The Liverpool victory over Bournemouth two nights back in the Capital One Cup is nothing to write home about whereas the defeat by Manchester United at the weekend most definitely was, even it if was not unexpected. Old Trafford was a game that had to be played against the tide. And when it duly went out, Warren Buffet's maxim came to pass: "It's only when the tide goes out that you learn who's been swimming naked." The 3-0 score line just about reflects where Liverpool stand these days. Few step forward to praise the emperor's new clothes.
People have wondered how a team can play so well one season and perform like clowns the following one. But it would not be the first time that has happened in soccer. Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool boss, has to take a lot of the responsibility. The difference last season seems to have been Luis Suarez who was very much an integral part of an attacking formation. Rodgers inherited him from the Dalglish era. Bringing in Mario Balotelli to plug the gap seemed a rash decision. Would Liverpool be playing any worse this season had they not Balotelli in the squad? Any worse were they to go out with only ten men rather than 11?
It is not Balotelli’s fault of course. A player like him never fitted into the Rodgers game plan. If that blueprint allowed for Balotelli to flourish, Rodgers would have persisted with Andy Carroll rather than throw him overboard at a time when Carroll was starting to show some class and more than a bit of motivation to those around him. It simply makes no footballing sense to get rid of Dumb and then sign Dumber.
Last season, largely through the man he got from Dalglish, Liverpool had a powerful attacking formation. Its Achilles heel was its total inability to defend. The 3-3 result against Crystal Palace at the close of season when all was not yet lost was an apt crystallisation of defensive strategy. This season Liverpool are a team that can neither defend nor attack. For a side hoping to end the season in the top four this is an unimaginably bad position to be in.
The team needs a radical overhaul. Any forward looking ethos it lays claim to is brought into question by persisting with Steven Gerrard. Rodgers has given some hints that the wheels have been pulled in and Gerrard is preparing to land. But Air Traffic Control still has him in the sky and while that remains, cruising rather than soaring is the best that might be achieved. While a great player in his day, Gerrard is not the midfield dynamo of old. Once a soccer stallion, he needs to move on before the inevitable donkey comparisons start to grow more voluble in the Kop. The only thing that can be said with absolute certainty about Liverpool is that no side built around Steven Gerard will win the English premiership.
If Brendan Rodgers lacks the cop-on for that he might find himself the recipient of the Kop-off.