Deep down, I bet all of us knew this was a possibility. When stripped of Agger, Gerrard, and Suarez, it's kind of hard to fathom where the creativity comes from. Now, perhaps against a team that wanted to come to Anfield and attack, the Reds could have made more of the space that would leave. But against a team that only wanted possession to keep it from us? It was always going to be dodgy, wasn't it?
While some have used last night's Chinese Water Torture to expose how thin our squad is, and they're not wrong to do so, I don't know how massive a squad you'd need to replace basically your entire spine. Meireles and Lucas were included, sure, but they're effectiveness goes way up when Agger keeps them from having to drop so deep, and their runs get rewarded by Gerrard, and Suarez is sending defenders into straight jackets and opening up space around them. Can you replace that from bench players? Can you keep players who are capable of that happy as second choice, because Agger, Gerrard, and Suarez are always going to be first choice, right? Look at United without Ferdinand, Fletcher, and Rooney pretty much out of sorts or Javier Hernandez on the bench? Not that good, right? Smalling, Scholes, and Berbatov haven't replicated that. Arsenal without Koscielny, Fabregas, and Van Persie? We saw it, it wasn't a very good movie. While what's offered for choice in other positions, say left-back and the wide midfield positions, could certainly be better, one can't say you can move forward without the entire spine.
So what we saw was Lucas and Meireles dropping too deep to get the ball of Skrtel and Carragher, probably to keep them from hoofing it 400 times up to Carroll (instead we got them hoofing it a mere 300). Instead of Kuyt's enterprising runs into goal-scoring areas, he was forced into the midfield where his lack of pace and The Thing-like touch are decided detriments to creating anything. Carroll was forced for just knock downs and hopeful link ups which rarely came. Did Meireles get into the box more than a handful to times? It clearly wasn't going to work.
From my post earlier in the week, it's even harder to judge Kenny's European pedigree. On the one hand, we've seen four performances in Europa that made us look like Andy Dufrense in the hole. On the other, Dalglish has ever had a full array of weapons in any of those matches. Maybe it would have taken a miracle worker, or maybe a truly gifted manager finds a way? I honestly have no idea, and am kind of glad i'm not making that decision. Then again, it might not matter if there's not European football next year anyway.
-When seeing Joe Cole and Maxi in the same lineup, I think my Carlsberg turned purple. While Cole had a lively opening 10 minutes, he went back to being the same generational disappointment he's been for a decade now. Maxi...well, did you even know he was playing? I've openly wondered about Dani Pacheco a couple times recently. I can't figure out that when Kelly, Spearing, and Wilson have gotten their run outs Pacheco can't. He can't be that much in the doghouse if he's on the bench. Would he have made a difference? Probably not. But isn't there something of a chance that for 20 minutes he could have given you more than the sum of fuck all you got from Cole and Maxi? How hard could that have been? Sadly, we'll only get this answer when he's lining up in different colors next season.
-At some point in these last nine games, at home, I wouldn't mind seeing what Danny Wilson can do in the center of defense. He's clearly not a left back, but we have to know if he's an option in the middle with Carragher aging and Kyrgiakos a prime reason for Pepto sales. Can he back up Skrtel and Agger? I know some would like to give up on Skrtel, but he looks so much better alongside Agger. Maybe anyone would, though.
-I don't think it's a guarantee we won't get European nights next season, though. As I've said before, both City and Spurs have to come to Anfield, and past that there's only a trip to whatever might be left of Arsenal that you'd call daunting (though Sunday's game at Sunderland is far from easy). I think Liverpool can still make a run, and they'll have Suarez and Gerrard for all or most of it.
-Hard to judge Carroll, he barely got a chance to finish and when he did, Kuyt was in the way. More time needed.