The glee of almost certainly preventing bitter rivals Manchester United from claiming a record nineteenth league title was far outweighed by the multitude of problems Liverpool’s defeat to Chelsea highlighted on Sunday.
Although I doubt the players deliberately set out to gift Chelsea the win – all talk of letting the Londoners triumph was confined to the stands – the players did a pretty good job of disproving that theory as they cantered through an alarmingly desperate 90 minutes in front of an increasingly dispirited Anfield crowd. Yes, the football odds suggested Chelsea should win, but Liverpool barely even turned up.
Hopes were high last August that the club could build on last season’s second place finish and really challenge for a first league title since 1990.
But this latest defeat leaves the club destined to finish seventh their lowest Premier League finish since 1994, and the first time they have failed to qualify for the Champions League since 2001.
But what has gone wrong?
Well let’s start from the top. Owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks are deeply unpopular with the club’s fans for their leveraged buyout of the club, which instantly lumped millions of pounds worth of debt onto the club’s shoulders. All they have had in return are sound bytes which have sounded increasingly hollow as each promise and pledge was broken.
On top of that, the new stadium and planned player investment has stalled, meaning the club has no real means of escaping their current financial malaise.
Rafa Benitez has blamed the board entirely for the club’s failings and while he has a point for the reasons just stated, it can’t be denied that Benitez has made some key errors both on the pitch and in the transfer market. No more so than last summer when the departure of Xavi Alonso was countered with the expensive arrivals of Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani, the latter of these two has spent much of the season injured or on the bench.
The failure to add any real depth to an already unbalanced squad, the lack of young players coming through from the academy and consequently the over-reliance on their two genuine superstars Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, have all contributed to the team’s tumble down the table.
The Liverpool supporters, perhaps a little stunned by the depressing events of this season, can only hope the proposed sale of the club goes through quickly and smoothly. Only then will the future of Benitez and therefore some of his key players, be resolved.
Then, and only then, the Reds can try to put this traumatic season behind them and try and build for the future before the damage inflicted on them this campaign proves terminal.
Meanwhile, the World Cup 2010 betting makes England third favorites and Gerrard will have to recapture his form if he is to make an impression at the tournament.