Liverpool are in trouble. Over the last 20 years, they’ve underachieved slightly, given some of the sides they’ve had. European glory came in the shape of the UEFA Cup in 2001, followed by the ultimate prize of the Champions League in 2005.
On the domestic front, however, they simply haven’t been good enough. A couple of the domestic cups, a smattering of podium finishes in the league, but ultimately living in the shadow of their bitter rivals 30 miles to the east. It’s now over 20 years since they were last champions of England; and they don’t look like ending this phase any time soon.
Despite failing to regain a trophy they last won in 1990, Liverpool have still been up there over this time period, finishing between 2nd and 5th on all but four occasions in the Premier League era. Last season, however, was a disaster for the club: their seventh-place finish is the first time they finished outside of the top five since 1998-99, and (along with 98-99) their second worst finish in the Premier League era. A new manager has stepped in and, despite an admirable CV, doesn’t seem to have the resources to rebuild the squad to the extent that he might like. Upon arrival, Hodgson expressed concern over the number of sub-par players on the books at Anfield, promptly shipping out Nabil El Zhar, Damien Plessis, Phillip Degen, Albert Riera, Emiliano Insua, Diego Cavalieri and Alberto Aquilani.
Performances so far have hardly suggested that this season is going to be a big improvement on the last one. It’s too early to tell; Hodgson must be given time to prove himself at the club, but their performance at St. Andrews on Sunday really was poor, and the Liverpool of old would hardly have walked out of a game against Birmingham glad to have stolen a point.
Fernando Torres, a player the team relies on so heavily, has looked poor this season (although I thought Jamie Reknapp’s ‘diabolical’ comment was a little harsh), after disappointing at the World Cup. It might be a question of fitness; you could, for instance, level the same accusation at other World Cup players, like Wayne Rooney. But it has been suggested in the press that Torres is becoming disillusioned on Merseyside. He seems to have a quite genuine connection to Liverpool and its fans; but he’s a world-class player who, unless things drastically improve, is wasting a potentially successful career. How long can you expect one of the best strikers in the world to play at a club that seemingly has no chance of winning a domestic title?
The Guardian’s Barry Glendenning suggested, at the start of the season, that Liverpool will fail to finish in the top seven. This, for me, is a bit far. But the immediate future looks bleak for the club, with Pepe Reina going as far as to state “we have to make sure that people don’t think of winning the league or being in the top four already at this moment.” It’s a far cry from the ‘Big Four’ days, which effectively ended last season.
What do you think Liverpool can realistically achieve this season?
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