Going back to the end of last season and launching into the summer.
Not with a bang but a whimper---the last month of a dismal season ended with a 2-0 loss to Chelsea and a dire 0-0 draw away to the already relegated Hull City. There was little to be positive about other than the fact that the season was over and the World Cup was fast approaching, but the Liverpool Offside still managed a decent month and hit the illustrious landmark of 1,000 posts. Obviously that's what matters.
With only the two final matches left to be played, it was a month mostly spent on wrapping things up for the season. Here's a bit of what we covered:
End of Season Polls:
Goal of the Year: Fernando Torres v. Sunderland, March 2010
Moment of the Year: The 2-0 Win over Manchester United at Anfield
Player of the Year: Pepe Reina
As with any squad, some great moments during the campaign. And, as with any season recap, forcefully ignoring the low points.
Reviewing the Season for the Flop of the Century
I can't ignore the season reviews I've read over the past few days regarding Liverpool and, of course, Alberto Aquilani in particular. Let's take a look at some of the fine work being done:
David Maddock, Mirror Football: "Injury prone and totally unsuited to the Premier League, he has to rank as one of Liverpool’s worst-ever signings. 3/10 (also named Villain of the Year)
Sky Sports: "Flop of the Season"
And so on and so forth, with other headlines reading "Liverpool to flog flop Aquilani for loss of £13million" and "Liverpool set to ditch Alberto Aquilani" and paradoxically hailing him as the "new Torben Piechnik." Who, incidentally, was basically one-and-done with the Reds after their inaugural Premier League campaign was a (sixth-place) disaster.
This isn't a new thing, and it's probably just me being over-sensitive to the issue. I think we can all acknowledge that £20m is a hell of a lot of money, and if it were a one-year transfer it would have surely created a hole in the earth. And there's no disputing that he struggled with injuries and form, and when he was initially worked into the side it was a bumpy affair. He looked out of sorts in his first appearances, probably tried a bit too hard, and had trouble gelling with nearly everyone.
But as he adjusted to the team, and, maybe more importantly, as Rafa and company adjusted to him, it was clear that he anything but a flop. That, however, is only if you're looking past your own nose. Playing in a more advanced role (suggested by Roma supporters back in December), he had a positive influence and seemed to settle into what was previously the "Gerrard role." His last few appearances were met with great acclaim---at least by Liverpool supporters and those who hadn't completely subscribed to the narrative that he was an utter failure regardless of what he did.
Little by little, Aquilani started to come into his own. With so few appearances, it was impossible to do anything more than that. His distribution and movement was still imperfect, and he was still trying too hard. But that's what you do when everyone in the English-speaking world is labeling you as the worst signing on the planet. To his credit, though, he started to play more within himself and appeared more comfortable. His goals against Portsmouth and Atlético, in addition to a handful of assists, were the only returns on the stat sheet, but his improvement and quality were more than evident.
Essentially, he's singled out on the basis of being a new boy (foreign, no less) in a season in which nearly nobody hit top form or fitness. He was bought injured, and that's never going to be a policy that garners universal acclaim. His recovery took longer than expected, he clearly wasn't match fit even when he was "fully fit," and when he finally arrived in the first team as a quasi-regular selection, there was little to salvage of the season.
But to proclaim that he's a flop, that he's unsuited for the Premier League, and that he's Liverpool's worst of the season is little more than the same lazy journalism we've become accustomed to."
Easy to forget that he's still technically a Liverpool player---not for long, of course, as he's not been shy about his preference to make the Juventus move permanent. Shame, as I think he'd still have an impact to make.
If you're celebrating Christmas, hopefully you're all able to enjoy the holiday with friends and family. If you don't, hopefully you have a nice weekend. And hopefully for all of us there'll be some football to enjoy on Sunday morning.