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Everything's the Worst: Santa's Jaws Edition

You better watch out, you better not cry, top four's in doubt, I'm telling you why, Santa Claus ain't coming to town.

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This is pretty impressive considering Santa Claus doesn't exist.
This is pretty impressive considering Santa Claus doesn't exist.
Paul Kane/Getty Images

Welcome. For anyone who is confused about the column, here's an early Christmas present for you. "Everything's the Worst" is the name of the column, not the spirit of the blasted thing. It does not mean that negativity, criticism whether justified or otherwise, glorious rambling, foul offerings, verbosity, and educating unwelcome whelps about the objective truth in this corner of the universe are is the only "way of working" in these irksome paragraphs. Sometimes this will be the approach taken but it could be to spark debate, let off steam, or provide an alternative point of view with a convenient disguise or cloak for a cowardly writer. It may be personal or simply assess recent events or trends. Speculation on its nature is unwarranted, especially when there are far more pertinent matters that demand a somewhat discerning eye with 2015 less than a week away.

Will Liverpool use the spirit of Christmas to ignite their season on Boxing Day and find strength from the remnants of the month to spur the side in the second half of the season? The answer to that would be the same to questions about whether someone should sit right next to you on public transport when there appear to be countless seats that are not beside you, or if you should maintain friendship with those who wouldn't know you had perished if a decade had passed.

ETW knows when you're sleeping, knows when you're awake, doesn't care if you've been bad or good, so accept your miserable fate. Does it matter who's been naughty or nice so far this season? Manchester United may not have been playing well but the statistics indicate that they've been the third best team in the league so far this season. Third in the league, third in games won, third in fewest games lost, and third in most goals scored. They're ten points ahead of Liverpool, Ángel Di María is back, injured players are returning, and there'll be a lot of money to spend in the January transfer window.

Wait! Sturridge is coming back and Balotelli hasn't got going yet. Consider that harbinger of exaggerated doom, consider that. Yet Radamel Falcao hasn't done too much in the league but has still recorded two goals along with two assists. How many injuries have Manchester United suffered in comparison to Liverpool? What of Arsenal with key players missing such as Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Özil (he'll benefit from quicker players around him), and Laurent Koscielny? If only Southampton had Jay Rodriguez available when Graziano Pelle was struggling in the recent run of four straight defeats. Then there are key midfield absentees of late including Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama, and Jack Cork. West Ham, under a hierarchy that demanded the manager remedy a problem in attack by hiring an attacking coach, were without the dangerous Andy Carroll for large parts of the season to date. Maybe his return from injury earlier would have propelled the London side to even greater heights.

If only we had taken points in previous games lamented Manchester United Liverpool Arsenal fans, we'd be in the top four or challenging for the title. Brendan Rodgers and scores of Liverpool fans can make all the excuses they like about missing Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. When a Premier League manager has benefited from over a £100 million (forget about Tottenham's negative net spend last summer Brendan) in one window dedicated to bringing players in, he's got to challenge for the title right? Right? Only Rodgers would point to Arsène Wenger's status in the game and use the tiresome "if it was a foreign coach" routine to defend his own methods in the same sittingAre we a one-man/two-man team Brendan or aren't we?

Why the gratuitous helpings despondency now? It's Christmas ETW, think of fledging rapscallions mired in misfortune and don't forget the recent performances. Ah yes, those stirring performances since the definitive attacking display against Tottenham in August. Liverpool fans will probably point to that Liverpool performance at White Hart Lane in March as where Liverpool need to "get back to" after another disappointing result. Manchester United won three nil, Liverpool should have conceded at least two goals against Bournemouth and failed to beat Arsenal when the London side were dominated in a way that hasn't been witnessed for years. Six goals conceded in three games, five goals scored, and only victory against a Championship side to show for these purported improvements.

It is hard to be impressed when Liverpool won just one league game from four last month and failed to win a game in the Champions League, and this month, have done exactly the same, but beat Bournemouth. Performances. Did you watch the game? Did you take a look at the improvements being made? Indeed, Liverpool made improvements with three at the back but still conceded goals so easily. The side cannot withstand any attacking pressure and Brendan Rodgers doesn't appear to have a defensive plan or a favoured formation. What exactly is his philosophy? Forget about what we saw Swansea City. The style in the second half of the first season was different from the first half, and that continued last season as Liverpool became even more of a counter attacking side that possessed an ability to keep the ball. What is the style? What's the formation or defensive framework? Three or four at the back? A single or double pivot? The only discernible element of Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool side since 2012 has been to attack a lot and concede a lot.

