronomical amount of money, even in sport. The chart below shows how much money each team made from broadcasting rights last season: Premier League amounts by team

As a rule here, the amount earned by a team is directly proportional to their league position; the higher up they finish, the more money they receive. There are odd exceptions, like Newcastle United finishing 16th but having the 13th highest income, but this is likely because of their 5th-place finish the season before. On top of being one of the most well-supported clubs in England, broadcasters will have hoped they could have had another similar season so they could be shown on TV more. The Magpies ended up being shown on Sky Sports 16 times last season, the 6th most in the league.

Infogram sources

Premier League: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18430036

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/may/25/bbc-premier-league-highlights

FA Cup: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2012/jan/16/fa-cup-england-internationals-itv

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21577676

Champions League: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/apr/27/itv-sky-sports

Football League: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12965536

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/7080696.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/18153109

Foreign Owners – The Abramovich Effect

Image

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Image courtesy of Mark Freeman
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46357488@N00/398878345/

When Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, no one could have predicted the influence it would have over the next 10 years. The Blues spent big in the very next transfer window, spending an unprecedented £121 million, and won the Premier League for the first time in their history the next season before winning it again a year later.

After the success of Abramovich’s investment, many other businessmen started to buy, or bought more, shares of clubs. Some of the more high-profile takeovers included Malcolm Glazer buying Manchester UnitedTom Hicks and George Gillett buying Liverpool (who sold to John W. Henry, founder of Fenway Sports Group, just three years later in another well-publicised move), and Randy Lerner buying Aston Villa.

As it stands, 11 clubs in England’s top flight are majority owned by foreign investors, with another 15 clubs in the Football League also being having foreign owners. 13 of these are in The Championship and five of those have been in the Premier League under their current owners.

Whilst not all of these moves have brought success to the clubs, it definitely increased the already huge profile of the Premier League exponentially. It also contributed to making English sides more competitive in European competition, with a minimum of one Premier League side making it to the Champions League semi-finals eight times in nine years. Three of those sides went on to win the tournament and five were losing finalists. Not all of these sides had foreign owners, but the influx of them in the Premier League meant other teams had to adapt, usually by changing their playing style to make it more effective against bigger clubs.

At the time, Chelsea were accused of “buying the title” and spending excessive amounts. It could be argued that this lead to the introduction of Financial Fair Play (FFP), which UEFA introduced to regulate spending, but to squarely put the blame on Abramovich wouldn’t be fair on him, nor on other foreign owners who bought Premier League clubs soon after.

The criticism doesn’t stop there. In 2008, much-maligned FIFA president Sepp Blatter claimed that the “economic power of football is immense” and that the investment in the sport is out of control. Richard Bevan, head of the League Managers’ Association (LMA), said in March 2012 that Chelsea had become an “embarrassment” to the Premier League after Abramovich sacked manager Andre Villas-Boas just 257 days after he took charge of the club.

In a survey by Global Sports Forum published around the same time as Bevan’s comments, it was found that similar sentiments were echoed by fans. 52% of the 3,500 fans polled said that overseas owners do not have the best interests of a club at heart, whilst 63% said they don’t want foreign owners in their domestic league.

Hull City fans would likely agree with these stories after their Egyptian owner Assem Allam said that some fans can “die as soon as they want” after they opposed his idea to rename the club Hull Tigers from Hull City. At recent home matches, fans have been holding banners saying “We are Hull City” and chanting “City till we die” in response to the proposed name change, causing Allam to make those comments. The African has already rebranded the club Hull City Tigers for trading purposes, much to the disdain of the KC Stadium faithful. He also said he would be happy to put the club up for sale if the fans wanted him out, an offer that may be taken up in the near future.

In a somewhat less controversial move, Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, who owns 30% of the club, recently said that foreign owners are good for English football. The Russian continued by saying that investors pumping money into the British economy can only be a good thing, and that if a team is successful, then there should be no issue with foreign owners.

