What Could Have Been: Liverpool’s 2013/14 Title Challenge

It is April 27, 2014.  Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool host Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at Anfield and are looking to win their first Premier League title in 25 years. Unfortunately, things did not go Liverpool’s way. 

Jose Mourinho has a history of spoiling parties, and this was one of the many occasions that he succeeded in doing so. After a Steven Gerrard slip gifted Chelsea the opening goal of the match on the brink of half-time, the Blues frustrated Liverpool for the entire game before leaving Anfield with three points. Though the match left Liverpool fans in dismay, could it have been a blessing in disguise? Let’s take a look at how Liverpool’s future could have played out had they beaten Chelsea and gone on to win the Premier League title.

Though Liverpool had an outstanding season in the 2013/14 campaign, it was largely up to the Uruguayan international Luis Suarez. Scoring 31 goals over the course of the campaign, Luis Suarez proved to be one of the best strikers in the world. Not to undermine the credibility of Brendan Rodgers, but Luis Suarez was the driving force of the Liverpool side and without him, Liverpool were an average team. 

When Brendan Rodgers’ time came to show his qualities as a world-class manager and a leader at Liverpool, he ultimately failed. If the Reds had won the league, Brendan Rodgers would have most likely had the backing of the club for the next few seasons to come, building a team around his philosophy. Without Steven Gerrard’s slip and a capitulation at Selhurst Park, let’s take a look at what could have been…

It is unlikely that Luis Suarez would have stayed at Liverpool, as his heart was always set on playing for the Catalan Giants. Throughout the years, we have seen a multitude of world class players leave the clubs who “made” them, only to go and play for big destination clubs like Barcelona. Phillipe Coutinho being a prime example. Whether they wanted to play with the likes of Lionel Messi, or just wanted to live in a beautiful Spanish city, Liverpool could not compete to attract the same types of players during this spell.  Even if Liverpool won the league, players like Suarez would likely have still left.

Brendan Rodgers, without Luis Suarez, builds a mediocre Liverpool side in 14/15 that challenges for the top four consistently, but never really puts up a title fight. Throughout the previous campaign, Liverpool were awful defensively, but made up for it with their profligacy the other end of the pitch. This year, Liverpool’s defense continues to struggle, but they cannot make up the difference in attack. Daniel Sturridge’s injury woes leave Liverpool without a prolific goalscorer, and the Reds struggle to attract any additional world class players. Rodgers continues to sign the wrong players and ultimately fails to deliver another Premier League title. 

Rodger’s 13/14 title has bought the Scot some additional time before Liverpool sack him, and he lasts another year or two.  In this time, Jurgen Klopp is really missing football after parting ways with Borussia Dortmund. He decides to go to Manchester United, after Louis Van Gaal is fired, soon after putting the Red Devils back on top of England and Europe. Meanwhile on Merseyside, Liverpool finally have enough of Brendan Rodgers, and settle for Carlo Ancelotti as his replacement. Although a world-class proven manager, he does not fit Liverpool: his style of football is boring, and he does not match the energy of the fans and connect with them the way the likeable Klopp does with the Mancs. To manage Liverpool, you need to embrace the city, and in a sense become Scouse yourself, and Ancelotti falls just short of this. Carlo wins a few domestic cups, but fails to put the club on top of England, Europe, and the world. 

Captain Jordan Henderson has been proven to be an integral part of the current Liverpool team. However, an integral part of his development has been the motivation and trust given to him by Jurgen Klopp. Without him, Henderson reverts to an average player and fails to fill the shoes of former skipper Steven Gerrard. Without the injection of belief from the manager, the squad collectively loses motivation. 

Liverpool’s current team is not made of long-time superstars. Many of them were considered average even two or three years ago. Players like Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane were selected because of the potential seen in them by Klopp and Edwards. That potential was fulfilled under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp, something not many managers in world football would be capable of doing.

So next time we look back on that 2013/14 season and think of what could have been, remember that we would not be where we are now without it. Sometimes it is important to suffer a little bit and remember that at the end of a storm, there is always a golden sky…