It seems Liverpool’s near-success last season has done far more damage than good when it comes to the playing side, as the Reds fell to their sixth defeat of the season, coming in second best once again at Selhurst Park.
Last season’s 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace added to the numerous games in which they dropped points, eventually falling two points short of Manchester City to the title. Their talisman striker Luis Suarez has now departed to Barcelona for £75 million, and his presence couldn’t be missed more. Despite Brendan Rodgers claiming that he is 100% responsible for Liverpool’s bad form, the players are those to point the finger at.
The collapse continues
After watching Palace comfortably beat last season’s runners-up, I could only think that the current Liverpool side and last season’s side couldn’t be further apart. The Reds didn’t look up for it and the desire to put their slump to rest seemed almost vacant. Palace, on the other hand, looked hungrier and simply deserved the points far more.
Rickie Lambert got his first Liverpool goal within 90 seconds of play. For the first fifteen minutes, Liverpool played like they wanted to kill the game off and gain a convincing win to put a few doubts to rest, but one of the Palace goalscorers who earned the 3-3 comeback last season, Dwight Gayle – who to note hasn’t had the more spectacular career so far – levelled for the home side and Palace looked far more threatening for the remaining 70 minutes.
Crystal Palace were unlucky not to be ahead when the interval arrived, as Yannick Bolasie at times terrorised Javier Manquillo on the wing, and if he had his shooting boots on he could have had a couple of goals by the break. Despite sending a number of efforts over the bar, he did, however, inadvertently set up Gayle’s equaliser, as his attempt cannoned off of the post and the latter bundled home past Simon Mignolet.
Liverpool looked like a team desperately low on confidence and quality, and Liverpool fans could only hope something would fall their way – such as an open goal, perhaps?
It wasn’t to be, however, as the Reds’ few attempts came in the form of a Steven Gerrard free-kick, which sailed over the bar from 20-yards, and a golden chance for Manquillo, whose shot eventually ended up as throw-in – both efforts really summed up Liverpool’s season so far. They really need to buck up their ideas sharply if they want to reach their pre-season target of finishing in the top four once again.
Palace were piling on the pressure and got their second when man of the match Bolasie brushed outside Dejan Lovren, who hasn’t had the best of starts – a true understatement. Bolasie crossed the ball in for Joe Ledley to slot home. It was exactly what Palace deserved and more so for the supporters, who embarrassed other atmospheres across the Premier League – an aspect which makes Palace hard to beat on their home patch.
To conclude a miserable afternoon for Liverpool, Eagles captain Mile Jedinak curled home an exquisite free-kick to finish the scoring and remind Steven Gerrard of how it’s done.
Many people have had differing opinions of the source of Liverpool’s poor form, with Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville recently stating that Liverpool ‘need a rest’, after showing a lack of intensity in their game. He also praised Neil Warnock’s side, claiming that, “Crystal Palace look like they’re in fast forward and Liverpool are in rewind.”
Most importantly, however, Brendan Rodgers has recently said that he is 100% to blame for Liveprool’s bad form, but it’s undeniably clear that the players deserve the flack far more. Considering they’ve been on TV for almost all of their fixtures, there’s no hiding and they have to make up for lost ground over a tough festive period, or face finishing outside the four in some style.
One thing Rodgers will rightfully take the blame for is team selection. The absence of Emre Can, who had a solid game against Chelsea over a fortnight ago, was a big miss and the consistent selection of right-back Glen Johnson is a regular head-in-hands sight for Liverpool fans, as he hasn’t had one commanding performance so far this season.
Alberto Moreno must have been sitting in the dugout wondering what he has to do to make this slack Liverpool side. Casting our minds back to Liverpool’s performance at the Bernabeu earlier this month, second string players such as Joe Allen, Fabio Borini, Lazar Markovic, Kolo Toure, Alberto Moreno and Emre Can put in the only other spirited Liverpool performance since their 3-0 win at Spurs in August, yet none of those players are guaranteed starters for some baffling reason.
Players like Gerrard, Henderson, Lovren, Johnson and of course Ballotelli, who are common names on the Reds’ teamsheet, need to get their act together instantly, as the Anfield faithful continue to lose their patience, which has added some hostility around the club – a stark contrast to the spirit around Liverpool last season.
One unintentionally amusing aspect of Liverpool’s slump was Brendan Rodgers’ comments concerning Tottenham last season, when they spent around £100 million on their squad, only for Rodgers to indulge on a spending spree this summer, running up a total of around – you guessed it – £100 million. With such high spending comes expectation, yet it is fair to say that neither side have reaped the rewards of spending such ridiculous amounts of money.
Only Adam Lallana and Fabio Borini can come out of the last few months with their heads held high.
Wherever animosity lies, Rodgers and the players have a large portion of the blame slumped on their doorstep. With, on paper, a fairly comfortable December coming up, now is the time to make a sharp U-turn up the table before the sides above them start to ascend out of reach.
If the Premier League proves to be too much of a struggle, Liverpool will be expected to firmly challenge for a domestic cup, either in the form of the Capital One Cup or the FA Cup, with their next challenge an away trip to AFC Bournemouth in mid-December in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals.
Although, with Liverpool in such poor form, the Championship side might just fancy their chances.