It all started on a cold September night in Florence. It was the second match in the Champions League group stage and Liverpool faced a difficult trip to the Stadio Artemio Franchi, the home of Italian side, Fiorentina. However the Redmen were confident that they were able to achieve a positive result to take back to Mereyside after 6 consecutive victories. With Javier Mascherano missing Liverpool looked lost in the middle third, with Brazilian Fabio Aurelio, a left back by trade, unable to step into the Argentina captain's considerable boots, and Liverpool lost 2-0 despite a small improvement in the second half.
It's hard to believe that this one result was the start of what has become a deep malaise that currently engulfs Liverpool Football Club. This malaise has been long and painful for all Reds fans, causing bickering between supporters, a lack of clear thinking, massive over reactions to any poor result or disappointing display and a general sense of chaos and anarchy at Anfield.
After that desperately frustrating night in Italy, Liverpool have played a total of 20 games, winning only 6, losing an embarrasing 9 and drawing 5. To put that into context, Liverpool lost just 5 of the 55 competetive matches they played last season. In just under half of that time, the Reds have lost nearly 2 times as many games.
They're shocking statistics that don't reflect favourably on what has been a season to forget. But how did it come to this, is the vital question which i will seek to answer, if possible, in this article.
1. A SHOCKING LACK OF INVESTMENT
I have said this so many times before, but i'll keep on saying it as it is a vital reason for our failure this season. Rafael Benitez had a net spend of just £10,000 this summer. It is completely unreasonable and senseless to ask any manager, even one of the calibre of Rafael Benitez, to achieve anything with this sort of money being spent on transfers yet, because of Liverpool's magnificent and glorious history of winning countless trophies year after year, people forget that, like it or not, success in the modern game is almost completely dependent on financial clout. According to the book "Soccernomics", written by expert football economists, nearly 9 times of out 10 (89%) the team with the highest wage bill wins the league. Over recent seasons the teams with the ability to spend big on wages have been Chelsea and Manchester United, and guess who has won the league? Yes, that's right, Chelsea and Manchester United. Liverpool now have the 5th highest wage bill in the Premier League, surpassed by Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotpsur. Therefore, we should be finishing 5th. Anything above a third placed finish should be considered a massive over achievement, and unsustainable over a prolonged amount of time.
2. INJURIES GALORE
Liverpool have been hit hard by injuries this season, to key players in vital positions. 17 players have either missed matches because of injury, or been forced to play despite a lack of match fitness. These include 7 players who i would call "first teamers" (Agger, Gerrard, Torres, Benayoun, Aquilani, Johnson, Mascherano), 6 players who would regularly appear on the substitutes bench (Skrtel, Aurelio, Babel, Ngog, Riera, Kyrgiakos) and 4 squad players (Degen, Dossena, El Zhar, Kelly). These cannot be helped, but have seriously effected the team's performace. Injuries have caused poor performaces, and therefore disappointing results. Injured players have returned to a team bereft of confidence, denying them the opportunity to devlop match fitness in a successful team and continuing the run of bad results. Moreover, injuries have stopped the boss putting out the same team for a run of games. This can prove disastrous, especially for defences, as confidence and a knowledge of your team mates are vital components to a successful defensive unit.
3. MEDIA PRESSURE
People regularly scoff at the idea of football managers or players suffering from pressure. They argue, quite rightly, that real pressure is putting food on the table for your kids, paying the bills at the end of the month, and surviving the cut backs at your office. The great Bill Shanly realised this saying, "Pressure is working down the pit. Pressure is having no work at all. Pressure is trying to escape relegation on 50 shillings a week. Pressure is not the European Cup or the Championship (the equivalent of the Premiership, at the time) or the cup final. Thats the reward." However, pressure from the media and supporters is by no means helpful, and is often detrimental to a team's performance. Biased media reports, over critical phone in shows, illogical criticism from foolish ex Reds (Jamie Redknapp, Greame Souness, Stan Collymore, to name but a few) all add unneccesary pressure to a club and effect results on the pitch.
All of these reasons have contributed to the horrible run of results Liverpool have had recently. Supporters must have a sense of perspective after every poor result, and not jump to knee jerk conclusions. Also, it is vital that George Gillett and Tom Hicks don't listen to the media and the small amount of glory supporters that continually demand Rafa Benitez's head after every setback. Logic and clear thinking must prevail, or our club will continue to fall even further into mid table obscurity.