Monday, May 21, 2012
ESPNsoccernet: May 22, 11:59 AM UK
Player Ratings: Liverpool
Liverpool may have won the Carling Cup but they endured a miserable league campaign in 2011-12, finishing in their joint-lowest league position (8th) in the past 50 years and ending the season with 52 points, their worst ever total since three points for a win was introduced in 1981. Here, Richard Jolly rates the performances of the Liverpool players who, in the main, underperformed for Kenny Dalglish this season.
Daniel Agger 8
There are ways of measuring Agger's importance to Liverpool. Compare their defensive record with and without the Dane and there is statistical proof. But it is just as significant that his presence makes Martin Skrtel play better. It is ludicrous to think that, when Roy Hodgson preferred the cumbersome Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Agger appeared ranked fourth among centre-backs at Anfield. Now he deserves to be recognised as the best.
Lucas Leiva 8
Played 15, lost one. The Brazilian's personal record this season is outstanding. And, in the month before his campaign was curtailed at Stamford Bridge, so were his displays, with Lucas terrific against both Manchester clubs and Chelsea. Had he remained fit and in the same form, he may have been deemed the Premier League's outstanding defensive midfielder.
Martin Skrtel 7.5
It was an inauspicious start to the season, with a red card at Tottenham, but it soon improved. This has been arguably the best of Skrtel's five seasons on Merseyside. His performance and his goal in the Carling Cup final helped bring a much-needed trophy to Anfield and his partnership with Agger showed there is life after Jamie Carragher for the Liverpool defence.
Craig Bellamy 7
The club's outstanding player during a purple patch in December and January, when he scored six goals in six starts and propelled Liverpool into the Carling Cup final with a brilliant performance against Manchester City. That he started that final on the bench seemed unfair especially as, in a year of missed chances, he was one of the few to convert enough of his. Bellamy's season petered out but, by bringing dynamism, he more than justified his recruitment.
Steven Gerrard 7
The captain may not be the powerhouse of old, but the tour de force against Everton, when he scored a hat-trick, was a welcome reminder of his blistering best and he was superb in both legs of the Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City. Otherwise, however, he has had to rein himself in because of the inadequacies of the other central midfielders during Lucas' extended absence.
Luis Suarez 7
At times, he looked the most destructive striker in the country, at others, the most wasteful. Suarez was often brilliant but, while scoring from 50 yards against Norwich to complete one of the Premier League's great hat-tricks, he missed so many simpler chances. His eventual tally of 17 goals could easily have been twice as high, in which he case he would have merited comparison with Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero. This is a mark given purely on the basis of his football, but missing nine games through suspension hampered the team's cause.
Jose Enrique 6.5
A season of two halves. Until January, Enrique was arguably the outstanding left-back in the Premier League. Since then, his form has dipped alarmingly, a harrowing afternoon at the hands of Antonio Valencia bringing a transformation from magnificent to mediocre. But the Spaniard still emerges in credit, not least for posing a greater attacking threat on the left wing than Stewart Downing.
Martin Kelly 6.5
If it wasn't the breakthrough year that might have been envisaged, the sense remains that Kelly is Anfield's best-kept secret. It is notable how impressive the defensive record is when he starts, including clean sheets against Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton, and the right-back merits more opportunities next year, perhaps with some in the centre of defence.
Maxi Rodriguez 6.5
Another whose mark may well have been higher had he been picked more often. Has a tendency to drift out of games but, when involved, he can be deadly. Possibly the best finisher at Anfield and a high-class footballer, Rodriguez suffered as a result of the summer spending spree. He was unfairly marginalised, but at Anfield they will always appreciate a player with a habit of scoring against Chelsea.
Andy Carroll 6
Yes, he will never be worth £35 million and no, he has not scored enough goals, but at least Carroll offered genuine encouragement at the end of the season. Wembley goals against Everton, sending Liverpool to the FA Cup final, and Chelsea, where he transformed the game, suggested he can make an impact on the major stage. There are signs of burgeoning understandings with both Suarez and Gerrard. The challenge now is to repeat that form for the whole of the next campaign.
