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Outplayed and outfought – Liverpool’s league slump continues.

Aside from the financial considerations, there’s a number of reasons why, after years of being an ever-present at Anfield, I started to grow fed-up with the modern game – and two of them were perfectly illustrated at Newcastle yesterday.

The first reason was the issue of cheating, and I’ll cover that in a separate article later today.

The second was the manner of Liverpool’s performance. I’m not of the opinion that paying spectators deserve to be entertained, or have a right to see good quality football. Despite the hype and promotion of “the product” by the Premier League and television companies, the game of football, even at the highest level, remains first and foremost a sport.

But the one thing which supporters should be able to expect is effort and determination – even on a bad day, as yesterday undoubtedly was for Liverpool. Such a quality was lacking from too many players to name individually, and that has been a theme during too many recent league games even if the manager has cited other reasons for an alarming run of league form.

Tiredness can’t be blamed. Liverpool have enjoyed progress in two cups, but have still played fewer games than many – if not all – of the teams who have competed in Europe this season.

Clubs with ambition should expect to be playing twice a week at this stage of the season, and it’s a certainty than Man United won’t be happy with not having a European game to play this week – or an FA Cup semi final in two weeks time.

Nor can blame be levelled at the quality of squad that Kenny Dalglish has available to him. While it may lack the same depth as some of the teams further up the league table, it is much stronger than it was in January 2011 when Dalglish took over.

The progress on the pitch was evident for much of the first half of the season, when only poor finishing cost Liverpool the points that their football often merited. The club’s season-long problems in converting chances is much more a reason for their current league position than a relatively recent run of poor results.

Contrary to the belief of some, it’s not yet a crisis. But the Reds face a difficult FA Cup semi final and also a fight to finish seventh, and only with a greatly improved attitude from Liverpool’s players will the club manage to stop a run of form which threatens to give the season a disastrous feel to it.

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