It was always going to be difficult to finish fourth with Manchester City and Tottenham both having the season’s that they are having, and Roy Hodgson’s Fulham answered all the previously unanswered questions as to why Liverpool have failed to achieve their ultimate goal.
When I saw the team-sheet pre-match at Anfield yesterday, it almost immediately struck me that one name was left missing and it must have filled the Cottages with an equal amount of hope as it did me and 40,000 other Kopites with disappointment, the exclusion of Fernando Torres made our job against Fulham all the more difficult.
Liverpool have lacked that cutting-edge in front of goal all season when Torres has not featured. The replacement names of David Ngog and Ryan Babel fail to serve even a small fraction of consolation as they are as many miles from being Fernando Torres, as Liverpool are to winning this season’s league title.
David Ngog for example is not Liverpool quality and his missed opportunities in the two games against Birmingham and Fulham show it. How delighted Fulham must have been to see the Frenchman’s name alongside that of Ryan Babel. For most of the game yesterday the reds created a surplus number of chances but what was missing was that world class finisher to put those very same chances away. Torres has been missing for large amounts of the season, and ultimately that is what has cost us fourth-place.
Fulham may have parked the bus in front of the goal yesterday but they showed the same signs that many teams have shown when visiting Anfield this season. They were not scared of Liverpool and knew that by defending resolutely they would more than likely leave Merseyside with at least a point, many teams have used them very same tactics at Anfield this season.
Six points behind Manchester City and having played a game more, Rafa Benitez all but surrendered his dubious top-four guarantee and conceded Liverpool are now fighting for a top five finish. Ultimately it is no surprise that we have lost out to Manchester City. Inconsistency has cost us and now we must pay the price by missing out on participation in Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
This season may have been a disaster but Rafa Benitez will and must learn more from this season than any other if he is to get the club back to where it belongs.