Wednesday, March 10, 2010 by Paul Grech
What would you rather take, a fourth place finish or winning the Europa League? That question has been put about quite often of late and in itself belies the lack of confidence that there is in the current team, as if there is some tacit understanding that it is impossible to hope of getting both.
At least now that uncertainty is gone: Liverpool won't be getting Champions League football next season. Mathematically it might be possible but realistically, there's no chance of getting there now. So the best hope of salvaging some form of respectability from this season lies in making a real go at doing well in Europe even if it is in the competition no one really wants to play in. In fact, let's get comfortable with Thursday games because it looks like being the only one we're going to be involved in both this and next year.
There is also the minor matter of nine league games left to play for. Although play, in Liverpool's case this season, is something of a misplaced adjective. Dour, dull football completely devoid of speed and rhytm is probably the best description of the Liverpool way, at least this year. In recent weeks people have been saying that Liverpool have been grinding out results as if that were some form of praise. Getting a win against Tottenham with key players missing was pleasing as was the derby win. Otherwise, however, it has been pretty turgid. If you think differently then try to recall the last time Liverpool scored more than twice in the league.*
Part of the blame for that was the pressure to get fourth. Well, now that this looks impossible, how about a change of style? In fact why not use the remaining games as an early pre-season, looking to see what works and what doesn't? Play Alberto Aquilani, for one thing, see what he can do and whether he can hack it. If he does then at least next season he will be ready, if not then cut your losses.
The same goes for Martin Kelly and Dani Pacheco. Give them some minutes, let them get some experience and you're guaranteeing that there's greater depth to the squad next year. After all, it is not as if there will be a lot of money to splash about in the summer so those kids are as good a bet as any.
Above all, try to play with some style. No more starting games with two holding midfielders but instead put out a formation that looks to try and score goals after putting teams under pressure rather than one that hopes to catch a lucky break. Give us back some hope, a chink of light that maybe things will get better next season. If not, put us out of the misery that has been this season.
* To answer that question, in case you're still wondering, Liverpool haven't gone beyond two goals in the league ever since the 6-0 win over Hull at the end of September.