24 May 2007

Liverpool Player Ratings 06-07

I’ll attempt to follow this up with more season-ending scribbling, probably a more overarching essay about the season as a whole, but I thought a good place to start would be with individual player ratings (scores out of 10).

I realize this is quite long, even for me, but please bear with it, as I don’t really fancy dividing this into separate pieces. Seems too choppy if prolonged, and I prefer to get all I have to say about a certain subject out in one fell swoop. Plus, there’s so much fun summer transfer speculation coming up; it may be a poor idea to attempt to rate players’ season-long performances after yesterday, but it's still relatively fresh in the memory and at this point, I’m ready to put this year in the past.

Pepe Reina: Reina keeps getting better every year, which is lovely considering he’s not even 25. Yes, he’s prone to gaffes, as is pretty much every goalkeeper, but his shot-stopping is far above average, he’s got an excellent mindset, has the ability to be silent for an entire game but come up out of the blue with a spectacular save (far easier said than done), and he’s easily the best in the world at penalties. 8.5

Jerzy Dudek: Well, he’s still a legend thanks to Istanbul, but I watched pretty much every one of Jerzy’s starts through my fingers. In retrospect, it would have been best for all involved if he could have been sold before the season started. 4

Steve Finnan: My vote for player of the season. All too often people look beyond Finnan with Carragher, Agger and Reina’s performances, but Finn is just as solid as those players, possibly even more consistent, and very underrated as a attacking fullback and crosser of the ball. 9

Alvaro Arbeloa: He started absolutely brilliantly and was a revelation against Barcelona, but had some tough games to finish the season, especially against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. That’s to be expected with a foreign defender thrown into a new side (especially one that plays such a tightly-knit offside trap); he’s still an excellent squad player and was an excellent buy in January to bolster the squad. 7.5

Jamie Carragher: Not much to be said about Carra that hasn’t already been written. The man’s a legend and Liverpool personified. However, the start to the season could have been better, and it didn’t seem as if he played as consistently as he has in seasons past. Of course, he's still one of the best defenders in the world, and there's no one I'd rather have. 8.5

Daniel Agger: I firmly believe he’s well on his way to becoming a Liverpool legend as well. The only times I saw him truly under threat this season was against Martins and Drogba, who are both strong, fast strikers who can cause anyone problems. And after Drogba gave him endless trouble at Stamford Bridge, Agger put him in his back pocket for the return leg at Anfield. Definitely one of Rafa’s best buys. 8.5

Sami Hyypia: Never blessed with pace, Sami’s gotten even slower. But he’s still more than reliable as a 3rd centerback and showed loyalty and team spirit by accepting the demotion with grace. Liverpool would be very lucky to keep him on for another year. Paletta’s still not ready for the first-team and transfer funds are needed elsewhere. Against the big teams and best strikers, Sami can be a liability (I can't forget Drogba absolutely demolishing him in 05-06 in the 1-4 game), but I’ve had zero fears about him the times he’s been drafted in this season, and it’s been a big bonus having him available. 8

Gabriel Paletta: One for the future. There were many scary moments and positional nightmares this year, but he was also a lot better in his last game of the season against Fulham. He’s certainly got potential, and next season will be key. 5.5

John Arne Riise: I’m frequently of two minds over Riise. He’s got a cannon for a left foot, gets forward, pops up with important goals (none bigger than the one at Camp Nou), and all in all seems quite likeable on and off the pitch. However, defensively he frightened me more often this season than any other time I can remember. It seemed strikers turned him at will at times, and when they were running at him, a lot of his tackles were mistimed and either a free kick was picked up or the attacker blew by him. As much as I love John, I think left back might be one of the areas strengthened during the offseason. 6.5

Fabio Aurelio: Pity he’s made of glass, because when fit, he showed signs of utter quality. Maybe the best crosser of the ball on the team on his day, but with Aurelio’s lengthy injury history, I don’t know how often we’ll ever see him on his day. 6

Emiliano Insua: Even though I’m trying to stick to definite first-teamers in this evaluation, I can’t go without mentioning Insua, who I was so excited about during the run of games where youth and reserve players featured. Even though it's so early (I've followed Liverpool long enough to know I shouldn't judge off of first appearances), and he's not the biggest lad, his intelligence and ability both ways were more than encouraging. Based on so few performances, I can’t bring myself to give him a grade, which makes this inclusion even more questionable, but it’s worth noting I’m pretty positive he’ll be in future plans. n/a

Jermaine Pennant: Admittedly, I want to like Pennant. He’s a quick winger who keeps to the flank and can play in lovely crosses, which Liverpool certainly needs. But if Hicks and Gillett’s money was around last summer, I highly doubt he would have been purchased. A tough start to the season, but it takes time to settle, even coming from another English club, and he was one of Liverpool’s most dangerous players to finish despite the sometime lack of an end product. If he continues to settle and improve, it may end up being a very smart £6.7m. 8

