This Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of our incredible 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League. A victory that was followed just four days later with another spanking served to Man Utd at Old Trafford and then another five goals scored against Aston Villa. It is becoming more and more painful with almost every game just how far we’ve regressed in just twelve months.
Our form in the back end of last season was possibly the best and most consistent I’ve seen from a Liverpool side since what we would now refer to as the glory days. Last May I believed that we were on the brink of seeing those glory days returning to Anfield and now I am starting to believe that we are on the brink of a major disaster for the club, namely finishing outside of the top four in the league. With the pathetic defeat to Wigan this scenario now looks more of a certainty than just a mere possibility. It is a depressing situation, but unfortunately it is a realistic one that we have to grudgingly accept.
I strongly believe that Man City, Spurs and Aston Villa will all drop a handful of points each between now and May, but at the same time it’s hard to see us not doing the same and being unable to capitalise on anything. We haven’t won a Monday night game since Rafa became manager and we still have another two Monday night games to come against Portsmouth and West Ham. On paper these should be games we would expect to win, especially as they are at home, but history tells us that we can never expect anything, especially against teams scrapping to avoid relegation. We also still have to go to Old Trafford in two weeks and Chelsea are coming to Anfield on May 1st. Regardless of form I fancy us to win against Man Utd again, but then in typical fashion slip up against lesser opposition that would make it a hollow victory.
I have a lot of sympathy for our fantastic travelling supporters who have followed the Reds all around England and Europe this season only to have depressing trips home more often than not. Seven away defeats in the league is absolutely pathetic, not to mention some of the awful results in cup games and also a few bad draws such as the 0-0 at Wolves. The only real joy any of those fans have had this season was the last minute victory at Villa Park, which turned out to be one of many false dawns this season.
I’ve said many times before that to lose in a competitive game can be accepted but to go down without an ounce of effort or spirit is beyond being bang out of order. I will always support the team through thick and thin and will always be cheering them on, but performances like the one this week really make it tough. I’m not afraid to say that was ashamed of the team after that Wigan defeat. I have been extremely angry at various stages this season, defeats to Fulham and Portsmouth come to mind, but now I am feeling deflated because the players cannot seem to motivate themselves to turn up when it is most needed. I wish I knew the answer to this problem but I don’t and that only serves to make it more painful and frustrating for me right now.
Part of the problem is that we have regulars in the first team that are just not good enough. Insua immediately springs to mind as not being up to the standards required this season. He looked excellent when he first broke through on a regular basis, but since the position became his to lose he has really not built on the early promise. Some of his attacking is quite good and his assists are great, but when he loses the ball or a fast winger runs at him he is caught out of position almost every time. We have been lucky not to have received some real thrashings this season from wingers getting into space down that side of our area. When he is fit Aurelio is the first choice but he is rarely available for more than two games in a row and it seriously concerns me that our first choice left back is made of glass and the deputy cannot defend to save his life.
A lot has been discussed about Xabi Alonso’s departure leaving a huge void in the side but almost as important for me has been the loss of Arbeloa. He is a class player who has been a regular for Real Madrid this season and he has been very badly missed at Anfield. He was criminally under-rated at Liverpool and this season we are seeing just how much we miss him. I don’t want to turn this into an Insua bashing and make the lad any sort of scapegoat for this season’s form, I am merely using him as one example. I could have chosen to mention a few players and I think most of us know who they are.
The Aquilani situation is now starting to become another embarrassment and Rafa’s comments on Monday were laughable to me. I can understand what Rafa is saying about not risking him at such a crucial stage of the season but really what do we have to lose? If the player is now injury free he needs to be playing in my opinion. Why spend so much of last summer’s transfer budget on him if you don’t think he’s good enough to help the team get out of trouble? Maybe he just isn’t strong enough physically to the demands of the English game, I don’t know. I understand that we will are more likely to see the best of him next season, if he remains injury free from now on, but by then we will probably be in the Europa League so the money spent on him will seem as though it was for nothing. I know that it is easy to say all this now with the benefit of hindsight but still I would love to have a word or two with whatever plonker advised Rafa that the lad would be ready by October.
I haven’t been this worried about the club since the latter days of the Souness era in the early nineties. In a way it is probably worse now than it was back then because we now have so much more to lose. We are now in a very scary situation financially and relying on Champions League TV money to help towards servicing the loan and debts placed on the club. Without Champions League football it will be much harder to tempt the best players to join us, especially as we can’t compete with the wages on offer elsewhere. If we have a season out of the Champions League it could also be disastrous from a football perspective. With Man City having unlimited funds to spend, if they were to take our spot amongst Europe’s elite they will have a platform to build on and bring in even better players to bolster their squad, in a similar scenario to Chelsea after Abramovic took over. It is not unrealistic to believe that if we lost our position in the top four we may not get it back again for many years unless a miracle happens and a billionaire takes us over and builds the new stadium and gets the top players in.
For now I am merely speculating on what could happen, of course we still have nine games to go, as well as a Europa League there to win. So we just have to keep cheering the boys on and hoping for a miracle to get us through the storm and leave us with our heads held high by the end of the season.