In a moment, on the whole, and how the club comes out the other side.
There was a moment in today's match when the weight of failed expectations, the doubt about Liverpool's future, and the emotional and physical wear of a long season all came together in one fantastically benign moment. Okay, there was probably a lot of those moments, both on and off the pitch. Shit, those moments are happening in an ongoing manner throughout my day. I've cast all red-colored clothing into the depths of the closet.
Anyway, the sequence: Lucas clips Didier Drogba about twenty-five yards from goal on the left side, and Chelsea are awarded a free kick. I know, you're thinking that there's nothing especially spectacular about the fact that Lucas gave away a free kick after a clumsy challenge. But it's what happened afterwards that stood out---Michael Ballack, who was in the business of clumsy/malicious challenges himself today, unleashed an arrowed free kick straight at Pepe Reina. And Reina, in a move unsurprising for those who've watched himself consistently this season, did well to parry away and remove the threat.
It wasn't the save that was anything extraordinary, particularly in light of the body of work Reina has assembled throughout his Liverpool career. But it was everything about the save besides the physical act of parrying the shot away. It very well could have been the pace of the shot, the curve, not getting a full sight of it prior to parrying. But both Aneet and myself commented on it in the liveblog, and without having seen a replay I can't know for certain what it was.
I can't shake the feeling, though, that above all else, it was a microcosm of the Liverpool we saw today, and for large portions of the season. It seemed tired and dispassionate---almost going through the motions. And it's probably me being over-dramatic, forcing the square peg of my disappointment into the round hole of the incident. But for Liverpool's player of the season (by a long shot, mind you) to appear as though he's disheartened and defeated, even in a move of some skill, spoke volumes about what Liverpool have endured as a football club this season.
I'll save the eulogy for when the season's actually over (lord knows this is a season deserving of one). But the reality is that from top to bottom, Liverpool, not just Pepe Reina, are a disheartened and defeated football club. They've got loads to sort out and many questions to answer---most posted in great depth by Marc in the comments section of the previous post.
The ones that will receive the most screen space over the next few weeks and months will be the fate of Rafa Benitez and the club's top talent. The will-they, won't-they is going to get ugly and stay ugly, and it probably won't quiet down until the summer transfer window closes. If things go to plan (assuming there is a plan), there'll be loads of new faces on and off the pitch, from the front office to the youth academy.
For me, though, the more pressing question is how Liverpool deals with the disappointment of this campaign---one that was supposed to see them build off the record-setting 2008-2009 season. Sure, rebounding from this season involves the personnel that will be coming and going. But regardless who's around and who's not, Liverpool will have to learn from the failures, the disheartened moments, and the disappointments of such a tough season.
So Pepe Reina's seemingly benign parry in the 79th minute probably was just that. And in about 24 or 48 hours it probably will be for me too. But for now, it's as good an example of any of the troubles Liverpool had this year and how it's affected them, and it's as good a place as any to start the turnaround.