Glen Johnson 6
There's no doubt about his highlight of the season, a glorious late winner against his former club Chelsea. That apart, however, Johnson found himself outperformed by his rivals for England's right-back berth; indeed, he often seems sounder defensively when playing on the left, illogical as that can seem. A threat going forward, but may face greater pressure for his place from Kelly next year.
Dirk Kuyt 5.5
Scorer of 13 league goals last season and a mere two this, Kuyt has endured the longest drought of his Liverpool career. He has seemed unappreciated, given with a place on the bench for swathes of the season, including all three Wembley appearances. Yet without his dynamic, scoring cameo in the Carling Cup final, plus his penalty in the shootout, the six-year wait for silverware might not have been ended and without his winner against Manchester United in the fourth round, Liverpool may not have reached the FA Cup final. A big-game player that the club cannot afford to discard.
Jonjo Shelvey 5.5
A prolific scorer who had a major impact on his side's season. That, however, was during his time on loan at Blackpool. Back at Anfield, there were hints of promise and a terrific first league goal against Chelsea, but without shaking off the impression that, probably harshly, Shelvey is at the back of the queue for centre-midfield places when everyone is fit.
Sebastian Coates 5
Outstanding in the Copa America and, should he repeat that form, may well prove the best of Liverpool's summer signings. But he has had a slow start to life in England, struggling at Stoke in the Carling Cup, rarely used and featuring in a disproportionate number of defeats. But the stunning bicycle kick at QPR hinted at his ability.
Jay Spearing 5
A limited player who has often done worked selflessly for the cause, but whose shortcomings have tended to be exposed by the best. If he has struggled, it is not Spearing's fault, but that of those who failed to plan for the possibility that Lucas might be out.
Jamie Carragher 4.5
A sad decline. Few have given greater service to Liverpool but Carragher ceded his status as the cornerstone of the defence to become a squad player. Early-season errors and injury cost him his place and a lack of pace altered the shape of the entire side. A hurried clearance led to Everton's goal in the FA Cup semi-final and showed why Agger and Skrtel, long competing to partner him, are now the first-choice duo in the centre of the defence.
Pepe Reina 4.5
By his own admission, this was the worst of Reina's seven seasons at Anfield. And he was speaking before the FA Cup final, when his error allowed Ramires to open the scoring. It is the nature of the goalkeeper's job and the theme of Reina's season: mistakes, against Fulham and Manchester City, for instance, have invariably resulted in a goal.
Charlie Adam 4
If the entire team suffered when Lucas' campaign was ended prematurely, none were affected more than Adam. The Scot was starting to form an understanding with the Brazilian, making some driving runs from deep. Without him, he was lost, looking more like a Blackpool player than the new Xabi Alonso. When Adam erred - the red card at Spurs, the missed penalty at Wigan, the own goal at Blackburn - it was costly and a supposed set-piece specialist's season may be remembered for his wayward penalty in the Carling Cup final shootout. They are still looking for it now.
Jon Flanagan 4
A season that began poorly - he was partly culpable for Sebastian Larsson's goal for Sunderland on the opening day - and ended far worse, with Flanagan being substituted before he could be sent off after a cameo of unfortunate haplessness at Blackburn. There is no doubt he is willing, but it has been a year to raise questions if he is good enough.
Jordan Henderson 4
If nothing else, he was consistent: consistently on the team sheet, that is. No one else made more appearances for Liverpool than Henderson. Given umpteen opportunities to impress, however, he only did so sporadically: a terrific end-of-season display against Chelsea, when he ended an eight-month goal drought, invited questions why he did not perform that way earlier. Instead, his passing lacked penetration, just as his game was short of goals and Henderson invariably failed to impose himself on matches.
Stewart Downing 3.5
A nightmare year. Downing cost £20 million and ended the Premier League campaign with fewer goals and fewer assists than the Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard. He neither provided the bullets nor pulled the trigger in a campaign of crushing failure. Indeed, he seemed to beat his full-back too rarely while the pace his team-mates and manager insisted he possessed was hardly seen. The only consolation is that he surely can't be worse next season.
Follow Richard Jolly on Twitter @RichJolly