Better late than never! 🙂
If I had one word to sum up the 2008/2009 season, it would be: Mystifying…
We were not up to the standard on the first half of the season, took us about a month after Robbie Keane’s sale to finally settle with our trusted formation (lone forward, 2 holding midfielders). Unfortunately we were a bit too late to get away with the EPL crown (not to say that Man Utd clearly deserved it, mind u!).
I’m not blaming Robbie Keane for our mess at the beginning, as he’s not supposed to be a Liverpool player anyway. With him leaving, however, Benitez has finally found a formation that suits our players and our style of play. The final 2-3 months of the campaign saw us thrashing Man Utd @ Old Trafford, Un-Real-ing Madrid both home and away, mauling Aston Villa @ Anfield. We were finally able to have a (very) positive record against our biggest rivals, yet we dropped most of our points against the likes of Hull City and Middlesborough.
In the end, it wasn’t enough. Man Utd didn’t buckle under pressure (credit to them), but had we converted 2-3 of our home draws into wins…ah, the old ‘if only’ cliche.
So, here we go, my 2008/09 Rating:
-Pepe Reina: 8.0
Solid as always, he has gotten better at handling crosses. His big game mentality remains questionable, with less-than-commanding displays against Arsenal and Chelsea. His distribution was quality, his kicking made you think that route-one football isn’t a bad tactic after all.
-Alvaro Arbeloa: 8.0
Is he Steve Finnan in disguise? Definitely his best season yet. He’s always good defensively, but he has made a tremendous progress offensively this season. His understanding with Dirk Kuyt was very good (the same can’t be said about him and Carra though!)
-Fabio Aurelio: 8.5
Judging how he fared in 2007 & 2008, this season has been massive from the Brazilian. He managed to stay fit throughout the season (bless him), his form was magnificent, his delivery from dead ball situation was on par with any Liverpool players this past decade. His performance against Man Utd @ Old Trafford was a joy to behold. Cool under pressure, sound defensively, technically flawless for a defender. A superb season!
-Jamie Carragher: 7.5
Had he not been Jamie Carragher, I would easily give an 8 or 8.5. Unfortunately, this is Jamie Carragher, arguably Liverpool’s best defender after Alan Hansen. With such a high standard in mind, he didn’t have his best season for Liverpool. It seems that he has lost a yard of pace, his distribution was lacking at times. Still, he’s as solid as always.
-Martin Skrtel: 8.0
He’s slowly maturing into a world class defender under the guidance of Carragher. He looked more composed on the ball, his passing has improved. He clearly reminds me of Nemanja Vidic. An absolute bargain even for $7m.
-Javier Mascherano: 7.5
Not his best season. Lack of pre-season training might be the issue, maybe fatigue…we can only guess. He was back to his best toward the end of the season though. I simply can’t imagine our team without him.
–Xabi Alonso: 8.0
He’s back! After facing such uncertainty regarding his future, he showed his professionalism and total commitment to the club. This is the Xabi Alonso that we know and love. His range of passing, technique, and vision makes him one of the best (if not the best) deep-lying playmaker in the game. Michael Carrick, who?
-Dirk Kuyt: 9.0
Yes, you read it right. I gave him a 9.0. He’s MY Liverpool’s Player of the Season. I’m laughing as I’m writing this, but he has really bacame my favourite Liverpool player. Watching the transformation of Dirk Kuyt is like having a lesson in life as a person. I hated him, almost every Liverpool fan hated him. He was bought as a forward, yet he can’t do what forwards are supposed to do: to score goals. He can’t dribble, he’s not really a great header of the ball, he’s not fast, but he has a determination of a warrior. Credit to Benitez, he moved Kuyt to right wing at the end of last season. An ordinary guy would rebel against such decision, but not Kuyt. He didn’t allow his pride get the better of him. From an abysmal goal poacher, he became a dependable winger whose main job is to bring stability to other attacking players. He sacrificed a lot for the team. Without Kuyt, Gerrard won’t be a 20-goal midfielder, and Arbeloa wouldn’t be able to get forward as he pleased. This guy’s determination is an example for us all.
-Albert Riera: 7.0
A bit of a hit-and-miss season for Riera. He has done reasonably well considering this is his first season at Liverpool. Unlike most of our players however, he tailed off toward the end of the season. Still, he has brought a much needed stability to our left wing.
-Steven Gerrard: 8.5
Another year, another magnificent season for our talismanic captain. He found a new lease of life as a second striker behind Fernando Torres. Now, if we can get him to wear that number 7 jersey, we might be seeing the rebirth of Dalglish-Rush era! 🙂
-Fernando Torres: 8.0
He’s class isn’t he? A few of us expected a second season syndrome, it didn’t happen. Only injuries have prevented him to score more goals this season. Still, his tally of 17 goals is impressive considering how many injuries he has suffered during the season.
– Yossi Benayoun: 8.0
From merely a squad rotation player, his performances has been exeptional this season. His rich vein of form coincided with Riera’s demise at the closing stages of the season. He almost single handedly kept our hopes alive with sizzling performances down the wings. I still can’t think of him as a regular starter, but he’s a very…very good squad player.
-Ryan Babel: 6.5
I’m dissappointed with Babel this season, he seemed to lost his way as a Liverpool player. He moaned about lack of playing time, but when he’s given the chance, he dissappointed. Still, his display against Real Madrid at Anfield was a joy to behold. If only he can do it on a regular basis…
-Lucas Leiva: 7.0
His performances toward the of the season was encouraging. With more games under his belt, he could be a useful squad player. A decent backup to either Xabi or Masch.
Overall, the team showed a massive improvement. We’re not clueless anymore on going forward. We can prove that we’re at least on par with Chelsea and Man Utd. We still need 1-2 quality attacking players to break stubborn defences. May next season be our season!