Twelve games into the 2014/2015 season, and Liverpool are 12th, having spent £117 million in the summer. Their worst start to a Premier League season in 20 years. This, quite simply, is not good enough.
The Reds’ latest embarrassment came on Sunday in the form of a 3-1 loss at Crystal Palace; but to dwell too heavily on that isolated match would fail to miss the point that Liverpool have been rotten throughout this season – not just in one-off fixtures.
However, the loss at Selhurst Park is useful as a blueprint of why things have gone so wrong for Brendan Rodgers’ side this season. Liverpool took the lead a minute and a half into the game, and rather than galvanising them, that goal from Rickie Lambert caused them to retreat into their shells in a manner that will be extremely familiar to anyone who has watched the Reds this season.
Many maintain that the root of Liverpool’s woes is the loss of Luis Suarez. To me, this is an excuse.
Don’t get me wrong, Suarez is a phenomenal player and his contribution to the Anfield cause cannot be undervalued. But if you swallowed some of the opinions currently doing the rounds on Fleet Street, you’d be inclined to believe that every single other player in that team contributed nothing.
Yes, Suarez was excellent last season, but only because he was allowed to be excellent.
Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were similarly outstanding – and each one of those players is still at Anfield (although Sturridge has been injured for much of the season).
Even with Suarez gone, this level of performance is unacceptable. And with some of the mainstays of the Liverpool first team, my view is that Liverpool’s issues are mainly psychological.
The problem is, there’s only one man responsible for that.
A manager’s role is all-encompassing. He must pick the team and decide the tactics. But his job does not end there. He is required to motivate, cajole, coerce and coach his team to success; physically and mentally. At present, Rodgers is falling seriously short of his job description.
The Northern Irishman admitted on Sunday that his side were “low on confidence”, which is plain for all to see; but what is also obvious is that there is only one man responsible for restoring that confidence – Rodgers himself.
And yet the reality is that he seems totally devoid of ways in which to restore that self-belief. Having scored a goal in the opening two minutes, the Liverpool of last season would have killed that game off inside the first 20, such was the confidence they had in their attacking play. Sterling, Sturridge and Suarez knew that if they put in the required effort in the opening quarter of the match, they could end the game as a contest.
Now, there is no such confidence. And it’s having a massive effect on the Reds.
There were many parallels drawn between the departure of Suarez and the transfer of Gareth Bale from Tottenham the previous season. Both talismanic figures, both sold for astronomical amounts of money and both replaced with several other less talented players.
The manager in charge at Tottenham when Bale was sold was none other than Andre Villas-Boas; in the season following the Welshman’s departure he was gone before Christmas.
The question is, will the parallels continue? Should Rodgers fail to turn this around imminently, there is a very real danger that they will.