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Ushering In the Unwelcomed Fun

If Liverpool had something worth playing for, the final two matches of the season would be worth watching for an entirely different reason, but there's at least the chance to hope for increased minutes for the lesser-utilized squad members as a disappointing campaign comes to a close.

Tom Szczerbowski

I have some sort of unhealthy obsession with the 2-1 win over West Brom in the League Cup last fall--I've romanticized it to the point that, even with the rest of the season rendering it relatively useless, it serves as some sort of imagined pivotal result and performance that signaled a changing of the guard from Liverpool as a disappointing sad-sack to a club on the rise once again.

That might yet prove true, but on the immediate horizon Liverpool are once again faced with ending a season with virtually nothing left to play for. Europe's all but gone, the prospect of the pride of finishing above Everton all but disappeared with the draw on Sunday, and with the news of Steven Gerrard's early exit, the club are left without two of their more influential players of the past season, as Luis Suarez will be serving the third and fourth matches of his ten-match ban as the 2012-2013 season closes.

And yet there's still the possibility that the last final two weeks of the season will be entirely enjoyable, mostly because the matches against Fulham and QPR won't mean anything. Fulham are safe from any sort of relegation threat despite being the Premier League equivalent of unsweetened oatmeal, and QPR have proven unfortunately resistant to the managerial wizardry of Harry Redknapp in their quest for a return to the Championship.

It all lines up for a scenario in which Brendan Rodgers will hopefully give the also-rans a chance at some first-team minutes; Steven Gerrard's surgery opens up the midfield at least and potentially the overall formation, as there's been no set agenda in the squad of late other than get minutes for Carra and Gerrard plays always and ever. A major deviation from the norm would be surprising, but with a number of bench regulars in contention, there's no telling how Rodgers will set up his squad.

I'm hopeful that he'll choose to be daring, even if there's not much that's daring about giving squad members time on the pitch when nothing actually matters--get Jonjo Shelvey minutes deeper in midfield, give Oussama Assaidi some time, have Suso pull some strings as an attacking midfielder, and, more than anything, give Liverpool a chance to escape from the malaise that's worked its way into their displays far too often over the past few seasons.

Liverpool most certainly need to be better, but the time for meaningful results hasn't arrived quite yet--for now let's reluctantly accept that there's nothing left to play for while acknowledging that there's at least some fun to be had, and that there's a platform to something better that exists in the motions we'll all be going through as the season comes to a close.

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