It almost goes without saying, but Liverpool are close to a crisis.
Last year’s runners-up currently reside in eighth – 15 points short of Chelsea at the top of the league – and the contest between the two sides on Saturday was indicative of the complete gulf in class and quality that currently exists between them.
The defeat at the hands of Chelsea came after Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers caused serious controversy by fielding a largely second-choice 11 against Real Madrid midweek. Whilst the Reds gave a relatively decent account of themselves and only lost 1-0, Liverpool fans were understandably upset at what they thought was Rodgers bypassing an opportunity to genuinely attempt to beat the reigning European champions.
A loss at home to Chelsea has not helped. Especially when one considers the last time Liverpool welcomed Jose Mourinho’s side to Anfield. On that occasion it was Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip that effectively wrested the title from Rodgers’ grasp and gifted it to Manchester City; and Saturday’s performance indicated just how much as changed since then.
The starkest contrast is perhaps the fact that Luis Suarez is no longer at the club. Whilst the Uruguayan was recognised as a star figure in the Liverpool side, I believe that Suarez’s influence was actually underestimated and that the club’s poor form this season confirms that the Reds relied heavily on him last year.
What this perhaps suggests – although Liverpool fans may be reticent to hear this – is that Rodgers is not actually as good a manager as they (or he) think he is. The reality is that he has presided over a woeful beginning to the season in which the Reds have only really performed against a despicably poor Tottenham side. When one considers that the Suarez-led Liverpool took Spurs to the cleaners and netted five last season, even this season’s result looks less impressive.
For me the issue has been in Rodgers’ contingency plan. Rather than recruiting a player of the level of Suarez, Rodgers went and bought several players – none of whom were anywhere near as good as the Uruguayan. He has, to quote Garth Crooks, ‘sold Elvis but bought the Beatles’.
Whether the Northern Irishman will be able to turn it around remains to be seen, but make no mistake, he is in serious, serious trouble right now.