This may be true for clubs like Arsenal with a long history and richer investors, but with smaller clubs like Birmingham City (majority owned by Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung) and Queens Park Rangers (majority owned by Malaysian Tony Fernandes) who have suffered relegations since being bought.

To view a timeline of when Premier League sides were bought by foreign owners, click on this link.

Liverpool 2012/13 season – the final verdict

Unfathomable. That sounds like a good word to describe the 2012/13 season of the once mighty Liverpool FC. After suffering in obscurity for the past few seasons since the departure of fan favourite Rafa Benitez, the Reds look like they might be on their way back to the big-time.

The sacking of Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish was met with some disdain by the Anfield faithful, but wasn’t too surprising. Dalglish brought home the Carling Cup with a thrilling penalty shootout victory over Cardiff City, Liverpool’s first trophy since the FA Cup in 2006. He also lead the team to the FA Cup final against Chelsea, however the Blues prevailed 2-1.

Unfortunately for Anfield’s favourite Scotsman, he could only guide the team into 8th position in the league, their worst finish since the 1993/94 season. This wasn’t considered good enough by owners FSG (Fenway Sports Group), and they showed Dalglish the door. Of course, minutes after the news broke that he was gone, rumours of who the new manager was going to be flew around.

Martinez. Benitez. Mourinho. Just 3 of the names tossed around on various betting websites and Twitter. Martinez, Wigan Athletic manager, was even photographed in Miami talking to FSG owner John W. Henry, sparking speculation that a deal was just around the corner. Benitez, on the other hand, had his odds down to 1/2 at one point. Soon other names began to pop up, including Van Gaal and eventual successor Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers had guided newly-promoted Swansea City to an impressive 12th place in their debut in the Premier League, using his philosophy of passing football to play around teams they had no right to get a result from. This earned him plaudits from across the footballing world, and caused Swansea City to be hailed “the next Barcelona” by many pundits.

In June 2012, Rodgers was officially hired by Liverpool. The response from fans was mixed, to say the least. Some fans were happy at the appointment, hoping a young manager would be able to create a legacy at the club, in the same way Ferguson did at Man United, or Paisley did at Liverpool. Some fans were sceptical, hoping that a new manager would get them back to the big time, but also wary of his lack of managing experience.

Other fans, safe to say, were not happy. They thought his season at Swansea was a fluke and that his age would mean he wouldn’t be able to gain respect from players, in the same way that Andre Villas-Boas had failed to garner any during his short tenure at Chelsea.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at how the season panned out for Liverpool FC.

When I look back to the first 5 games of the season, only one word springs to mind: poor. All the positive energy surrounding the appointment of Rodgers was duly wiped away with a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of a superb West Brom. This was followed up with a 2-2 draw at home to champions Manchester City, which could have been won by either side, but was a massive improvement from the Reds.

The next game was an awful 2-0 loss at home to Arsenal, and another poor performance mean they could only escape with a point at Sunderland in a 1-1 draw. Then came the big one: Manchester United at home. The game was effectively done just 39 minutes in when Jonjo Shelvey was controversially sent off for a foul on Jonny Evans. Despite falling behind, United outclassed their 10-man opponents and took all 3 points back to Old Trafford.

Finally, after 6 games, Liverpool registered a win with an excellent 5-2 win at Norwich. Carrow Road was the site of a famous Luis Suarez hat trick last season, and this time was no different as Suarez once again registered a 3 goal haul. This was the start of an 8 game unbeaten run for Liverpool, but only 3 of these were victories. Draws against Stoke, Everton, Newcastle, Chelsea and Swansea were intertwined with victories against Reading, which included Raheem Sterling’s first senior goal, and a wonderful victory against Wigan.

The run came to an abrupt end at the hands of Gareth Bale and Spurs, who beat the Reds 2-1 at White Hart Lane. The next 9 games summed up the season, and justified my “unfathomable” comment earlier. A 1-0 win against Southampton was followed up by a superb come-from-behind 3-2 victory at West Ham, in which Shelvey scored the winner playing in the ‘false 9’ role due to Suarez being suspended and Borini being injured. Liverpool then came back down to Earth with a baffling 3-1 home loss to relegation candidates Aston Villa, but restored parity with a 4-0 home victory over Fulham. The match against Fulham marked Stewart Downing’s first Premier League goal and assist for Liverpool.

