And now, Liverpool face the possibility that the entire season could be over within a span of four days in February. Out of the domestic Cups, with only Europa League left. Because the league season is toast.
Oh sure, I guess they could chase fifth and the European place that comes with it. But I don't see them getting that either. Because a team in this much transition is always going to take enough steps backward to sully some of the steps forward it has taken. It will keep doing that as long as they have a manager, that while promising, is still learning how to manage a squad like this (you're taking Downing and Henderson, you're two most effective attackers, off the pitch, eh? Obeekaybee....)
There's no reason to rehash the match. I've written this wrap at least 20 times in the past two seasons. Liverpool dominate possession, but are helpless in the final third against a packed defense. They don't have the touch or guile to manage the tight spaces that they'll need to break through the fortress. The only variable is whether it'll be abject finishing or great goalkeeping or both. Today it was the goalkeeping. That's followed by the sucker punch goal, which these days comes with Daniel Agger off trying to figure out Chaos Theory while his man waltzes alone to a free header. Same as it ever was.
You saw this at the end of last year. When the league season became shot, a look of resignation came about the team. They would look spirited for the FA Cup, but the league games from this point last year on Liverpool mailed it in in the league. I won't be shocked if that's what happens here, because the players are going to find it hard to ignore that there's not much to play for.
So suddenly that Europa League game, somehow scheduled in two days, becomes the most important game of the year. Can they win the competition? Probably not. Lyon, Spurs, Athletico, Lazio, and Napoli could all easily beat Liverpool. But to have any momentum going into next season, Brendan Rodgers had better plan on making a fist of it.
What to do with the league season from here? Maybe give Coutinho, Coady, Coates, and Borini enough games to acclimate better for the more important battles next season. Find out if they're going to be parts or have to be replaced. While I know about the money involved, is there a difference between 6th and 10th really? I doubt it.
-Someone tell Agger that every time he loses his man on a setpiece, I will hang a kitten. But then he looks like the type who wouldn't care.
-Ok, the subs. Downing and Henderson were the most lively attackers on the pitch. Suarez was wayward. Gerrard was leggy. Shelvey needed a compus. But do we really expect Rodgers to haul off Gerrard at any point this season?
-I thought Lucas had one of his better matches, actually.
-Has Daniel Sturridge become this important already?
-With West Brom this packed, and lacking the nous to get through the tight spaces, are Downing and Henderson wide really going to provide the pace to get in behind them? God bless them, they tried. And not for a couple great saves, they would have saved this fixture.
-Now those points that could have, and probably should have, been gained at Arsenal and City look awfully large, don't they?
-It might have worked better if both Johnson and Enrique weren't drunken clowns with their passing. God knows they had the space.
Ok, time to puke. Reconvene Thursday.