Well, that was a sobering experience, wasn't it? In what we thought would be a game that would snap us back into life has instead plunged us back to asking some serious questions about where we are.
The facts are that Liverpool have been pretty underwhelming, at best, for the last four matches in all competitions. One has to at least ask, though not necessarily believe, if that streak of excellence was merely the bounce a lot of teams get from a manager change, more than a true renaissance. I don't know the answer to that, more time needed, but what I do know is that yesterday was as insipid a performance as we've seen. And that was before Kelly and Meireles went off injured, so blaming that would seem folly.
We knew the squad was paper thin, but it's the same guys who were responsible for the glimpse of something better as well. We can't miss Andy Carroll when we haven't had him yet. Does so much really depend on Luis Suarez, who's made three appearances? And his only other start was a damp fish of a performance against Wigan. There are something watching yesterday that have to be solved:
-I'm not sure Meireles and Gerrard fit together. They both are best served behind the front line and in front of the midfield. When Gerrard drops deeper, he stops too many possessions with a Hollywood ball he doesn't complete as often as he'd like to think he does. He makes runs to where Meireles already is. And moving Meireles into a deeper role seems to rob him of what he does best. We've seen it work, we've seen it not work. The Chelsea match was such a defensive masterpiece that it didn't matter, and the winning moment came with Gerrard crossing from the right (hint, hint). This is a puzzle.
-Martin Skrtel only plays well alongside Daniel Agger, it seems. Agger's assured manner on the ball for one keeps the other team from attacking as much, and his superior pace and calm than Carragher's keeps Skrtel from panicking. Carra's face-first, last-ditch style doesn't inspire as much confidence these days because unlike a few years ago we're not sure he's going to get there in time. Agger very well might be the most important player on the team right now.
-Joe Cole is the Stone Roses. Has promised so much for so long that we forgot to realize he never actually delivered.
-I think I'm officially through with David Ngog. He's been put in an impossible situation for years, but it's not going to happen here.
-Kelly with an extended absence is a real problem.
-And yet, the season will pretty much be determined next week. A win over United and things will look sunny again, with the slimmest of shots at fourth still there, and something to hope for. We'll just have to wait and see.