Liverpool’s season: A post-mortem
I was just listening to some of tonight’s Manchester City/Tottenham Hotspur game, where both sides are fighting for the fourth spot in the Premier League and the place in next season’s Champions League that comes with it. As a Liverpool supporter facing a Champions League-free 2010/11 season, I began to think that should be us.
Then I realised that no, it really shouldn’t be us.
In one sense, Liverpool should be expecting a whole lot higher than fourth in the Premiership. Last year saw us finishing second, losing just two league games all year. That could have, and should have, been something to build on. This season was a golden opportunity to go forward and win the league.
This year arguably saw a lack of quality throughout the league, but especially in the bottom half. In other years the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic would have been staring relegation in the face. Even the tops sides struggled, dropping more points than in previous years. The title was there for the taking. Liverpool, and me as a supporter, really needed to expect more than just fourth place.
In another sense, it shouldn’t be us competing for fourth spot because, frankly, we haven’t been anywhere near good enough. There have been flashes of quality, such as beating Manchester United earlier in the season and the recent defeats of Portsmouth and Sunderland, but all in all there has been a lack of class and a lack of consistency.
We can point to a lack of squad depth, certainly. If Torres had been fit all season, there could have been a few more wins here and there. But the best sides do not rely on one or two players. The best sides can grind out results no matter what the circumstances.
Sixth or seventh spot, a Champions League first round exit and capitulation in the Europa League is a poor, poor return. For a club of Liverpool’s ambition and size, this season has been a disaster.
And as someone who has supported Rafa Benitez more than most, I hate to say it, but the blame has to lie squarely with the manager. Boardroom uncertainties cannot have helped, but they cannot explain bewildering transfers, both in and out of the club, and tactics that basically haven’t worked.
As Liverpool limp towards the end of the season, rumours persist around Benitez’s future, with Juventus and Real Madrid (maybe) courting him. I think now is the time for Liverpool to let him move on and for the club to make a fresh start. If Rafa leaves of his own accord they can avoid a massive pay-out to cover the rest of his contract.
The summer is the perfect time to rebuild. I hope Liverpool take that opportunity and appoint a manager who can inspire the likes of Torres and Gerrard to stick with the club and make it great once again. I won’t be getting excited just yet, though. Did I call this a post-mortem, because as it stands the club is dead in the water? I really hope not.