After the first month of the season, Liverpool were atop the Premier League table, the squad was healthy and playing attractive football and defending resolutely. The team exhibited the sort of form that encouraged the Liverpool Doomsday Clock to move the minute hand one minute closer to midnight.
What a difference a month makes.
After the second month of the season, Liverpool now sit fourth, six points behind the leader (Arsenal). The squad is not as healthy and the football is equally unattractive as it is uneffective. While the team remains unbeaten, the football presently being played reeks of mediocracy and is not that of champions.
In light of the troublesome form Liverpool have recently displayed, Being Sven must regrettably move the minute hand of the Liverpool Doomsday Clock back from nine (9) to ten (10) minutes to midnight.
While by no means does fourth place warrant full panic mode, Liverpool’s current form is utterly uninspiring and counter-productive to the ultimate goal of winning the Premier League. While they had taken a step forward in the first four matches of the season, that progress has seemingly been pissed away the past four league matches.
Liverpool 0 – Portsmouth 0 — A scoreless draw at Fratton Park was not a horrid result. Surely, two dropped points; but if the team were to have continued its winning ways, it could have been branded an acceptable blemish. As it turns out, it was the beginning of a trend.
Liverpool 0 – Birmingham 0 — Another scoreless draw and another single point. While possibly palatable away from the confines of Anfield versus a squad widely tipped to content for European qualification, it is certainly not acceptable at home versus a club rightfully viewed as relegation fodder. There would also be growing discontent after Fernando Torres started the game on the bench, only to inexplicably start the next match, which was a Carling Cup tie vs. Reading.
Liverpool 1 – Wigan 0 — Another away win! Sadly, an unconvincing one at that, against another pre-season relegation candidate. Yossi Benayoun scored a quality goal, but it was a moment of class amongst long stretches of ‘blah’. But, three points are vital and not every victory will be a walk-in-the-park. Champions find a way to win, regardless. Right?
Liverpool 2 – Tottenham 2 — Tottenham almost record their first triumph at Anfield in 14 years, but Fernando Torres finds a late equalizer to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat. Finding a way to wrestle something undeserved from a match? Good. Continually mailing in sub-par performances against struggling teams whom you should be beating soundly? Not so good.
Sandwiched between those results were two European matches; a draw at Porto and a home loss to Marseille. While those lackluster results only hurt Liverpool’s Champions League progress, they most certainly contributed to the squad’s continued lackluster efforts.
For some clubs, three clean sheets and five points from four matches could warrant a feeling of satisfaction that things may be looking up. But this isn’t Middlesbrough. Those results certainly don’t mean the sea has swallowed your ambitions whole, but when you’ve set a course for the league title, they’re a sign you’re in not in friendly waters.
This threat to Liverpool’s title amibitions is no secret. In the past week alone, the manager and multiple players have come forward to voice their concern and acknowledge the need for a return to a more productive form.
The captain, Steven Gerrard, whose unconvincing performances perfectly underline Liverpool’s current state, had this to say about the club’s recent folly:
We have not been ourselves of late, that’s true. The results have not been good and the performances could have been better. We are going through a dip in form which all top teams do at some stage and we just have to make sure we play our way through it. We are not performing to the standards we can do, but that will change.
I am asking the fans to trust me when I say there is no crisis here. We have fantastic players and a world-class manager and we will get things right again, there is no doubt about that.
We have now got an international break which will give Rafa the chance to look at things and work with the players who are staying behind.
For those of us going away, we have to get the jobs done with our countries and then come back ready for a massive match at Everton. If we can turn in a performance in the derby and win that game then things will be looking better again. That is what we will be aiming for.
The question is now raised; is this a matter of ‘saying the right things’ or will the captain and his teammates truly let their football do the talking? Because right now, what they’re saying is boring, forgettable and not threatening anybody.
Should the team be able to pull themselves out of this ‘rut’ and prove that such ugly and ineffective performances (as ‘ugly and effective’ would be welcome right now) really were just a ‘blip’ that they were able to immediately correct (well, it would have taken a few weeks) with a run of wins, then the Premier League crown will still realistically be within their grasp.
But should they continue to stumble and stub another toe after the international break, settling for draws (and the inevitable losses) chances are they (and we) will soon find themselves in a familiar (and sad) place when it comes to the title race.
With Everton and Arsenal on the horizon, those results, for better or worse, will be very telling.
With hope still in our heart, the LDC moves backwards.
Hopefully, for only a short time.
Ten minutes to Midnight…