Liverpool’s hopes of qualifying for a continental competition via their league finish was dented once more as the Reds were held to a 0-0 draw against Sam Allardyce’s resilient West Ham United. The result – Merseysiders’ first goalless affair since November – left Brendan Rodgers’ men nine points behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur, with just six games remaining. The Champions League dream is all but dead.
Perhaps of more significance around these parts is that Liverpool look set to finish behind fierce local rivals Everton once more. Not only do the Toffees have a three point advantage on the Anfield outfit, but the Blues also have a game in hand. A second consecutive Premier League finish behind David Moyes’ side would be disappointing given the difference in how much each side has invested into the playing staff.
However, it must also be remembered that Liverpool now need to claim just three more points to equal their points tally from last season. With half a dozen games remaining, the Reds have a good chance of significantly beating that points total of 52. In addition to this, Rodgers’ team have also found the net on 59 occasions in the top-flight so far this term. Only Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have scored more league goals.
But would finishing in a higher league position with more points than last season count as progress? A basic assessment would suggest yes, but Rodgers’ critics would point to two key factors to suggest otherwise. Last season, Liverpool were crowned League Cup champions and the Reds also went all the way to the final in the FA Cup. Some supporters hold silverware in very high regard and suggest that the Anfield club exists mainly to win trophies. The Merseysiders have been knocked out of all the cup competitions already this season, therefore in the eyes of some, this season is already a disappointment.
Furthermore, it has also been suggested that although Liverpool are have accumulated more points than they had at this stage last season, this was always likely to happen given that the Reds have had star man Luis Suarez for almost the entire campaign. Of course, last term, the Uruguayan missed a chunk of the season as he was forced to serve a lengthy ban for abusing Manchester United’s French defender Patrice Evra. Suarez has been more disciplined this year and has been involved in more games. Therefore, some fans claim, Liverpool’s better showing in the league this season was inevitable.
Whether or not this has been a better season will be judged in May, but perhaps the most disappointing thing for supporters is the inconsistency of their side. A brief glance at the results of the teams fighting for a Champions League place suggests that these sides have not been in the greatest of form themselves, so if Liverpool had turned some of their draws – against West Ham, Arsenal and Manchester City – into wins and improved on some of their defeats against relegation-threatened opposition, then a top-four finish would have been well within their reach.
As it happens, the Reds are now very unlikely to catch Tottenham, who occupy that fourth and final Champions League spot. However, last season, the gap between Liverpool and the top four was 17 points. It will be interesting to see how much bigger or smaller the gap is at the end of the current campaign.
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