It is no secret that early in the Premier League season, Liverpool were struggling. They were sitting in 12th place in the Premier League standings, and didn’t have a clue as to which way was up. Somehow, Brendan Rodgers has righted the ship, and Liverpool are making a strong push for a Champions League spot.
Liverpool had one of the busiest offseasons in all of world football. The club decided to offload controversial striker Luis Suarez after his World Cup debacle, selling the player for 75 million pounds to Barcelona. This allowed them to go out and buy multiple top notch players. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi, Alberto Moreno, and Mario Balotelli were all byproducts of the Suarez sale.
When you have that many new additions to a squad, it is easy to see why they might take a little while before meshing as a unit. The club experienced multiple losses in the Premier League, and struggled to a 3rd place finish in their Champions League group, relegating them to the Europa League, where they have been knocked out by Besiktas. But in an almost abrupt turnaround, Liverpool have rebounded in the Premier League and the FA Cup.
A 1-0 home victory over Stoke City seemed to change the Reds fortunes. From there, they would only lose once in the next 14 games, coming away with 9 wins. Their most recent performances have them sitting in 5th place, although there is two-game gap between some teams due to Cup competitions. The same success has translated over to the FA Cup, where the club is about to face Blackburn Rovers in the sixth round. It is the last Cup competition that they have a chance to win, and perhaps the last chance for Steven Gerrard to make his mark on the club.
The fact that Brendan Rodgers has kept his club together despite the looming Steven Gerrard exit is commendable in and of itself. Throw in the fact that Gerrard has criticized some of his teammates *cough Balotelli cough*, and it really becomes a work of art when you look at this season. Speaking of Balotelli, he has been his own story throughout the past six months. From an injury, to not getting a game, to a controversial penalty that he buried, Balotelli just always seems to pop up.
Brendan Rodgers has been the great deflector when it comes to questions about his squad. He has refused to alienate any of his players, even when it would be extremely easy to do so. Gerrard’s comments on Balotelli were prime for taking sides, but Rodgers has repeatedly taken time to think out his answers before giving the media anything to go off of. In a pressure-packed situation, Rodgers has delivered as well as a manager can be expected.
The season is not over, and there is still plenty to look forward to and play for. They currently sit in 6th place, which would qualify the club for the third qualifying round of the Europa League. They are only 3 points out of 3rd place, which would give them an automatic spot in the Champions League.
Looking forward, there is reason for optimism. There are only eight teams left in the FA Cup, with three of those being 2nd and 3rd division squads. The four other Premier League teams left in the competition are Arsenal, who play Manchester United, and Aston Villa, who play West Bromwich Albion. None of these teams are seemingly unbeatable (like Chelsea) right now, leaving the door open for Liverpool to win one last piece of hardware with their captain Gerrard.
As for Premier League competition, Liverpool still have a mix of giants and minnows to face. Likely, the race for the Champions League will come down to the very last week of play, when Liverpool face Crystal Palace and Stoke City in their final two league matches. They need every positive result that they can muster, as it may mean the difference between European competition or staying at home next year.
So here we are, only spitting distance from the end of the season, and no clear position as to where Liverpool fits in the puzzle. They might become Champions League representatives once again, or be left at home during European competition. This story still has plenty to be written, but one thing is very clear, Liverpool is Rising.