August 24, 2012

Horse 1354 - When To Write Off Liverpool's Season

My blog has for a very long time been marked on a sort of annual basis with lamentory posts marking the end a of Liverpool's season, or rather the point when I write off the title as unwinnable yet again. That point is usually when they go 10 points behind the league leaders because history has shown that only one club in the history of English football has ever come back to win it; lamentably the club that suffered the idiotic indignancy of giving up 10 points was none other than Liverpool. Season 2012/13 will be different because a different set of fixtures apply.

Having already fallen 3-0 to West Bromwich Albion on the opening day, in an abysmal display in which Agger was red carded, Liverpool played with ten men and no heart. Since Chelsea have already come out firing and potentiallly could be 9 points ahead in a mere 8 days, the first three home fixtures will be utterly critical. The first three home fixtures are against title defenders Manchester City, one of the old foes Manchester United and once pretender Arsenal. Quite frankly if Liverpool score anything less than 7 points from these three fixtures (being 2 wins and a draw) then you can guarantee that the quality to last the season just does not exist.

Liverpool sides during the 1970s and 80s would win the season on points tallies in the mid 70s. Manchester United and last season City have raised the stakes such that if sides want to win titles then they can't afford much more than half a dozen losses per season. Ending on 70+ points will certainly win a European Champions League berth but you cam not expect to win the title on anything less than 80 in the 21st Century.

In seasons past, Liverpool could rely on strikers scoring 20 goals in a season. Luis Suárez, could only muster a paltry 11 goals and in an age of proper proper professionals, that simply is inadequate.

A bright note is that last year they had a defensive record only bettered by Manchester City but (and this is telling) still finished a hopeless and lackluster 8th. Having gained a place in the Europa League by virtue of being in the FA Cup Final last season (and failing there too), there is a pull on the squad for mid-week games, and the temptation for new manager Brendan Rogers will be to play a stronger side in the Europa League and in the process weaken the side for regular league fixtures. The problem with this is that if the season ends as badly as it did last year then only Cup wins will guarantee spots in Europe because eighth is oblivion. Even there the season looks to be starting badly. Liverpool's first Europa League journey was to Edinburgh and Tynecastle to play Hearts. The scoreboard shows 1-0 to Liverpool and they walk away with an away goal but Hearts scored it for them with Andy Webster's shin deflected for an own goal. Really as far as building a season goes it should be treated as a scoreless match because they looked dour and toothless.

So even more than usual, the first three home fixtures will be the litmus test, the test by fire, to see if this Liverpool side is worth anything. Anything less than 7 points from those three matches and I'm going to write the season off before the end of September, which is something I haven't done... ever.

Gerrard is now in the tail end of his career and as far as I can see there isn't really anyone else who will step up and fill that talismanic role. I expect that if Carrol can be convinced to stay then he will rip sides to pieces and maybe if Suarez learns to keep his fool mouth shut, then he'll also do well but apart from Skrtel and Johnson, the current Liverpool squad is as good as any in the top 6 but not better. Football in the top flight is mostly made up of players who are really quite good but to win a title you really do need more than a few who are absolutely stellar and I just don't see that. It is scary to see a side fielded with kit numbers in the mid 40s on the park. Either that says that there is loads of depth in the squad or more likely that first team players are injured.

On Sunday they face Man City at Anfield and I think that that will be the opening display of their firepower or complete lack thereof.

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