Another surprising result followed, this time a 3-1 loss at Stoke, but Liverpool then recorded two Suarez-inspired back-to-back 3-0 wins over QPR and Sunderland. A controversial 2-1 win over Conference side Mansfield Town followed, with Suarez being accused of handball during the build-up to his goal. New £12 million signing Daniel Sturridge scored on his debut in that game, and then on his Premier League debut a week later in the 2-1 away loss to Manchester United.

Sturridge then became the first Liverpool player since Ray Kennedy in 1974 to score in his first 3 matches when he scored the fourth goal in a 5-0 drubbing over Norwich City. Back-to-back 2-2 draws followed, away to Manchester City and then Arsenal, both of which games could have been won. Liverpool dominated in both, but couldn’t hold on for the victory in either match. Another dominant performance against West Brom could not be turned into a victory, with Gerrard missing a penalty in a 2-0 loss.

A series of fantastic results came Liverpool’s way over the next 3 games, including their first win against a top half club in the season with a 5-0 win over a short-handed Swansea, who had more than one eye on the Capital One Cup final against Bradford City a week later. This game marked the first goal by new signing Philippe Coutinho.

Luis Suarez scored a hat trick a 2 weeks later to comfortably dispatch relegation threatened Wigan Athletic, and then a very impressive 3-2 win over Spurs followed. A 3-1 loss in their next game at Southampton proved to be the final blip in Liverpool’s season.

Liverpool got revenge at Aston Villa with a 2-1 win in the Midlands, and then a series of draws followed, including 2 0-0s at home to West Ham and away to Reading. The most controversial game of the season came next, a tasty 2-2 draw at home to Chelsea. Luis Suarez scored a 97th minute equalizer, however he probably should not have been on the pitch after he appeared to bite Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic on the arm earlier on in the game. Suarez was subsequently banned for 10 games.

With 23 goals under his belt so far in the season, there were worries that Liverpool would struggle for goals. These rumours were quickly dispelled with an outstanding 6-0 victory at Newcastle United. An entertaining 0-0 draw vs Everton meant that 6th place was all but gone, but Liverpool finished the season in fine form with a Sturridge hat trick destroying Fulham 3-1, and then a Coutinho goal gave Liverpool a 1-0 victory over relegated QPR on the final day, which was the 707th and final game of Jamie Carragher’s illustrious career.

7th place in the Premier League isn’t exactly the return that Liverpool fans wanted, but there were many positive signs that were very encouraging. The coup of Coutinho for a mere £8.5 million from Inter seems like a bargain, as he scored 3 goals and got 7 assists in just 13 games. Another signing, Daniel Sturridge, who scored 10 goals and got 5 assists in 14 games.

During 2013, Liverpool lost just 3 games. This is likely due to the signings of Sturridge and Coutinho, as well as the presence of club legends Gerrard and Carragher who really stepped up during the latter half of the season.

I think the poor showing in the first half of the season can be put down to the players still trying get used to Rodgers’ new style, and also Rodgers’ tinkering of the line up on a weekly basis meant some players were unsettled.

Despite the criticism they received after many poor showings last season, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing had fantastic seasons. Henderson bossed the midfield and showed that there is a successor to Gerrard in the midst, and Downing gave a great option on the wings with his ability to cross and cut inside at will.

Player of the Season: Luis Suarez. Quite simply brilliant in every game he played in. 23 league goals and 30 in all competitions speaks for itself. Not forgetting his 8 assists in the league, he was just inspiring in every game, and he needed to be. After loaning out Andy Carroll to West Ham and losing Fabio Borini to injury early on in the season, Suarez had to be a 20+ goal scorer to give Liverpool any chance of a respectable season.

Overall grade: B-

Started off very poorly, but an outstanding end to the season turned Liverpool from a potential laughing stock into serious top 4 contenders next season.