One of my least favourite football phrases, guaranteed to make my teeth grind, is the age-old chestnut about football being "a game of two halves." Maybe I resent its patronising, stating-the-obvious tone, or the ritual and meaningless way it's slipped into half-time punditry. Maybe I despise the way it has become clichéd and boring, ranking alongside "football is the real winner today" in terms of overuse, and rivalling "the magic of the FA Cup" for sheer stupidity.
However this season has honestly been a season of two halves. Sloppy, unambitious and 12th in the league during early January, Liverpool have metamorphosed into a fluid, attacking side in the second half of the season, storming up the table and back into contention for Europe: a comeback of such remarkable proportions that it's only been bettered by Jesus and Istanbul.
Each candidate for our Signing of the Season poll has played a significant part in revitalising Liverpool's form and fortunes since those dark January days. Please vote for the candidate you think has been the best signing in the poll widget and we will collate the results next week. Remember you can vote once per day, so feel free to come back and vote again tomorrow if you so desire.
Without any further ado, the Signing of the Season candidates:
Raul Meireles celebrates his newly balded head
The only player from our list to have joined the club at the beginning of the season, Liverpool's new number four endured a difficult start to his LFC career. With the team stumbling collectively as they tried to implement the rigid, organisational style of previous manager Roy Hodgson, Meireles struggled to integrate into his foreign surroundings. While it was clear from the beginning he was hard-working and intelligent with the ball, Meireles took time to adapt to the physical nature of Premier League midfield battles, and was often guilty of pulling out of contested tackles. With Hodgson unsure of Meireles best position, the Portuguese schemer was shunted out into unfamiliar territory in the wide midfield areas, and consequently looked out of his depth.
But as he acclimatised, Raul Meireles began to show his true worth. His outstanding stamina was acknowledged when he was named the fittest player in the Premier League, averaging 8.1 miles every game. Now a regular contributor at both ends of the field, Raul Meireles leads the team in chances created (58) and interceptions (65). He has also scored 5 goals and provided 5 assists - a very good contribution from midfield.
Luis Suarez: I just can't get enough
One of the most eagerly anticipated attacking signings in my time as an LFC supporter, Luis Suarez finally joined Liverpool after 3 tense weeks of negotiations between LFC and his previous club Ajax. After scoring as a substitue on his debut against Stoke City, Suarez has gone from strength to strength in his short time at the club. Ambitious and enthusiastic, Suarez has demonstrated the never-say-die attitude Liverpool fans adore in their players, combining his tenacity with flair and skill beyond anything Liverpool have seen in the modern era. His assist for Kuyt's opener against Manchester United at Anfield was one of the finest pieces of play I've seen from a Liverpool player, beating Rafael, Michael Carrick and Wes Brown before slotting through Edwin Van Der Sar's legs for Kuyt to smash the ball home.
Suarez has contributed 4 goals and 3 assists from his 11 starts, but his key strength has been the movement, skill and awareness that brings the best out in his team mates. Maxi Rodriguez in particular seems to be benefitting from the space that Suarez and his 'mayhem' creates.
Andy Carroll does his best Joe Cole impersonation
Liverpool's most-expensive-ever signing at £35M, Andy Carroll joined the club in a last-minute merry-go-round switcheroo at the end of the January transfer window. With fans grieved by the treachery of F***nando Torres, it was difficult to get a grasp of just exactly what Liverpool had received for their money.
A physical centre forward, Carroll exceeded expectations in his debut Premier League season with Newcastle, amassing 11 goals in his 19 games - not a bad record for a previously untested 22 year old. However his Liverpool form has been less remarkable. Signed while nursing a minor injury, Carroll has taken time to recover his fitness, and shown only brief glimpses of his undoubted talent: while his brace against Manchester City helped ease some of the question marks, it will take sustained success in order to justify his massive transfer fee. With his fitness continually fluctuating, and the team seemingly unsure of how to integrate him without sacrificing the quality of their play, one can only assume we will see the best of Andy Carroll in the years to come.
Can you top this smile?
January 8, 2011. That was the day the tide turned. Roy Hodgson's strict adherence to an inflexible system of play had yielded scarce fruit, and fans' frustration with the dire football and the endless stream of pathetic justifications had hit an ugly, sour note. Owners FSG, true to their word, listened to the fans, and acted swiftly, installing club legend Kenny Dalglish as the interim manager. Never has a managerial choice been more perfectly suited to a club, throughout the history of football.
An inspirational figure, Kenny had captured the hearts and minds of Liverpool fans before, as both a player and a title-winning manager. More than any other, he embodies the 'Liverpool Way' beyond mere football. His fluid pass-and-move tactics may have reinvigorated the playing staff, but it is the restoration of club values and the dignity with which he conducts every element of his job which has reignited the passion of the fans and the hope we have for a glorious Red future. His appointment has been such a raging success in every aspect, that Director of Football Damien Comolli admitted it was a 'no-brainer' to award him a 3 year contract last week, and secure the short term future of Liverpool FC as they seek to re-establish themselves amongst the elite teams in the Premier League once more.
If any man can make it happen, that man is King Kenny Dalglish.
Please remember to use the poll widget above to vote for your Signing of the Season, the more votes the merrier!
• Young Player of the Season