Nobody wants to talk about losses to Fulham when there's a match against Chelsea at Wembley on the horizon—and despite our at times contrary nature, this time neither do we. So with two days left before the biggest game of Liverpool's season, it's no surprise that this Thursday's news and notes is all about Chelsea and the FA Cup final...
* With that final coming up on Saturday and Liverpool's continuing league struggles, Kenny Dalglish being asked to compare the value of success in each endeavour was probably inevitable. Perhaps a little surprisingly—or perhaps not, given that Dalglish is never one to give reporters an easy time—he chose to at least partially sidestep the question even while suggesting that many observers have begun to undervalue the cup competitions::
There is an obsession with the Premier League simply because of what it holds for every club and the value financially for every club, the rewards for finishing in the top four and getting in the Champions League.
But there is a satisfaction from winning a cup competition which you don’t get from finishing fifth or sixth in the league.
Certainly winning a cup or two and finishing eighth or ninth does seem a better fate than finishing fifth or sixth without any silverware. It is, however, worth noting that Dalglish doesn't try to compare the clear and immediate reward of winning the FA Cup with the potential for future league and European success that can likely only be found by finishing in the top four and using that as a stepping stone.
Interestingly, the question of silverware versus a top four finish was one we asked about in our most recent poll, and though a plurality of 41% chose to split the difference and say a season with two cup wins for this Liverpool side would be a partial success, of the remaining votes those who felt a top four finish was the only measure of success this year eked out a 30-29% victory over those who felt two cup wins would make the season an unqualified success.
* If Dalglish and our readers are somewhat less than wholly unequivocal in the matter of league v. cup, Steven Gerrard found himself far more ready to draw a line in the sand when it comes to what victory over Chelsea would mean for Liverpool's season:
We will assess the season after the weekend. If we can look back and say we have won two cups, then we will be happy.
Silverware is success. That’s why we play the game. Some of the biggest experiences we have had over the years is from winning cups—the European Cup, the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup, the Carling Cup. Those are the nights and days that you look back on with fond memories.
And certainly the captain has a point—cup victories are what the players and fans will remember in the years ahead, and Liverpool has always been club that exists to win silverware. Liverpool, however, has never been simply a "cup team," and rather than seeking to be dismissive of such success, it is a fear that in the current football environment a Liverpool out of the Champions League for too long may find itself unable to aspire to being anything more than that in future years that has left many worrying about the table even with a second chance at silverware in two days.
Still, there's little question that no matter if one thinks two cups would make this season an unqualified success, victory over Chelsea would leave everybody heading into the summer in a much more positive mood about what has at times been an exceptionally frustrating season both on and off the pitch.
* Of course, talk of whether cup victories would make the season a success might be rather premature—after all, there's still the small matter of the game itself on Saturday, and on recent form Chelsea look to pose a bigger challenge than earlier in the season when Liverpool beat them both in the league and League Cup. Plus once the game on Saturday ends, the two sides have their second meeting in the league to look forward to a mere three days later. Meeting four times in a single season doesn't seem all that unusual for Liverpool and Chelsea, though—at least not in recent years.
In fact, since the 2004-05 season, the two clubs have faced off 30 times. By this time next week it will be 32 times in eight seasons, meaning that Liverpool will have managed to play Chelsea an average of four times a year over the past eight years. So if there's a reason it feels like Liverpool is always playing Chelsea, it's probably because they are. And though not every match has been a classic, a fair few will live long in the memories of those who watched them.
Games like the 2005 Champions League semi-final second leg, where a Liverpool side that finished 37 points behind Chelsea in the league would manage to advance to the final by virtue a goal that Jose Mourinho still doesn't think crossed the line. Or again in the 2007 Champions League semi-final, when it had to go to penalties to determine which club would head to Athens. Or the draining 2009 quarter-final second leg, a 4-4 draw that in the end saw a Liverpool side that refused to give up banished 7-5 on aggregate.
There have certainly been some classics between the two clubs in recent years, and if you just can't wait for Saturday, spending time reliving a few of them might just help carry you a few minutes closer to kickoff.
We'll be back with any breaking news, but in the meantime, try not to get too impatient—the showdown with Roman's evil empire will be here before you know it…