Review Series Part Four: The Attack

In a fitting conclusion to the review series, we come to the Liverpool attack. It is very much a case of saving the best until last; the Reds’ front line was little short of formidable this season, scoring an incredible 101 goals in the league and providing fans and neutrals alike with scintillating displays of attacking football. It is almost unbelievable that it was only the previous season which saw Jonjo Shelvey deployed as a rudimentary ‘false nine’ in a fortuitous win over West Ham; since then, the addition of Sturridge and Coutinho and the astounding form of both Suarez and Sterling have transformed the Liverpool front line into one of the most potent in the league – if not in Europe. Although the team may be more balanced next season, away from the all-out blitz of forward play that characterised so many games this year, the possibility of quality additions and the return of players such as Borini and Suso are an indication that the club’s offensive prowess is unlikely to be diminished any time soon.

Luis Suarez

During the dark days of last summer, there were few who could have predicted the vast impact Luis Suarez would have on Liverpool’s season – in a positive manner. From the moment he sank his teeth into the arm of Branislav Ivanovic to the low points of begging to leave in the national press, being forced to train on his own and the farcical business of release clauses without a release clause, it seemed that Suarez was destined to leave Anfield in a cloud of recrimination and drive a giant hole through the club’s fledgling preparations for the season. In some ways, then, the six-game ban at the start of the season was a blessing in disguise. It allowed Suarez to come to terms with the fact that the club would not let him go, enabled him to build up a hunger for playing again and settle himself and, crucially, guaranteed he would come flying out of the blocks when he was eventually allowed back on the field – and fly out of the blocks he did. In a record-breaking season Suarez scored 31 goals in just 33 games, winning the golden boot, the European golden boot and sweeping the player of the year awards along the way. He also renewed his commitment to the club and there were practical demonstrations of this new-found loyalty as he captained the side in the absence of Gerrard and Agger., in addition to personal redemption in the eyes of the fans with the tears against Crystal Palace – a kind of raw emotion it is nigh on impossible to fake. Moments of individual brilliance peppered the season, from his virtuoso performance against Norwich to an 18-yard header against West Brom and his swivel and shot against Arsenal which was centimetres away from being goal of the season. The importance of Suarez to the team as a whole was also underlined with a highly-creditable 12 assists. The partnership with Daniel Sturridge was of such importance to the team that Rodgers experimented with a number of different formations in order to get the most from it, from the early trials of a 3-5-2 to the eventual favourite 4-4-2 diamond. That said, both strikers were flexible enough to play in a 4-3-3, showing in the games against Everton and Arsenal that they were willing to work for the team defensively without sacrificing attacking threat. With guaranteed Champions’ League football next season and a key role in one of the most exciting sides in Europe, the future of Suarez at Liverpool seems as assured as it has ever been. A strong campaign next season with silverware, and the indiscretions of last year will finally be forgotten, allowing the Uruguayan to make the impact in the Liverpool hall of fame that his talent demands.

Rating – 10/10

Daniel Sturridge

The brilliance of Suarez overshadowed what was an excellent season for Daniel Sturridge. His early season form in the absence of his Uruguayan partner was vitally important for Liverpool, grabbing crucial goals against the likes of Stoke, Notts County, Villa and, of course, Manchester United. Once the two strikers were reunited there was no dip in form; an astounding mid-season run of scoring in eight consecutive games highlighted Sturridge’s remarkable ability as a goalscorer, while his sumptuous chip against West Brom was indicative of his willingness to attempt the spectacular – and succeed. With the whole Liverpool attack functioning perfectly as a unit, it is no great surprise that Sturridge recorded an impressive seven assists for the season, with the majority of these going to Suarez. Although there were a few problems with injury (not helped by his overwhelming desire to represent England in any fixture, friendly or otherwise) Sturridge proved himself to be a bargain acquisition with 21 league goals over 29 games, answering some of the critics who doubted his capacity to perform over the length of an entire season. Electric pace, an unerring eye for goal and an unselfish streak that is often overlooked, Sturridge has all the attributes necessary to become a Liverpool legend over the next few years.

Rating – 9.5/10

Raheem Sterling

After a slow beginning to the season, Raheem Sterling clicked into life with a fine display against Spurs at White Hart Lane. His intense pressing from the front and his calmness in front of goal were among the highlights of a memorable game, and would prove to be the stand-out qualities the youngster showed for the remainder of the campaign. Playing as part of a front three, Sterling was able to use his significant pace to provide an outlet for rapid counter-attacks, as well as offering a layer of protection for the full-back. There were developments in other areas of his game as well; the incredible pass to Sturridge to set up the striker against Swansea a fine indication of the increased range of passes in Sterling’s locker. It was this versatility and game intelligence which persuaded Rodgers to try him as the ‘point’ of the diamond formation. Sterling thrived in this position, scoring and assisting a number of important goals in the final fun in, most notably against Manchester City and Norwich. With the reward of a place in the England squad, Sterling’s start will continue to rise next season and he promises to be a fine player for the Reds in the years to come.

Rating – 8.5/10

Iago Aspas

A promising pre-season for the Spaniard had many Liverpool fans anticipating a solid first campaign in English football, but things didn’t pan out that way. Despite a couple of encouraging performances at the beginning of the season, Aspas looked ill-suited to the physical demands of the Premier League and soon dropped out of the manager’s plans. An ill-fated cameo against Chelsea is likely to prove the epitaph for a frustrating term at Liverpool; even with an increased number of games next season, the return of Borini means it is unlikely that Aspas will be given many opportunities to start, and at the age of 27 his career would be better served by returning to Spain.

Rating – 5.5/10

Conclusion

A wonderful season made so by the brilliance of Liverpool’s attacking football. The tandem of Suarez and Sturridge, ably supported by Sterling and Coutinho, seems set to be the bane of many a Premier League defender’s life over the next few seasons. Borini’s loan at Sunderland highlighted the Italian’s determination and outright quality (10 goals in 40 games playing on the wing for a relegation-threatened side) and there will be ample opportunity for him to demonstrate his ability for the Reds next year. The possibility of top-class additions to the front line – the likes of Tello, Konoplyanka, Shaquiri et al already being mooted by the media – means that the club are well-equipped with firepower to make good on the promise of this season. We should be looking forward to it already.

 



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Review Series Part Four: The Attack
Luis Suarez10
Daniel Sturridge9.5
Iago Aspas5.5
Raheem Sterling8.5
8.4Overall Score

About The Author

Toby Podmore

is a Liverpool-supporting cuckoo from a rugby-mad South African nest in north London, Toby Podmore was brought to Liverpool football club through a soft spot for Michael Owen. With that well and truly gone, his love for the club has remained with him from France to the UK and back again. He now spends his time reading, writing and watching the club from Belfast.

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