Liverpool FC 2011-2012 Season Review
To say Liverpool’s campaign in the 2011-2012 season was a strange one is an understatement. It had just about everything: glory, heartbreak, frustration, suspensions, injuries, sackings, woodwork and anything in-between that added up to create the perfect storm of a season gone wrong – yet not without its moments of memorable success.
With high expectations after big signings and the second half of the 2010-2011 season under their belt, the stage – and the pressure – was set for Liverpool. Ultimately crippled by inconsistent form, especially at home, Liverpool got off to a decent start in the first 10 games, going 5-2-3 and picking up 18 points out of a possible 30. Not terrible form to start the season, but that early inconsistency in winnable games eventually added up. Too many draws at home and a season-ending injury to Lucas Leiva, and eventually those dropped points stacked up and became magnified in comparison with the starts Arsenal and Chelsea had.
When the team did win, they won in style, like Steven Gerrard’s return vs Newcastle and his hat-trick vs Everton, Glen Johnson’s late winner at Chelsea, and Luis Suarez’s first Liverpool hat-trick at Norwich. When Liverpool lost, it was sometimes cruelly, but almost always due to a failure to put teams away. Those dropped points kept on adding up.
Suarez found himself banned for 8 matches following an incident with Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. Accused of using “abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour contrary to FA rules,” including “a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Patrice Evra,” a three-person panel rejected Suarez’s defense that his one time use of the Spanish word “negro” was not meant in an abusive manner. It was argued he said “negro” anywhere from five to seven to 10 times. The panel ultimately decided it was “probably” seven times.
What burnt Liverpool fans was how strange the entire “Suarez-gate” was. For example, the panel opted for the civil trial method akin to simple majority based on probability, hence the use of the word “probably” littered throughout the 115 page findings released late New Year’s Eve.
The British media in particular kept pouring fire on an already volatile situation. No major news outlet in England read the panel findings critically, looking for inconsistencies or questioning the panel’s methodology, and the Daily Mirror ran a massive “RACIST” banner to describe Suarez. Meanwhile the club and Kenny Dalglish in particular received an onslaught of criticism from both columnists and rival fans for both defending the Uruguayan and wearing t-shirts supporting him.
Throw in the FA deciding to wait on punishing Chelsea defender John Terry for his own racial abuse incident, Evra’s own admission of abusive language, and the controversy over Suarez’s apparent refusal to shake Evra’s hand at Old Trafford in February, and the situation got severely out of hand.
That distraction aside and with hopes of a top four finish mostly dashed by mid-February, a meeting with Arsenal at Anfield on March 3 was thought to be a way to kick-start the second half of the season. But that too failed to go the Reds’ way in a game that became a microcosm of the team’s Premier League campaign. Lacking the urgency needed to put the Gunners away in the first half, poor defending twice saw Robin van Persie clinically find the back of the net in such a way no Red was capable of in the Premiership.
After that loss, any spirit and belief the team had evaporated for good. The growing sense of frustration seemed to affect the players, and the inconsistency on the pitch hurt a team already low on confidence. Each time the team hit the post – in excess of 30 times! – that confidence dropped lower and lower.
While some supporters might point to the Arsenal loss as “the beginning of the end,” in retrospect the argument could be made that hopes of a top four finish were gone as early as January. The inconsistency in the first half of the season – and the number of losses and draws in very winnable games – is what cost the side, not defeat to the Gunners. Combine the dropped points with the form of Chelsea and Arsenal in the first half of the season, and fourth place was Liverpool’s loss.
More inconsistency continued, and eventually (mercifully?), the frustrating season ended with a 1-0 loss at Swansea City. Liverpool had finished in 8th place, 5 places outside a guaranteed Champions League spot, which, ironically enough, went to Arsenal. (Chelsea’s win in the Champions League final meant Tottenham would only qualify for Europa despite a fourth place finish.)
While Liverpool’s frustrating league form continued into the season, temporary relief came by way of excellent cup runs, leading to two finals. Liverpool were dominate in almost every game played en route to reaching the Carling and FA Cup finals, and deserved to make the trip to the new Wembley multiple times.
The Carling Cup saw the club win its first trophy in six years in nerve-racking, nail-biting fashion by defeating Championship side Cardiff City in penalties. For Reds everywhere, the long wait for silverware was over.
It was glorious.
It was tear-jerking.
The journey that Liverpool Football Club had been on the previous 18 months was incredible. Almost in arbitration, points from the relegation zone, the Return of the King, the Torres transfer request saga, bringing in Suarez and Andy Carroll, the summer signings, struggling at Anfield, 8 match bans, seeing the proverbial boot stuck into the club, media hacks pontificating and taking the false moral high ground over – of all things – a handshake, and every other thing the club had been through.
“At the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky,” right?
Everyone that had stuck by the Reds through it all deserved that trophy. After all, Liverpool Football Club exists to win trophies, and competing for silverware is where the club should be.
A cup double at “Anfield South” was within inches, literally, but Liverpool was defeated 2-1 by Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Despite the efforts of Andy Carroll, whose goal rejuvenated the side and whose other effort may have crossed the goal line had it not been for Petr Cech, a poor opening 60 minutes ultimately cost the Reds that glorious cup double.
Although there was heartbreak, Reds the world over enjoyed the run, especially the late semi-final win over Everton thanks to Carroll’s header. The club came up short in the end, but two cup finals in one season is an accomplishment for a team that didn’t have a hope or a prayer 18 months before.
By season’s end, owners Fenway Sports Group got out the long knives. Director of Football Damien Comolli was sacked days before the FA Cup semi-final, blamed mostly for the transfer fees dished out for under-performing players like Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, et al.
Not even Kenny Dalglish, the King, would be spared. He was sacked a few days after the season ended, having restored hope to the club and winning its first trophy in six years.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to have had the chance to come back to Liverpool Football Club as Manager,” Dalglish said on the club’s official website
It was the end of one season, and really, one era of Liverpool Football Club. But a new one is near.
Enter Mr. Brendan Rodgers…
Moment: Winning the Carling Cup, primarily for the reasons above. I don’t care if it was against Cardiff or was “only the Carling Cup,” a trophy is a trophy and it was a special moment for the supporters.
Player: Martin Skrtel. An absolute beast in the backline, 2011-2012 was Skrtel’s best season for the Reds and he was deservedly the team’s player of the season.
Goal: There were a few good ones this season. While Andy Carroll’s winner vs Everton or Dirk Kuyt’s late winner vs Manchester United have emotional sentiment, it’s really a toss-up between Sebastian Coates’ sick volley at QPR