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The Trap: Liverpool 1 - Villa 3

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We all fell for it.

Clive Brunskill

There's a trap fans fall into, mostly because it's more fun to be optimistic and excited than it is to be miserable and pessimistic (though we all know fans who prefer the latter, and we generally try to avoid them). It's what happens when you let your passion cloud your vision.

You see it a lot with baseball fans. Usually a young hitter or pitcher, but not always, who always seems to frustrate. And he frustrates because every so often, he'll go out there and throw seven shutout innings or hit four home runs in a week and you'll say, "if only he could locate his fastball like that every time" or "If only he could be that patient in at-bat more consistently." More consistently. But that's the thing. The reason they're your fourth starter instead of your ace or are batting sixth instead of third is that they're not capable of being that consistent. If they were consistent, they'd be better players. Part of being great is being consistently so.

It affects teams too, and it affects Liverpool. We got carried away by a good week, partly because we wanted to be carried away by a good week. We said, "If they can just rip off a few wins and play at the level they flash more consistently..." But they can't. They're not good enough. If they could, they wouldn't be hovering around the blob of the Premier League. Every other club around them wouldn't be every other club around them if they could be consistent. But consistency is a symptom of quality. And Liverpool don't have enough of it.

They don't have enough players who can string together games where they score. Name another player besides Suarez who has scored in two straight matches. See if you can. Or three in five matches. They have too many defensive lapses from players you think shouldn't make them. The quality players have had their consistency wiped out of them by fatigue. Others just weren't that good in the first place.

I wanted to fall for it. It was more fun write and watch that way. I know better, but I did it anyway. But now it feels like we'll be staring at a manageable gap to fourth all season. But Liverpool will do just enough to not close it ever, until it slips away. Because they're not good enough to be consistent.


-I have a bone to pick with Brendan Rodgers and his lineup choices. It's easy now, and I fully admit that. But there were a couple decisions that felt like he was banking on found gold instead of actual production. Yes, Jonjo Shelvey was good on the left of the front three against Southampton and played well in the False 9 role at West Ham. But that doesn't mean it's going to consistently work. We all know he's better in midfield.

And if it's about riding a hot hand, so to speak, why was Jordan Henderson sat behind Joe Allen? He's been part of every pertinent thing Liverpool have done recently. But we know why, and it's because Allen is Rodgers's pet. Even though he's clearly flagging and it's hardly clear that he gives you anything more in an advanced position than Henderson or Shelvey, if it's not clear that he doesn't. And Allen had a major hand in all three goals against. How much clearer does it have to be he needs a rest? If the fear is that Lucas can't make 90 minutes yet, you're still making a sub anyway. So why can't Allen be that sub?

-Joe Cole also fits into that found gold category, and why he was the first sub on -- and why it was for Shelvey and not Allen or someone else -- also infuriates me. Is Suso dead? Being hauled off early once and his whole season is null and void now? I might not have predicted that Cole would give away the goal that would end things, but I wasn't wholly shocked either.

-Ugh, the goals. You're really not going to close down Benteke when he's the only threat on the first one? Really, Allen and Johnson? On the second, how could Agger and Allen just let Wiemann just stroll on past them to get into the box. Maybe Allen thought Lucas was back there, but who did Agger think was behind him, the centerback? And the third? WOOF. Just let their hottest player stroll close enough to shake Reina's hand. That's fine. Nothing bad could possibly come of that.

-Speaking of others who need a break, last weeks' through ball for Cole earned him a temporary reprieve, but Raheem Sterling can duck no more. Clearly buckling under the weight of all that's being asked of him, Sterling does all the kinda not important stuff real well. But the important stuff? His final ball still has a long way to go. We're talking about a player with one goal and one assist that I can remember. If you just run around a lot and don't produce anything, you're basically Theo Walcott. And even he pops up with more goals. Again, Suso can't give this kid a break?

-Lucas had a bad match too, but at least he's got a viable excuse and we'll put up with that.

-Gerrard is another who can't play this many games. But you knew that. And his set piece delivery is getting worse.

-Once again, Liverpool come up against a team stacking defenders in the box against them. At some point you need a moment of brilliance or creativity to get through that. Instead Liverpool are easily shunted out wide to hit a cross to no one. I know some feared that with Carroll that Liverpool resort to that with him on the field. Well, they're resorting to it anyway, are we sure he couldn't have been of any use?

I'm going to go take a bath in knives now.