Liverpool’s season may have ended much the same way as it began, in crushing failure and with questionable tactics, but along the way—along an often very frustrating way that saw many of the same mistakes repeated over and over again and a very achievable top four finish spurned—there were at least a few positives.
During a brief, bright, mid-season resurgence, the biggest and brightest of those positives was Philippe Coutinho, the 22-year-old Brazilian playmaker. Even when his teammates weren’t having their best nights, and even when the midfield was hobbled by questionable team selection and tactics, Coutinho could be counted on to deliver with the ball at his feet.
Without a proper striker ahead of him more often than not, he also needed to step up his shooting game if his quality on the ball—his dribbling and passing—was going to amount to anything. And about half way through the season, he did just that, delivering a string of stunning strikes that for a time kept Liverpool’s hopes alive and the mood amongst the fans buoyant.
All told, his eight goals and six assists may look a slightly underwhelming return, but Coutinho was at the heart of everything good Liverpool did this season when they had the ball, and for many he has been the only front-runner for player of the season for much of the past year.
As Liverpool’s form began to drop, though, he got some real competition from Simon Mignolet. The Belgian shot stopper’s Liverpool career appeared over when he was benched in favour of Brad Jones in December. By May, he was the only player keeping Liverpool looking respectable as they slumped towards the finish line, and it earned him player of the season honours from Liverpool’s former players.
Coutinho may have the edge, both due to his strong performances throughout the season—his first player of the month award came in October—and because many tend to gravitate towards the flash and flair of an attacker, but Mignolet’s form in the second half of the season is hard to overstate.
Just as Coutinho was key to the attack as Liverpool sought to turn things around, Mignolet was key at the back. And when the results began to fall off late in the season, Mignolet was often the only Liverpool player who ended up with much credit, leading to him being named player of the month in both March and April.
A few others are in the running. Adam Lallana was named player of the month in December and Lucas Leiva got the award in November, but in both cases injuries and the manager’s decision to often not play them when they were fit likely rules them out as serious contenders. Based on month to month voting, Raheem Sterling, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Jordan Henderson, and Emre Can also deserve honourable mentions.
Giving five points for player of the month through to one point for finishing fifth, the contenders for player of the year are Philippe Coutinho (27 points), Simon Mingolet (14), Raheem Sterling (11), Adam Lallana (10), Lucas Leiva (10), Mamadou Sakho (10), Martin Skrtel (9), Jordan Henderson (8), and Emre Can (8). What matters for naming Liverpool’s player of the season, though, is how you rank them now.The Best Liverpool Players of All Time