You just need to look at the faces of everyone involved at Liverpool Football Club at Anfield just hours earlier. Talisman Steven Gerrard, fustrated. A disenchanted Fernando Torres, in the worse form of his career. A disinterested Joe Cole, looking for all the world like he has given up already on his Liverpool career. A desperate Roy Hodgson, perhaps wondering if he should have stayed at Fulham.
For best part of the last century, you could look at the top divison in English Football and say: It could be Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool. It was guaranteed, almost ridicoulous to suggest that England’s most succesful Euopean side would not be in and around the top of the table come May, year in, year out.
But now, as Red’s fans look at the 7th place finish last season with almost affectionate nostalgia, can we now permanently discount the merseysider’s from the type of form that saw them in the top 3 english sides every year.
Obviously, the rise of Chelsea, Manchester City and more recently, Harry Redknapp’s swashbucking Spurs side as serious contender’s for the upper echleons of the Premiership, if not for the title itself has indeed congested the top of the tree, making it more difficult for teams to dominate like year’s previously, but with the recourses and most importantly history that Liverpool have, one would still expect to see the Red’s to occupy those places, whoever is at the helm or, indeed in the boardroom.
So what has gone wrong for Liverpool? Some point to backroom issues, poor transfer strategy, and a lack of lasting English quality. All of these are contributing factors, each crippling to a Premiership side, and combined has resulted in the decline of the club. But you can still look at Liverpool’s teamsheet, and still see World Class quality. Gerrard, Torres, Reina, Kuyt, and Joe Cole are all international stars, ones that would not be out of place in any team. You only have to look at the teams that had have been interested in the last few years, Real Madrid and Chelsea for Gerrard, Barca, Real, Chelsea and Man City for Torres, and even European champions Inter were looking at Kuyt this summer.
On paper, there is not 7 league places between Liverpool and Spurs, yet Tottenham sit pretty in 5th, in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Right where Liverpool should be. So it’s not the players. Not quality wise, anyway. But for those who watched the game against Wolves, or Newcastle did prior to it, there was a distinct lack of direction or motivation about Liverpool’s forward strides, and coupled with a distinct lack of stability in defence has doomed Liverpool to mid table mediocrity.
So is the manager the issue? Yes and no. Hodgson has indeed failed to instil the fight and stamina in his players that saw his Fulham side reach the Europa league final, and result’s that Liverpool should win blindfolded have ended in disappointment toomany times this season, but if you look at last year, at the near mutiny behind Benitez’s last few months in charge, the Spaniard had a similar problem, and to an extent, Houlier before him.
I think slowly, but surely, Liverpool have been in decline since their European heyday. having not won a Premiership title since before it became the Premiership, Liverpool fans, once so used to success have been fed a lean diet of the occasional cup triumph, Champions league run, or occasional second place. And as the fans have grown used to lowering their expectations, instead of a major shakeup of the team, board or otherwise, the club has almost resigned to their successes, as memories, to look back on cherish, but to rarely, if ever repeat.
But there is hope. This isn’t me damning Liverpool, but highlighting issues. There is hope. with a decent transfer campaign and a half decent run of form, there is no reason why Liverpool shoudn’t be top 5 again. Whether it’s this year, next or maybe 4 or 5 years in the wilderness before we see Liverpool back to where we have grown to expect them, is as usual, purely specualtion.
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