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A Year on the Liverpool Offside: Failing to Finish

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kenny dalglish ponder brood

It wasn't all bad in the early going for Liverpool. The club was comfortably in the top ten in spite of the various struggles and unanswered questions, and there was a win in the derby over Everton despite Dirk Kuyt's first ever penalty miss for Liverpool to boost spirits. It might not have been the start fans had been hoping for after the way the previous season had ended, but it also wasn't the end of the world.

Jamie Carragher even had his moment to shine against Everton, reminding people he could still be of use in the big games after a start to the season that had left many suggesting it was well past time for him to be shuffled down the depth chart. And most importantly for those following the club, there finally seemed to be real movement on Hillsborough.

However, while the first signs of the club moving on from its particular brand of early season struggle may have been surfacing alongside some long-awaiting good news, so too were a pair of new story-lines that would come to dominate proceedings as the year worked towards its close. One of the narratives that got its start in the middle of October was Liverpool's ongoing battle against the press and FA, which began in earnest when Ian Ayre's suggested that the club could seek to broker its own foreign television rights, preventing the likes of Stoke from riding on their financial coattails. It was a suggestion that left the London press in quite the self-righteous stink—even though Manchester United had previously led a successful campaign to keep their entire home gate receipt in the days when that source of revenue was divvied up similarly to television revenue.

And while that was going on off the pitch, on it Liverpool were quickly following up their less than inspiring victory over Everton with a draw against Manchester United in a match that by all rights they deserved to win. To make matters worse, Patrice Evra then accused Luis Suarez of levelling a racial slur at him over ten times while United's manager talked of Suarez being a diver and a cheat. The change was instant, both in the press where the Suarez stories aligned with negative feelings about Liverpool engendered by the earlier revenue suggestion and also during games, where suddenly it was open season on Liverpool's striker, with opponents free to kick at the Uruguayan in a manner that would have more often than not seen a foul called in earlier weeks.

Still, at least Jose Enrique looked like the best left back in the league, and in spite of all the problems surrounding the club the football had begun to seem more fluid than at the start of the season. The problem there was the second major narrative that would develop over the next few months, as no matter how much better the team might look at times, they still couldn't manage to do the one thing any side wanting to win games consistently needed to do: They couldn't score goals.

Despite signs that some of the new players had begun to settle, Liverpool went into the mid-November international break having been passed—and bypassed—to ineffectiveness by Swansea, wasting their chances against Norwich, and with Steven Gerrard back on the trainer's table after a brief moment of fitness. They may not have been completely out of touch with the top four and with it a finishing position that would make the season a success, and there may have been reason to hope that players like Adam and Henderson who had seemed so out of place at the start of the year could at least bring something to the table, but the end product just wasn't there. Mostly, what was there was one post after another and one disappointing result after another.