Whether or not luck was against Liverpool in their defeat to Sunderland, as Kenny Dalglish has suggested due to the comical goal which decided the game, the Reds are in a poor position in the league due to problems which have existed from day one of the season – and which have simply not been sorted out.
It was Sunderland themselves who provided the opposition at Anfield on the opening day, when a dominant first half performance from Liverpool saw only a single goal to show for their efforts.
A stunning second half volley by Sebastian Larsson earned the visitors a point and although Liverpool’s performance gave cause for optimism, it was a disappointing result.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, there has been a similar feel to many of their 12 subsequent league games at Anfield, with lots of good football played and plenty of chances created – but rarely resulting in victory.
Only a week ago, during Liverpool’s fixture with Arsenal, there was an all too familiar pattern to the match as two rivals for the much coveted fourth place went head-to-head.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny admitted that his side had been “getting killed” during a first half which saw Liverpool create a host of chances but take only one.
After Robin Van Persie’s equalizer, the game became much more even. Martin Kelly missed a sitter from the edge of the six yard box for Liverpool. At the other end, Pepe Reina had to be at his best to ensure the score remained level but he was beaten by Van Persie’s second goal of the game in injury time.
If that loss virtually ended Liverpool’s bid to qualify for the Champions League, then losing to Sunderland – their third league defeat in a row – could see them end the weekend in a league position which is closer to 15th than to Newcastle in 6th place.
The comments made by Reds’ boss Kenny Dalglish after the game also suggest a continued refusal to acknowledge the club’s biggest problem: scoring goals.
Such a problem is highlighted by the fact that despite creating more chances than any side with the exception of Manchester City, Liverpool have scored only 30 goals, and 28 Premier League players boast a higher goalscoring tally than Liverpool’s joint top scorers.
It’s not bad luck which is to blame for such a poor chance conversion rate, nor is bad luck to blame for the six penalties missed by four different players this season.
A cup may already be in the bag and a place in next season’s Europa League to go with it, but so much more was promised for this season than to be so far adrift of teams such as Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea by early March.
Between the highs and the lows of Liverpool’s season, there have been plenty of “what ifs?”, most of which have been a direct result of a failure to score enough goals. Dalglish now has 11 league games left in which to resolve such a striking problem that threatens to overshadow much of the undoubted progress that has been made on the pitch.
After the game, the Liverpool boss said: “If we could maybe get fourth spot, it would be fantastic for the football club.”
Given the club’s recent slump in form, perhaps Dalglish should be concentrating not on fourth place, but on ensuring that Liverpool don’t slip even further down the Premier League table.