Why are three points not enough for Liverpool?
Liverpool’s poor league form brings questions about their motivation
Liverpool’s 13th loss of the season at Anfield last night did not come with any great surprise with the backdrop of a polarised season.
Boos rang out from the home fans at the old Merseyside ground, but there was no sense of disbelief, just annoyance that Fulham had been to make the Reds’ home form a recurring bad dream.
It was the fourth time Kenny Dalglish’s side has succumbed at home in the league this season, just one less than the amount of wins the Kop have seen there.
Three points do not seem to be enough of a motivation for this Liverpool side to perform and they can finish no higher than seventh.
This is failure, it can be described as nothing else. Finishing out side of the league places that provide European football is just not good enough for a club that have spent as much money as Liverpool have in the past two transfer windows.
Europa League football beckons, however, as a Carling up triumph over Cardiff City in February meant their place is already booked.
This silverware, plus an FA Cup final this weekend, have meant the disappointment and anger form their league form has been tempered to an extent.
It is strange that a team that has shown dogged persistence and consistency in knockout competitions can’t bring similar elements to the run of the mill everyday business of the league.
There is a different mentality when approaching a knockout fixture and maybe this particular mind set is where the current squad feel most comfortable, maybe the prospect of elimination is the only motivation that can be guaranteed to bring out their best.
Maybe three points can seem nothing in a season where you will compete for them on 38 different occasions – or at least that what it often looks like with Dalglish’s side.
Cup victories provide such instant emotional gratification, as the euphoria of victory is heightened further by the immediate presence of despair in defeated opponents.
Cup games are forever on a knife-edge and the feeling must be addictive or have enhancing properties; how else do you describe the defeats of Manchester City and Manchester United in cups when they were unable to do so in the league?
There were mitigating circumstances in the 0-1 defeat to Fulham with their two best players, Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, having been left out to keep them fresh for Saturday’s showpiece and an unfamiliar combination in defence.
The Cottagers goal, coming by way of a bizarre and unlucky diversion off of Martin Skrtel, had a face-slapping familiarity to it.
Liverpool, the endeavouring attackers, thwarted once again by some devilish misfortune, paying the disproportionate punishment of defeat.
This delusional narrative has been reinforced for some by a stat revealed last week, which claimed the 30 occasions the Reds have hit the woodwork.
A worryingly large number of voices were quick to bemoan the bad luck Suarez et al were having with their chances, but the truth of it is that they have not been good enough.
Thankfully, not all of the club’s most prominent tub-thumpers toe this particular line and admitted that finishing this season has been poor, highlighting the need for more scoring quality.
The traits Liverpool are showing – cup brilliance, league mediocrity – are those of a team with lesser status and pedigree that most of us still assume they are, or at least should be.
Such imbalance and overachievement is something witnessed most seasons when a club outside the top flight goes on a ‘giant-killing’ cup run, where they produce performances far removed from their usual selves, much to the surprise of spectators.
It seems, more often than not, that Liverpool need an ‘occasion’ to lift themselves to the heights of form we have become accustomed to over the past many years and that the daily grind of the table does not seem to do it for them.
Dalglish desperately needs an injection of quality into his squad before cup success is no longer seen as a consolation to poor league form, but a release from accustomed mediocrity.