Monday, 1 June 2015

Season 2014/2015 Awards

I look back at the highlights of a mixed season that included some title winning form at points but was ultimately bookended by disappointment by handing out awards for player of the season, young player of the season, most improved player of the season and signing of the season. I also pick my goal and game of the season.

Player of the season: Philippe Coutinho

The little Brazilian magician Philippe Coutinho has seen his star rise even higher this season, as he has been by far and away the Reds’ best and most consistent performer. Stunning long range efforts against Southampton, Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers immediately spring to mind amongst his impressive tally of eight goals.

Philippe Coutinho: worthy winner of our Player of the season award
Those breathtaking moments of individual brilliance that capture the headlines are only the tip of the iceberg, though, as Coutinho is always at the Reds’ creative heart. When Coutinho doesn’t perform well, Liverpool don’t perform well either, almost without exception. That’s how important he has become to the Reds this season, and why it is such great news that he signed a new contract with no hesitations in February.

If he can build on this season then there’s no reason why Coutinho cannot rival Luis Suarez in terms of ability and impact, although with considerably less controversy in all likelihood. I, for one, cannot wait to see Coutinho playing again next season.

Young player of the season: Emre Can

21-year old Emre Can has emerged as a particularly promising young player this season. Signed from Bayer Leverkusen for just under £10 million last summer, Can initially struggled to get game time, only becoming a regular fixture in the starting line-up after he came on at half time against Burnley on Boxing Day and performed brilliantly as part of a back three.

Ever since, Can has largely featured at right centre back, showing his flexibility and versatility, as well as his maturity and tactical awareness to be able to adapt to a relatively new position so quickly at such a young age.

Can celebrates scoring versus Chelsea
Admittedly, Can hasn’t faced fierce completion for the young player of the season award. Sterling’s form has taken a nosedive since his contract fiasco, Markovic has been hit and miss and, despite impressing when given opportunities, Jordon Ibe hasn’t played enough to be given serious consideration.

Going forward, it would be good to see Can to move into midfield, not only because it would be beneficial for his development as a player, but also because Brendan Rodgers needs to sign a specialist right back to fulfil the role that Can has been filling in for in the long term.

Most improved player of the season: Simon Mignolet

The improvement in Simon Mignolet has been scarcely believable. The Belgian was worse than useless at points during the first half of the season, but almost unbeatable during the second half. Previously meek and unassertive, Mignolet was seen as a liability at set pieces and poor with the ball at his feet. Now, he is far more confident in his penalty area and, although he still needs to work on his footwork, he has improved.

Most importantly, his old shot-stopping ability has re-emerged, resulting in him keeping an impressive 13 clean sheets in the league, the same amount as Courtois and Hart, who have both had far stronger defences protecting them.

Mignolet is now such a better keeper
Hopefully next season he can build on the second half of this season and be on top form right from the word go so that he can help Liverpool have a better season and also enjoy personal glory by claiming the golden glove outright.

Worst player of the season: Mario Balotelli

Unfortunately, there are far too many contenders for this award. Glen Johnson was awful, not putting up a fight for a new contract during another dire season. Dejan Lovren was extremely disappointing; many had high hopes for him following his big money move from Southampton, but he has failed to live up to expectations and many Kopites are now wishing Brendan Rodgers hadn’t tried so hard to sign him. Raheem Sterling has been rubbish for large parts of the second half of the season, primarily during his protracted contract negotiations, and many would now be pleased to see the back of him after controversial comments from his agent.

Balotelli has been a really bad signing
This award has to go to stupid Mario, however, because he has been consistently abysmal, rarely showing any signs of promise and, worst of all, having an attitude completely contrary to the ethos of the club. 4 goals in 28 appearances is a measly return on Liverpool’s £16 million investment in the Italian and, when the Reds really needed someone to step up to the plate and fill in for the injured Sturridge, Balotelli was found wanting again and again. The sooner the Merseysiders get rid of him, the better.

Signing of the season: Emre Can

This award is tough to decide as well, mainly because Brendan Rodgers invested the £70 million from the sale of Luis Suarez in a way that, with the benefit of hindsight, was far from optimal. £20 million on Lovren and Markovic? £16 million on Balotelli? £26 million on Lallana? £4 million on Lambert?

Can's been the best of a bad bunch of signings
A lot of money was wasted on average players; some of them, such as Markovic and Lallana, may have potential to develop and prove their worth in the future, like Jordan Henderson has, but nobody can deny inflated transfer fees were paid to secure their services, primarily because sellers knew that Liverpool’s coffers were swelled by the sale of Suarez to Barcelona at the start of the transfer window.

Nonetheless, Can was the pick of a bad bunch. For £10 million, his signing represented value and he has also consistently put in pretty decent and promising performances. Lallana has also been encouragingly good at times, particularly when linking up with Coutinho, but has been blighted by injuries and is yet to hit top form. Therefore, the signing of the season award goes to German Emre Can.

Best game of the season: Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Liverpool

The fact that Liverpool’s best game of the season came only three games in demonstrates how disappointing the rest of the campaign was in comparison. Nonetheless, the 3-0 win at White Hart Lane was probably one of few highlights from a poor season, as Liverpool celebrated Brendan Rodgers’ 100th match in charge in style.

Balotelli put in his best performance in a Liverpool shirt, while Sterling was also impressive, scoring the opener earlier on and spurning an unbelievably easy opportunity when the game was already won, prompting Rodgers to amusingly say, “Raheem ran into the box like Ricky Villa and finished it like Ricky Gervais!”

Gerrard added a second from the spot soon after the break, while Moreno scored a great goal after marauding down the left wing in a manner reminiscent of former Spurs star Gareth Bale. It was a game that gave us hope that the Reds’ poor early season form was just a temporary blip that would soon be overcome. It also made us believe that our summer signings would be better than they turned out to be.

Not quite the terrific trio we'd hoped for
For giving us that false hope, Tottenham 0-3 Liverpool is our best game of the season.

Worst game of the season: Stoke City 6-1 Liverpool

The less said about this shambles, the better. Suffice to say, Liverpool were abysmal defensively and performed in a shameful way on Stevie Gerrard’s last ever match for the club. We can only hope that it doesn’t set the tone for next season.

Goal of the season: Coutinho vs Southampton

This was a stunning strike. Made all the better as it was literally the first bit of the game that I saw as I sat down on my mate’s sofa after arriving a little late to watch the match, Coutinho’s wonder goal was out of this world and set the Reds on their way to a vital 2-0 win against a competitor for Champions League qualification.

Receiving a simple square pass from Markovic, Coutinho cut in and curled a cracking right footed effort into the back of the net off the underside of the bar. It was a world class goal to add to his burgeoning collection of superb strikes.


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