Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has underlined the key area when his side need to improve next season, and it comes as no surprise that it is the defence.
No one can dispute that the Reds have been marvellous to watch and have been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League. The Merseyside outfit have scored no fewer than 99 goals, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge proving to be a lethal duo in front of the opposition goal.
However, it is at the other end that Liverpool have looked vulnerable. The five-time European champions have conceded 49 goals in 37 league matches: 17 of them at home and 32 away. Rodgers’ side susceptibility to make mistakes at the back were highlighted on Monday when they threw away a 3-0 lead against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in the space of just nine minutes to settle for a 3-3 draw.
Following that game, it was clear that the Liverpool players had realised that their title chances had gone. While Steven Gerrard looked stunned, Suarez broke into tears and Rodgers himself looked bewildered. Just two days later Manchester City hammered Aston Villa 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium and are now set to win their second championship in three years.
Rodgers admits that to continue to challenge for top honours next season, Liverpool need to become a much better team defensively. However, the Northern Irishman insists that he will not change his philosophy of playing passing football.
‘We know the areas that we need to improve’, Liverpool’s official website quotes the 41-year-old as saying. ‘We've got 99 goals - it's fairly clear and simple we need to improve defensively away from home... That will be the focus for us - continuing with the philosophy that has got us into this position, but tightening up in areas away from home. That will be key for us next season’.
Strikers win matches but defences win championships, they say. It couldn’t be more apt for Liverpool. In Suarez they have arguably the most in-form forward in Europe at the moment, but at the other end they have made enough errors to lament what could have been.
However, Rodgers himself is on a learning curve as a manager and what he has achieved with Liverpool should not be undermined if they finish second. At the start of the season, the Reds were going to challenge for a top-four spot; now heading into the final day of the campaign, they can win the championship. That’s a huge progress, but one that will only continue to happen if this season’s mistakes are rectified in 2014-15.