Poll: Who was annoyed during the summer when it seemed anyone who looked at Liverpool's transfer business observed that Liverpool were "doing a Tottenham" without any sarcasm? Hands up please. Last season, Tottenham were seventh after 17 games and recovered after a White Hart Lane hammering by Liverpool in game 16 to win the next game away to Southampton. André Villas-Boas collected 27 points after 15 games, but was sacked after that Liverpool performance at White Hart Lane. Tottenham had won nine games compared to Liverpool's six and lost two fewer games than Brendan Rodgers' side, remaining in touch with the top four instead of languishing nine points behind West Ham United in fourth. When West Ham are fourth and Southampton are fifth (still seven points ahead even after losing four games in a row), there's no excuse. Other sides may not compare favourably with AVB's record after 15 games, but they're ahead of us in the league.

With the exception of Chelsea and Manchester City, this is the season of unbridled mediocrity among the so-called premium set of clubs in the Premier League. Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, and Manchester United haven't looked very good. We may be behind but we're just part of this crazy narrative this season where none of the team expected to have some degree of reasonable designs on a top four spot is convincing. Which of these sides scored over 100 goals, had a positive goal difference of over half a century, and finished second in the league? Answers on a post card without reference to the hipster's favourite German manager who has won two Bundesliga titles in successive years, secured the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double in the second of those years, steered his side to a Champions League final when he won nothing last year, and secured qualification from the Champions League group stages this season in first spot. Please do not cite that individual as he's won enough and shown enough to really be given time, relegation zone or twilight zone. Also, he says stuff like this after yet another defeat and just before the winter break too:

That we stand here like complete idiots serves us right. We now have three weeks of preparations ahead of us which we will use intensively to come back a different team and hit back. Any criticism that will be unloaded on us now is completely justified. It was a reflection of our season so far. We did not do it well in the first half. The good news is that the year is over.

Not every manager is the same and there are different ways of working. The question for Brendan Rodgers is what will it take for Liverpool to reach the top four and can he achieve this with current personnel? Two points per game is solid form and over the course of 38 games, a side will finish on 76 points. Since 1999/2000, with the exception of last season's 79 point haul from Arsenal in fourth, an average of 2 points per game will enable a side to finish in the top four. Even with the mediocrity awash in the Premier League and a probable reduced points target to finish fourth, Liverpool achieving 2 ppg would be a drastic improvement over the current approximation of 1.3 ppg. That would give Liverpool 42 points over the remaining 21 league games for a grand total of 64 blessed points. Thank you Satan, I mean Santa, I mean you're so corporate anyway Santa-Claws-in-our-pockets. 64 points would be only three better than Rodgers' first season as Liverpool manager. Where do you think that would put Liverpool with some creative thinking, nifty calculations, and hefty slices of conjecture? Probably sixth or seventh, a dreamer could propose fifth, but surely outside the top four.

Well, this isn't in the spirit of merriment and goodwill. There are critics of Brendan Rodgers who may have enjoyed feasting throughout this senseless diatribe, stuffed with all manner of wretched delicacies designed to dampen spirits. Here's something extra for all of you: there's still time. Time to improve, go on a little run of three or four games to pull the club closer to pack of in and around the top four, and for Brendan Rodgers to show he has got what it takes to guide Liverpool in the right direction. However, do not be fooled by those screeching for patience, for three full seasons as Liverpool manager is not a case of FSG or any chairman failing to give someone time to show what they can do. One could point out that a true steward could steer this club with the players available to the Champions League through either the Europa League or Premier League. One could accursed reader, not that one would ever do such a thing.

The land of milk and honey is stability and sustainability for Liverpool, FSG, and any manager involved. The plan was for regular Champions League football to be secured once Liverpool found a way back, and perhaps the transfer committee must be called to answer if inevitable failure is ... inevitable. Ensure that you do not succumb to beguilement by flickers of a dying light-bulb or strained whispers of supposed affection. Not a single soul is desirous of withdrawing their word of support in the nakedness of other opinions and look the fool, but who wishes to smile in a boat sinking toward the deep only to remember to frown when the sky can no longer be perceived by human eyes straining in a mass of salt water?

The great Baltasar Gracián often left the most prudent words to help one in these uncertain times.

Recognize when things are ripe, and know how to enjoy them. The works of nature all reach a certain point of maturity — up to then they improve, then they degenerate. Few works of art reach such a point that they cannot be improved. It is a special privilege of good taste to enjoy everything at its ripest. Not everyone can do this, nor do all who can know how. There is a ripening point too for fruits of intellect, but it is important to know ho to recognize in order to both value it and use it.

Fare thee poorly reader and for those who are still with us at the end of this most unworthy benefaction, do not forget that when things are truly sour, it is important to cast them out before further irritation ensues. To do otherwise would be tantamount to harming one's self, and who on earth would want to do that?

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