Winners and Losers: Liverpool with questions to answer throughout the club

It’s a time of uncertainty, nerves and contradictions at Liverpool, amplified by the weekend’s 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace. It’s the second straight year the Reds have collapsed at Selhurst Park and while their Premier League title aspirations are unharmed this time – but only because they didn’t exist in the first place – Sunday’s reverse may be equally as damaging as last year’s.

Quite where the Liverpool side that for much of last season blitzed the opposition with early goals and rapid-fire attacks has gone is a question that few can answer. Instead Liverpool are ponderous and distinctly lacking in ideas. The extended absence of Daniel Sturridge and the permanent loss of Luis Suarez can only explain so much and Brendan Rodgers and the rest of the club’s transfer committee had all summer to plug the gaps that allowed Manchester City to edge into top spot.

That they failed to do so is becoming more and more apparent by the game. Rodgers can’t complain about a lack of financial backing as money has been spent. Most of it appeared wise at the time – the three Southampton players drafted in, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, between them racked up almost 850 EuroFantasyLeague points in 2013-14. So far this season, they’ve got 70.

Rodgers has spoken of a lack of confidence in the team and that is surely a factor. It doesn’t though explain why results started off so inconsistently – after leading Liverpool’s best title challenge in a generation, the players and the manager should have been flying. But Liverpool didn’t win a Premier League game in September and have lost as many games now as they did in the whole of the previous campaign.

October was better but November stands to be the cruellest month. If Stoke record a win at Anfield next Saturday it will be the second winless month of the season and even the optimists who point to the fact that Liverpool are only five points off fourth place, despite being 12th in the table, will have to shift down their expectations. Even a Liverpool victory might not mean a change in fortune, as the fortunate win over QPR didn’t herald a return to last season’s heights.

Rodgers is making the right noises and deserves the time to dig his team out of the rut – any talk of the manager’s position being under threat is premature. He does have questions to answer though, such as why the likes of Kolo Toure and Lucas Leiva, two of the best Liverpool performers in October’s trip to Real Madrid, haven’t seen any action since. Tactics, transfer and team selection are all under Rodgers’ remit and they’re three of the areas in which Liverpool are most under-performing.

The players shoulder part of the blame too, particularly as Lovren struggles to adapt to his new club and Martin Skrtel repeats the same shirt-pulling mistakes he has made through his Liverpool career. Perhaps the only good news right now is that it’s another full season before they have to face Palace again.

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