Steven Gerrard: Gerrard gets far too much stick for doing what the manager asks of him. No matter the fact that this clearly wasn’t his best season, he’s still the driving force of this team and the one player capable of lifting the team when they’re below par. Yes, many in the media are given to over-promoting him, as I am at times, but with his resumé, it's easy to see why. Gerrard can be prone to a sulk, but his leadership did improve this year with his growing maturity. Given what I wrote and while it’s evident he’s trying, I still do believe he needs to do more to fit within Rafa’s system for this team to reach its potential. 8

Xabi Alonso: Please don’t take the constant repetition of my fear that Xabi’s leaving as wishing or expecting it. It’s just something’s not quite right this season. At times, we saw the full range of passing, the intelligence and composure in his game, and some pretty shots from distance (including in his own half). But there were also the problems to start the season, apparent disillusionment in his game at times, tons of chippy and unnecessary fouls (especially against Milan on Wednesday), and the lack of any contract talks while Carra and Gerrard’s have been mentioned in the press pretty much every day. It didn’t help that Mascherano came in and played at such a high level either. I sincerely hope his future doesn’t lie away from Anfield, but until pen hits paper, I will continue to fret over it. 7.5

Javier Mascherano: There must be miles of difference between West Ham and Liverpool’s locker rooms, because there shouldn’t be any reason players like Quashie, Noble, and Mullins were starting over Masch. Based on only a few months in a Liverpool shirt, I have no problems with saying that he’s world class, which is a term I don’t use lightly. The contract situation with MSI will continue to make me nervous, but other than those extenuating circumstances, there should be no way Liverpool should ever let him leave. 9

Momo Sissoko: Another whose season was curtailed by injuries, but also by the emergence of Mascherano. Sissoko does one thing well: break up play and keep the other team from putting their stamp on the game, which he did to superb effect against Barcelona. But Mascherano can also do that, as well as being more composed and a far better passer. Momo’s still very young, and still boss, but with the players Liverpool has, I don’t know if his future lies here. 6

Bolo Zenden: Everyone’s new favorite scapegoat. Admittedly he didn’t have the best season, but to be fair, I think most at Liverpool are surprised that Zenden saw as much playing time as he did, and for a free transfer squad player, Liverpool pretty much got what they paid for. He was never dire despite the constant gripes about his play (which I mainly do agree with), but it’s clear he’s not good enough, and he’ll certainly be leaving over the summer. 6

Luis Garcia: Garcia was dearly missed, more than any other player through injury, during the second half of the season. Yeah, he gives the ball away too often and too cheaply, but he’s still a creative player who can deliver that moment of brilliance that Liverpool’s been lacking, as well as one of Liverpool’s most consistent performers and scorers in European competition. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but I cannot wait to see Luis back on the field. 7.5

Harry Kewell: I’ve backed Kewell through the past couple of years and when it’s looked like he’s had little ambition to return or reach top form, because I really do believe he can be a top player, but time is running short. I would hope he’s used the past 10 or so months off to truly reach full fitness, because next season is going to be very important for Harry. With the summer transfer speculation reaching full swing, and more changes looking likely than I thought probable, he might not even be around to prove himself if Benitez shows the ruthless side we know he’s got. That said, I do hope Harry does come back and shows what we’ve been missing. n/a

Mark Gonzalez: He didn’t settle at all. With a poacher’s goal against Maccabi Haifa in early August, it looked like £3m well spent, but that might have been the highlight of his time at Liverpool. I had assumed that he’d spend a season on loan at the worst, but it’s become evident he’s well on his way out, with Real Betis beckoning. He came with a lot more hype than Nuñez, but that's going to be the parallel drawn. 5

Dirk Kuyt: Yes, Dirk does need to pop up with more goals, but he’s not one who operates well as a lone striker, is better suited to play as a deep-lying striker in England, and his work ethic is second to none. It’s also worth remembering this is his first season in a new league, and he scored for fun while playing for Feyenoord. 8

Peter Crouch: 18 goals, 30 starts. Admittedly, with 19 sub appearances, but still. He’s not suited to lead the line against every team and rarely sees the full 90 minutes, which is another reason Rafa hesitates in starting him, but you certainly can’t complain about that goal return. Another one who probably won’t start the majority of games in the future, especially if Liverpool buys the big name striker we’re all waiting for, but he’s more than useful as another option for the squad that Benitez is building. 8

Craig Bellamy: Bellers is never going to get the run of consecutive games he needs to find full form while in a Liverpool shirt. At times he showed moments of brilliance (at Wigan and Charlton stand out), but all too often he disappointed and I’ll be surprised if he’s still at the club come August. 6.5

Robbie Fowler: Left for last with ulterior motives. Never got enough games to make a mark, but with his fitness and the other players at the club, he was never going to get those games. People will point to his 7 goals as evidence he should have played more, but all 3 in the Premiership came from penalties (and all against Sheffield) while all the others came in games where Liverpool played mainly reserves. Don’t get me wrong, the man will forever be a Liverpool legend, is rightfully called “God,” and I still love him to death, but he wasn’t going to be the answer this season, not where he's at in his career. But we will worship and remember you forever for what you’ve done for this club, Robbie. 6

No comments :