Liverpool's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea may suggest a reasonable performance by a team simply beaten by quality opposition. Not for the Reds, however.
Their sluggish performance was bereft of confidence and showed a team firmly on the downer.
After such a terrific season in the last campaign, just what has happened to Brendan Rodgers’ men?
The Curse of the Champions League
As Liverpool have discovered, non-attendance from Europe’s elite club competition can leave a team off-guard. Manchester City can testify to this.
In Liverpool’s absence, the Champions League has improved significantly. It has become tougher as the opposition have improved significantly. Their back-to=back defeats against Real Madrid were perhaps to be expected, yet it is the performances of Basle and Ludogrets - the so-called ‘smaller’ teams - which caught them by surprise.
These teams recognise that they are on the grand stage and will fight tooth and nail. Rodgers’ side were not ready for this. Worst of all their underwhelming Champions League performances seem to be having a hangover effect on their league form. Quite the opposite effect to what European football is supposed to have on players.
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The ‘Suarez’ factor
Comparison to Liverpool’s last season and the current campaign were always going to centre around one factor: Luis Suarez.
Yes his departure was inevitable and yes Rodgers was absolutely right to sell him, but the truth is Liverpool are weaker without him.
Not only did he provide the goals and assists to bring the Anfield club to the brink of a title but he gave his teammates a lift which inspired them to play better. Even when Fernando Torres departed for Chelsea, there was a feeling he could be replaced. Replacing Suarez is something entirely different.
Why always Balotelli?
Surely when attempting the impossible task of replacing Suarez, a number of players would come on the radar. Would one of them have been Mario Balotelli?
The Italian has not learned any lessons of playing in the Premier League and remains a player who only plays for himself and not for his teammates.
This can only have a detrimental effect on Liverpool. As reported in the Express, Rodgers called the signing of Balotelli a ‘calculated risk’. One wonders what he would call it now.
A fallen idol
Anybody in football recognises Steven Gerrard as one of England’s greatest midfielders. Yet even the most devout ‘Kopite’ can also recognise that he is losing his touch.
Perhaps it is the draining effect of their failed title challenge or an equally draining World Cup, but Gerrard is lacking both the skill and inspirational qualities that made him a legend.
Everybody in football must be hoping that he can rediscover his form before he sinks any further. He has been too good a player and servant for this to happen.
No doubt Brendan Rodgers has had a positive effect on Liverpool and is no doubt the man to lead them through these hard times. This, however, will not be an easy task.
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