Positive perspective of a "transitional" season,
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This review is from: Liverpool - Back To The Future - Houllier's Way - The Official 1998-99 Season Review [VHS]  (VHS Tape)
After the fabulous spectacle of 1998 World Cup and a satisfactory but underachieving third place finish in the previous league season, it was time for a managerial change at Liverpool FC. Roy Evans - who had steadied the club in the previous few years - was complemented by Gerard Houllier in a joint management role. It was fated from the beginning as previous management partnerships across football had always runaground. Two managers trying to communicate their ideas to the playing staff was always destined to lead to conflict and disharmony. After a mainly dismal autumn run, Roy Evans long association with Liverpool FC ended as he resigned, leaving Gerard Houllier facing his debut season in English football.
There was a honeymoon period for the joint managers, however, as Liverpool started the first four matches in potent form. The highlights of this period included a strong performance in a 0-0 draw against Premiership champions Arsenal and a sensational hat trick away at Newcastle from top player Michael Owen. The most iconic of the three goals was a terrific dribble - somewhat reminsicent of the lightning run for England against Argentina when he scored - in which he beat three Newcastle players for fun before finishing with aplomb.
After this solid start however, results rapidly deteriorated. Although there were some bright moments, the overall picture was one of inconsistency. This VHS, only tells one side of the story to the unsuccessful 1998-1999 season as the opposition's goals are not included. This is where the video fails in its purpose because the function of a season review is to provide the entire story of the season which it is meant to cover.
However, there is a positive to this in that as this was often a troubled season (even the music sounds tense) the viewer only sees the best moments of the season and these highlights are well covered. At home to the emerging Chelsea in October, Jamie Redknapp equalised with a precise free kick. Redknapp had his most effective season for Liverpool and was both an architect of and finisher of goals. In Houllier's second match in sole charge, Robbie Fowler scored three of his fourteen league goals (the last time he ever achieved double figures for Liverpool in the league) in a scintillating 4-2 victory at Villa Park. These included a clinical header from a Redknapp cross and a powerful drive from outside the box. Even though he was past the peak of his Liverpool career, he displayed sufficient talent to remain one of Liverpool's key players.
Summer signing Vegard Heggem was another key performer, using his deft dribbling ability and searing pace to good effect on the right flank. His mazy run and perfect finish in a 3-1 away win at bogey side Middlesbrough was another highlight of the season as was his devastating volley at home to the same team. Another highlight came in the final match of 1998 in which Liverpool secured a dramatic 2nd half comeback against Newcastle with Michael Owen and Karlheinz Riedle amongst the goals after successive waves of attacks. Another creditable draw against Arsenal away in January preceded a terrific 7-1 victory at home to Southampton including rare goals from Jamie Carragher and Dominic Matteo. The rest of the top highlights of 98-99 season came towards the end. In a 3-2 home win against fierce rivals Everton, Robbie Fowler converted two efficient finishes (one from a penalty) while Patrik Berger scored one his plethora of fabulous long range piledrivers. Berger was likewise one of the few stars of the season contributing strikes and assists with his adroit left wing play.
Although it is possible to detect that Steve McManaman was concentrating on his upcoming new career with Real Madrid, he still had a reasonably strong season and against Tottenham at home in yet another comeback from the Reds he scored the winning goal and last for the club with a magnificent volley. One of the momentous moments of the season came in a 2-2 draw against arch-rivals Manchester United in likewise another comeback. After good build up play from Patrik Berger, Oyvind Leonhardsen was brought down by Jesper Blomquist and Redknapp scored an impressive penalty. The incredible equaliser came through an intuitive through ball from Steve McManaman - an unselfish Karlheinz Riedle passed the ball to Paul Ince who finished with passion into the net. It remains a fine result, but perhaps in retrospect its significance is somewhat tarnished given that Manchester United then went on to secure the treble.
In the fallow periods of the season (only represented in spoken summaries by Ray Stubbs), there was a lack of teamwork and collective spirit but mainly a defensive malaise which took some new signings and dedicated training in the following summer to resolve. The fact that a number of the losses/draws occurred through failed or equalising comebacks shows how if Liverpool's defending had been more gritty then they would surely have achieved much more in the season. So many times, against the lesser teams, Liverpool failed to find the inspiration to win and this lack of commitment was crucial in leading to a bad season. The nadir came when the otherwise superlative Michael Owen failed to convert a penalty when the team succumbed to a depressing 1-0 loss at Wimbledon.
This VHS is essential if you are a Reds connoisseur and want to see the biggest successes of the 1998-1999 season. If you are not, although very good, it is only essential to complete your collection as it only tells one side of the story. Although it was a tough season, all the highlights (apart from the competitions other than the league - another criticism) are here. After this "transitional" debut season under Gerard Houllier, he now had the understanding and experience to sign the right players and adopt the right methods to take Liverpool forward.
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