About the only consistent thing about Liverpool in the 2011-12 season has been whiplash-inducing inconsistency, and so after a pair of encouraging victories over Everton in the derby and Stoke in the FA Cup, the smart money probably wasn't on the club winning their third in a row. It might not offer much hope for progress, but it's hard to look back at the end result without thinking that on some level it was what everybody should have expected from this Liverpool side…
* Taking a breather from the depressing immediate past for a moment, SI's Jen Chang recently had the chance to chat with former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez about his winning strategy tips for his daughter's school's football team. Plus there's some stuff about why he includes goalkeepers when talking about formations and how the Xabi Alonso money was meant to pay for both Alberto Aquilani and Stevan Jovetic, if that's more your thing.
Expectedly, Benitez also touches on tactics, pointing to final third passing as the single most important statistical category a side must excel in if they hope to be successful, as well as discussing the way the increasing speed of the game has forced a tactical shift. And when it comes to the evolution of tactics in football, after beginning his career looking to AC Milan as a source of inspiration, at present Borussia Dortmund is the side that most intrigues Benitez.
With Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp favouring a high defensive line with the wide players wingbacks as much as they are fullbacks, narrow wingers ahead of them, and constant pressure without the ball, it's hard not to think back to the style of play Benitez tried to achieve at Liverpool when he talks of his admiration for the German side's approach.
In any case, it's the typically fascinating and informative conversation one has come to expect from an interview with Benitez that digs beyond the media cliches that dominated his final season at Liverpool. Plus we're now half way to starting a Kickstarter fundraiser for an otherwise entirely superfluous iPad just so we can use Benitez' Global Coach app as an aid in post-match tactical deconstruction.
* How unlikely was QPR's comeback in the final twenty minutes on Wednesday night? Unlikely enough that when Dirk Kuyt scored, the odds of a Rangers win on live betting sites hit 750/1. So not only did Liverpool suffer a ridiculously unlikely and painful collapse, but QPR managed a victory that by the odds at least one would expect to only see happen once every two seasons in the Premier League.
If for some reason we'd put a tenner on QPR winning, we'd have by now buggered off to sit on a beach somewhere for a few months with a beer and iPad, quite possibly while slurring "mentality" repeatedly in an embarrassing faux-Spanish accent. But for anyone looking to cash in the next time they see a side in the relegation zone down two goals late to a heavily favoured opponent, there's a good chance you'll be waiting until the spring of 2014 for a comeback to match Rangers' last night.
* Speaking of those odds—and of just how unlikely QPR's comeback was—Kenny Dalglish's post-match press conference saw the Liverpool manager lament that the only thing missing from Liverpool's spell of dominance at the start of the match was "a bit of luck in front of goal." While it may have been intended to take the pressure off players after a painful collapse, as part of a wider narrative that attempts to place most of the responsibility for Liverpool's failings this season in general and in particular for last night's defeat on pure dumb chance rather than anything the players and coaches themselves do, it makes for tough reading:
I don't think anybody saw it coming. I'm sure there was a fair bit of feeling before the game about how we'd approach it and how the players would react to qualifying for a semi-final.
We started the second half and got the goal—a great goal for Seb. Then Dirk touched one in and to be fair you couldn't even see them getting a goal. But maybe the luck they never got at Bolton 10 days ago, they got tonight in the last 20 minutes.
Perhaps Dalglish's real opinion on the matter is entirely different from what he offered last night for public consumption. Certainly given his past glories and loyalty to the club it's not entirely misguided to suggest he deserves the benefit of the doubt on that front—that he deserves a chance to further make changes over the summer, with at least the first half of next season providing either confirmation or repudiation for the growing and legitimate concerns of many. However, if the actions of the coaching staff moving forward suggest that Dalglish truly feels luck and not any number of more tangible—and infinitely more correctable—problems are the root cause of Liverpool's struggles this season, it's not unfair to suggest that it will become hugely problematic for all involved.
We'll be back later with any breaking news, but in the meantime, you might as well blame all your ills on capricious fate…