Reality Check With Steve Nicol

Mike Hewitt

After a desperately disappointing result, Liverpool fans are forced to take stock in the build up to the next fixture. Inconsistency seems to be the order of the day, but some of us are tiring of that particular order.

Following an alcohol-free St. Patrick's Day, spent shadow chaperoning my teenage daughter and her mates around our town's display of Paddy Whackery, this Irishman is still reeling from the deflation brought on by Saturday's limp surrender of the hope that the staff and players had done so much to build in recent weeks.

The sane part of my mind has been insisting on the inevitability of it all - bloody Year Zero and all that - but the rest of me craves the delightful oblivion of liquor-intoxication, which might prevent the questions that won't go away; questions about favouritism, about two-man midfields and about neglecting the facility of substitutions.

We are told today that Joe Allen has withdrawn from the Wales squad after aggravating his shoulder injury. For most, that's just about the most irritating news that could have broken. There's no need to hash over the ground already ably covered by Ed, but suffice it to say that Brendan Rodgers erred in selecting a guy so fragile as part of a midfield two, especially when the other member of the duo is Steven Gerrard. It was a calamitous decision which will likely have lasting repercussions for Allen's development and Jordan Henderson's future.

The dark mood of fans will hardly have been lifted by the observations of former Red, Steve Nicol who has been having his say on the current state of affairs at Anfield. The Scot, who's been earning a crust in the MLS since 1999, agreed with the consensus about needing to have three in the middle in order to have "dominance behind the front players."

Nicol has also insisted that although Sturridge and Suarez are "as good a combination as there is in the league," they must be supported by flankers who are willing to put in a defensive shift. So far, so sensible then, until Nicol chose to focus on Phillipe Coutinho, saying that he simply "doesn't defend." A little harsh, by the one-time Scottish International who then turned his sights on Martin Skrtel, claiming he was "culpable" for two goals at St. Mary's.

By far the most contentious thing Nicol had to say was that he believed the best thing for the club's progress next season was to miss out on European football entirely.

"I would suggest," said Nicol, "that if they [Liverpool] don't get in the Europa League, it'd be the best thing for them. I think they definitely need to sign a couple of players and the fact that they're not involved in Europe next year would be a good thing for them. I think Liverpool have to concentrate on the league."

I'll choose to make no comment on that particular observation except to say that I admired Steve Nicol immensely as a player. He was one of the best full backs I've ever seen, but there must be a reason why, in a dressing room full of footballers, his nickname was 'Plank.'

Let's bring the weekend's gloom to a cathartic conclusion, shall we? As Neb pointed out of late, I do 'swear a lot for a teacher.' I find it wonderfully therapeutic and, if you are similarly vulgar, go ahead and enjoy Larry David and chums cutting loose, in what is most definitely a NSFW video.

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