Even more so if they lose to Everton this weekend in the FA Cup semi final. As it is, they have completely lost contact with the leading teams, the top six including Newcastle instead as they battle for the Champions League. Liverpool, instead, are just behind Everton, and narrowly ahead of a cluster of teams including Fulham, Norwich, Sunderland and Stoke.
The Premier League has long been a multi-tiered league with a group of leading teams, a chasing pack behind them, a group of middle ranking sides and relegation battlers. That Liverpool are in the middle ranking group this year is an indictment of Kenny Dalglish and the club. It has been a quite shocking downturn in form, with the club picking up only a few more points than West Brom in the same period that Roy Hodgson, the manager they turfed out last year, has been in the Midlands.
Dalglish would get more criticism if his name was Hodgson, or Benitez, or Houllier. With his reputation he is largely guarded from much criticism at the club but surely not forever. As it is, he may well prove to be the man to bring back the glory days but questions must be asked of his judgment at times. £35 million for Andy Carroll looked ridiculous at the time and has proven so. Jordan Henderson may end up worth £20 million but surely Yohan Cabaye, at £4 million, was better value. Charlie Adam is decent and probably worth the £7 million they spent on him, but Stewart Downing, another £20 million player, was not. That Liverpool have spent so much on average players is ridiculous. Other teams, like Manchester United, Newcastle and Arsenal, have bought top class players for far less than Liverpool have spent on those who would not get into the United team.
One of the key losses for Liverpool though has been that of Lucas Levia. Since he has been missing, Liverpool’s form has suffered. At the start of the season they weren’t scoring many, but that was ok because they weren’t conceding many either. Now, without his screening in front of the defence, they are conceding too many and are not able to keep it tight enough at the back. The Brazilian’s absence seems to be one of the biggest reasons for their collapse. Another factor, controversially, is Steven Gerrard.
Gerrard is often noted for his Hollywood passing, preferring to play the ball that makes him look flashy than the one that keeps possession. His reluctance to fit into tactical shape is also a major problem for Liverpool. It was ok to some extent when he was at his best, but he is not now, and the stats show him being a hindrance, not a help. Liverpool’s win ratio drops from 48% to 9% when Gerrard starts, the esteemed Jonathan Wilson pointed out earlier this week. It is a quite remarkable drop. It suggests a player whose pervasive and dominating persona on the pitch is taking away from some of his more effective team mates. Charlie Adam shone at the start of the season, but now he looks poor. Teams can often find themselves trying to play the ball to their big players at times, and that appears to be the case with Liverpool. It’s ok when that player is Cristiano Ronaldo or Steven Gerrard at his prime. But not on the wane. It might be time for Gerrard to go, before he drags Dalglish down with him.