It was the best of times, it is the worst of times now for Liverpool fans – of that there can be no doubt. Looking back briefly to last season when Rafa Benitez’s side lead Manchester United in the Premier League by nearly double digits, this was going to be the year that finally ended Liverpool fans long wait for the biggest domestic prize.
But alas one ‘fact’ related rant later and a few shaky results left Liverpool finishing second to United even after an impressive string of results to round off the season. I noticed a shift in mood from Liverpool fans over the second half of that campaign, one that began with winning the league was expected as a minimum requirement from such a strong position, too finishing second is ok because next year we’ll do it…
In taking a step back to look at the situation objectively, the reign of Rafa Benitez can almost be defined by the caption ‘next year we’ll be champions’. This is not to say that over the last five years Rafa has not won trophies, not least of which the dramatic Champions League comeback against Milan, but that was some time ago now. In hindsight that win has been Rafa’s saving grace as I’m convinced had Milan done what the laws of physics would suggest from a ‘three goals to the good’ position at half time; Liverpool would have a different manager today.
Liverpool fans have gone through the emotional rollercoaster of believing last term that the league title was truly in sight, only then to lose out to bitter rivals United. It was then expected that the side would kick on and go one better this term finishing top of the Premier League; on the basis of what we have seen from Liverpool so far this season – not so much.
I do not need to reel off the facts, but Liverpool have started dreadfully this campaign, seven wins and six losses is hardly the form of potential champions let alone a side with realistic ambitions of qualifying for the Champion’s League next term. In short Liverpool now enter a three to five game series that may well prove to shape the future of the club as we now know it. This may at first sound melodramatic but a loss to Man United at the weekend and failure to qualify out of the group stages in the Champions League would surely have to lead to a change of manager.
Going one step further this could also have potential ramifications for the financial stability and ownership structure of the club. The Premier League is more competitive this year than ever, and to think Liverpool may have lost five games before the end of October has to leave doubts as to their ability to retain a top four finish. With Man United and Chelsea dead certs to finish in two of the Champions League slots, that leaves Arsenal, Liverpool, City, Tottenham and even Villa to battle for the final two. From a Teesside perspective it does not bear thinking about. The financial implications again could be crippling for a club that has cash flow issues and board squabbles to deal with as it is.
The final element to this equation lies in the UEFA seeding list coefficient. Next time around Liverpool’s Champions League win comes off the coefficient calculation, and if this was to be replaced with a ‘did not get out of the group phase’, followed by a Europa League campaign, Liverpool’s status as a number one seed would also be at risk.
Although Liverpool aren’t in a good spot, it’s not the end of the world for the team today and they can still influence what happens tomorrow, but there can be no denying that there is an element of peering over the abyss to the current predicament. Things can and will go one of two ways, for Liverpool’s sake I hope Gerrard and Torres develop some super human powers of recovery and endurance or it could be all change in the red half of the city come January.