From last season’s top-scorers to this season’s goalless horrors, Liverpool’s spectacularly unspectacular decline has been a constant story in the papers throughout the season. It’s been a season in which the supporters have quite often been put to sleep, wishing their team would wake-up; a season in which the glory days of Souness’ management flashed across their eyes, a season in which Carragher has been seen ‘going mental’ every game, and a season in which quite often the only attractive thing connected with Liverpool’s football was Pepe Reina’s kit – debatable, mind you.
So let’s recollect the fun times! Here is the countdown to Liverpool’s worst performances of the season…
Warning: Refreshing the following memories may cause depressive disorder, stress or a serial killing instinct towards the players or the manager. TheHardTackle shall not be held responsible for any such mishaps.
MAN CITY 0-0 LIVERPOOL
(Premier League – December 29, 2009)
“Away versus Away”
Europe watched in horror, as the average quality of the Champions League was about to drop next season! This fixture was touted to be a multi-million dollar match-up between two heavyweights, who were eager to throw the knock-out punch in the race for fourth. Instead, it turned out to be a battle of chess, with the ‘architects of boredom’ happily shaking hands in the end for a draw. There was one point of difference, though, from all other games in which Liverpool played rubbish – the opposition manager was criticised more than the Reds’ manager. However, that did not conceal the fact that Liverpool were pretty woeful.
The onus was on Rafa’s side, as this was Liverpool’s chance to leapfrog Manchester City in the race for fourth. But Benitez initially set his team up to avoid a loss instead of going all out for a win, which was fair enough considering that Liverpool were the away side. If not proactive, then at least be reactive? What was baffling was the lack of intent shown by Liverpool, even after it was evident that City were clearly happy with a draw and were there for the taking. After the team created virtually nothing all game, Aquilani came on as a substitute, given a full four minutes plus stoppage time to do his magic!
“This was a wretched advert for their lofty ambitions (of entering the champions league) in an encounter that plumbed the depths for long periods.”
– BBC Sport
“Both managers were happy enough with the outcome. It is just a pity that the paying public had to be involved”
– The Guardian
“What was less easy to ignore was the woeful passing, the negativity and the limited vision. The sight of Steven Gerrard and Maxi Rodriguez running into each other on one Liverpool attack just about summed the whole thing up.”
PORTSMOUTH 2-0 LIVERPOOL
(Premier League – December 19, 2009)
‘ Mission: Doss-attack! Result: Failed, Aborted, Exported! ‘
Grant out-thinks Benitez again
Here is an experiment for you – show this game to a person who doesn’t know anything about the two teams, and ask him which of the two ended up being relegated and going into administration. The answer will always be the ‘team in white’. To lose to a team at the bottom of your league is one sort of embarrassment, but to be outplayed, outfought and outclassed by the bottom team takes it to a whole new level. This was also Dossena’s last game in a Liverpool shirt, thankfully.
Andrea Dossena? If it was intended to be a master-stoke, it failed. If it was intended to be humorous, it failed. What it was, was a painful watch for Liverpool supporters, as the Italian left-back spent 53 minutes on the field, like a fish in a desert, playing at left-wing, while Yossi Benayoun rotted on the bench. Why Rafa, why? Apart from playing a left-back in midfield, two defensive midfielders were deployed against a team with the worst defence in the league. Mascherano brought the number down to one though – red-carded before half-time. Ryan Babel should also have been introduced into the game.
“Many more displays like this and the Spaniard’s chances of survival much beyond Christmas will look as bright as a plump turkey’s.”
“Dossena’s selection was a curious decision, especially with Yossi Benayoun relegated to the bench and Ryan Babel back after an ankle complaint.”
– Mirror Football
WIGAN 1-0 LIVERPOOL
(Premier League – March 8, 2010)
‘ No comments, just facts ‘
Torres venting his frustrations
In a place known more for its rugby than its football, Wigan’s rugby team would have run Liverpool close on the night. Fernando Torres failed to bail out Rafa, as his side produced another shambolic, passion-less away performance. The one-nil scoreline doesn’t do justice to the difference between the two teams. Wigan could have, should have scored more. To not even put up a fight against a team who were thumped 9-1 at White Hart Lane, was yet another low in this awful season.
No start for Aquilani – too soft for away games, apparently. The deadly combination of Lucas and Mascherano was preferred, yet again, to strike fear into the opposing team. How it took 82 mins for a Premier League manager to take off Dirk Kuyt, after he put in arguably the worst wing performance seen at this club for decades, is beyond anyone’s guess. It must have been really bad when one starts missing El Hadji Diouf, isn’t it? Ryan Babel was given a massive eight minutes to impress.
“No margin for error, the Spaniard had warned beforehand, but this Liverpool team is full of them.”
“It was sometimes difficult to know which team was battling for a place in Europe’s elite competition and which was fighting to stay in the Premier League”
-The Daily Mail
“…a night when the Reds’ short-comings this season were laid bare by an industrious but by no means brilliant Wigan side”
LIVERPOOL 1-2 READING
(FA Cup Replay – January 13, 2010)
‘ Outclassed at home…by championship side ‘
The Liverpool supporters had spent the previous weekend laughing at their bitter rivals Man United, who had been knocked out by Leeds at Old Trafford. How that blew up in their face, eh? After hanging onto a draw at the Madejski Stadium, Liverpool were expected to do the job at Anfield and were just about hanging on for a win, till Yossi Benayoun decided to play ‘god’ and bring justice to Reading’s world. He conceded a late penalty, and after an extra-time goal, Reading deservedly went into the next round at the expense of an embarrassed Liverpool.
For a change, Rafa selected the best possible eleven. He was unlucky with Torres and Gerrard, both going off injured in the first half. However, questions have to be raised about his motivational skills and the lack of passion in his team. There was only one winner after the championship strugglers had equalised, and that tells you how poor Liverpool were on their own territory.
“If Liverpool have become more adept at anything in this desperate season, it is in their uncanny ability to discover new depths to plumb”
– BBC Sport
“They were abject, stretching the patience and incredulity of the faithful beyond breaking point and proving what so many, including their manager, believed was impossible; that a dreadful season really could get worse”
– The Guardian
“Not only did they have to rely on an own goal for an undeserved lead in first-half injury time, they sat back and invited a comeback”
– The Daily Mail
WOLVES 0-0 LIVERPOOL
(Premier League – January 26, 2010)
‘ Dear football, R.I.P ‘
For a Liverpool fan, this match wasn’t for ninety-minutes; it lasted forever. If you managed to survive through this performance, you probably would have wanted to rewind your life two hours back, and kill yourself before witnessing this carnage of footballing ideals. Liverpool’s only highlight of the game was an Albert Riera volley that semi-threatened the Wolves goal.
After ‘Plan A’ failed miserably, Ngog was brought on in place of Riera. You would think putting a striker would be a positive move, but Rafa’s master-plan involved moving Kuyt to the wing and leaving Ngog alone upfront; so the formation remained the same. After putting in a wonderful shift against Tottenham in the previous game, Aquilani didn’t even come off the bench when the Reds were in desperate need of some creativity and dynamism. Instead, a rusty Gerrard coming back from injury was given a full game.
“Even though inspirational captain Steven Gerrard was back for the Reds, they again flattered to deceive with Wolves keeper Marcus Hahnemann hardly called into any serious action.”
– BBC Sport
“This was a dismal display that left Liverpool resembling a patient that had suffered a relapse after a brief period of recovery.”
– The Guardian
“Any representatives from the Grand Old Lady of Italian football present at Molineux might have been harbouring second thoughts (of hiring Benitez) after this turgid show.”
– The Daily Mail