WHAT did I expect? Less than a week ago I wrote that, despite the rather fortunate nature of our victory over Spurs, I felt a sense of optimism in that we had played perhaps our hardest remaining fixture and the rest should really be all plain-sailing.
I could not have been more wrong as, again, the one thing that is consistent about Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool is their bloody inconsistency.
It’s getting to be a little tiring now.
Some will point the finger at Skrtel replacing Carragher but Carragher wasn’t even on the bench. He was injured. I would also point to the fact that Skrtel had been our best defender for the past two seasons, prior to his poor run this year and that Carragher and Agger have both been as susceptible to individual and defensive errors this season.
Others are piling it on Joe Allen, because his season has tailed off after a good start. These are the kinds of ‘fans’ that hear that Allen has been playing with a shoulder injury for much of the season and choose to not let that get in the way of attacking a talented young midfielder.
Much of the blame for Saturday’s defeat to Southampton falls at the manager’s door. Picking an injured Joe Allen ahead of a fully-fit Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson was a stupid, naïve and quite arrogant mistake on Rodgers’ part but it wasn’t his biggest mistake.
No, his biggest mistake is one he’s made on many occasions – refusing to budge from his favourite (and seemingly, only) formation.
Just like against West Brom, Oldham, Aston Villa and Stoke, Liverpool were undone against the Saints by our manager’s inability to alter his tactics in the face of an opponent lining up to take advantage of our lack of numbers in midfield.
Attempting to mimic Barcelona is lovely, in theory, and as we have seen on a few occasions this season, when it works it looks (and feels) great. But there are times when you have to accept that you don’t have the players to do it properly just yet and use what you do have, and this Liverpool side have failed miserably in that regard so many times this year.
However, while I’ve stated on many occasions that I’m not Brendan’s biggest fan (and that’s unlikely to change any time soon) it would be a little blind to place all of the blame on him for the result at the weekend.
The final 10 minutes of the game was embarrassing, as the players look bereft of ideas, leadership and, more worryingly for us, the desire to actually turn the result around.
What worried me most is that the players looked somewhat out of sorts all day, but once the game wore on and the rare chance was squandered by Liverpool, the rain started to fall more heavily and Reds players began to look noticeably like they just wanted to go home. I haven’t seen anything like it for years. I don’t want to see anything like it again for a long time either.
One of my favourite aspects of any Rafa Benitez team, was its refusal to quit, even in the face of insurmountable odds. Even the poorer teams at the beginning of his time as Reds boss had a steeliness to them, a spine that was rock solid and rarely gave away cheap goals.
But many of the players currently occupying defensive positions are Benitez signings, which just makes the new-found spinelessness of our defence and midfield all the more difficult to swallow. Say what you will about many of his signings but he very, very rarely signed a player who didn’t have a strong character and will to succeed.
After the performance and result on Saturday Liverpool’s powder-puff centre has once again been exposed and raises serious questions about the legitimacy of any ‘progress’ the club has supposedly made this season.
One thing is for sure though, it’s the very last time I’ll be getting caught up in the feelings of optimism after a fluky win over a top-4 side, until there is very real evidence that the win signifies genuine signs of evolution from mediocrity to proper contenders.