One of the most predictable reactions to a poor Liverpool result is the rush to convince everyone around you that it wasn't really that bad. The silver linings outweigh any problems. It was just bad luck. Things aren't going their way. You're just being reactionary and short-sighted if you focus on what's tantamount to one crummy day at the office. There's time, so just keep believing and things will change. And on and on ad nauseam, with the characters changing but the narrative remaining the same.
And for the most part I buy those sorts of things, even when I'm sober, as there have been periods of the season during which one break in the right direction seemingly could have changed the outcome of a match. But that papers over the much larger cracks in a season that's seen the club display the same vulnerabilities, same deficiencies, and same inability to make lasting changes that seem as though they'd have a wholly positive impact and change things for the better.
Today wasn't just a bad day at the office---it was another day at the office for a Liverpool side that's capable of dominating for large spells and can still manage to end up on the wrong end of a maddening result that all but eliminates them from Champions League contention. That it's the same set of problems time and again only makes it more frustrating, and today included all the types of moments that's made Liverpool's Premier League campaign so difficult to watch.
1. Finishing Chances is a Foreign Concept
Hitting the woodwork was a cute part of the early season narrative, with Stewart Downing opening the season against Sunderland by thundering one off the crossbar and seemingly everyone else in the squad managing to miss a scoring effort by inches. Andy Carroll did it from six feet out against Swansea, Jordan Henderson did it against Fulham after a lovely jinking run, and today both Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt did it in the first half. Both chances were somewhat difficult---a lovely flowing move started by Charlie Adam led to the first, and Kuyt's came just before the half after an Adam cross---and could be attributed to bad luck, but 21 times in league and 27 in all competitions is more than luck.
2. Penalty Kicks are Impossible
Like their affinity for integrating Soccer AM's Crossbar Challenge into their matches, the troubles from the spot were a source of lighthearted banter early on, but we're officially at the point where the excitement of winning a penalty is immediately cancelled by the realization that someone actually has to take the penalty. Steven Gerrard's return seemed to exorcise the club's demons, and the spot kicks from Kuyt, Stewart Downing, and Glen Johnson inspired confidence after Gerrard and Adam had missed in the League Cup final, but today it was right back to terror as Kuyt and Adam scuffled over who was going to take it. A save or miss was a foregone conclusion, and Kuyt's dogged effort to push home a rebound that was saved terrifically by Wojciech Szczęsny, which would have arguably been best left for Jordan Henderson, was the icing on the cake.
3. Panicking in Possession
Most of the time watching Liverpool streaming into the attacking third is like exposure therapy for traumatic high school dating memories---things are going really well, but then all of a sudden you realize that you're the one responsible for actually doing something, and then it all catastrophically goes to shit. This was the case at least four separate times against Arsenal, with Stewart Downing twice killing Liverpool threats, and Luis Suarez, Jordan Henderson, and Charlie Adam all doing their best to make sure that Liverpool kept their virginity. The errors from Adam and Downing (the second) were the most egregious, with the former completely missing an unmarked Henderson in favor of kicking it out of bounds for a goal kick and the latter passing to Szczęsny instead of a streaking Suarez.
4. Loyalty to Underperforming Squad Members
We've already talked about Charlie Adam, who's taking more away than he's giving at this point, and the display from Jamie Carragher was a good enough case for why most of us voted for Sebastian Coates in Noel's post the other day. He was culpable on both Arsenal goals, completely shutting off on the first and losing track of Robin van Persie on the second as the Dutch striker drifted behind the Liverpool line to meet the wonderfully-lofted ball from Alex Song. Jose Enrique could have done better to close down Bacary Sagna on the first and Martin Kelly passed off van Persie on the winner, but Carragher's display on the day, and those two passages of play in particular, confirmed that there's really no reason for him to be ahead of anyone on the team sheet regardless of experience.
5. Questionable Decision-Making at the Top
This is in no way a "Dalglish/Comolli Out!@$#!" statement, but it is another instance in which we're left questioning how exactly the decisions are made when it comes to the personnel at Liverpool. I think we're all aware that any sort of fantasy signings were exactly that during January, and with the struggles this season it's hard to see any top-level talent clamoring to make their way to Anfield in the summer. So we look back at the cash spent last summer and wonder how exactly that improved a squad that finished the previous campaign so well, and how their continued selection is any better than choosing holdovers that had been and, in some cases, continue to be responsible for some of the club's most effective football. The tough answer is that it hasn't, and while that's a little uncomfortable, it's also an objective reality after another difficult day at Anfield.
In the end, we'll look to next week in hopes that things change more permanently for the better, because there's really no point in being a supporter unless you've got a basic level of belief that disregards reality and logic and fancy fact-based evidence. But for now it's okay if you're disappointed and pissed off and confused, in which case it might be helpful to type those symptoms into an internet search bar to see what's really going on.