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Two Maddening Words: "What If?"

After Liverpool lost control of the EPL title race on Sunday, many fans have been running down the fixture list asking themselves what if Liverpool had won that match, or not given up that goal. That way madness lies.

Clive Brunskill

Yes, Sunday really did happen. You didn't dream it. You weren't hallucinating. It really did suck that much.

Well, that guy over there in the corner might have been hallucinating, but he's a different issue altogether. Let's just ignore him.

Liverpool's title run has just been turned on its head. It's painful and tough to deal with, and fans are understandably turning to anything they can to try and make themselves feel better or vent their frustrations.

One of the things that inevitably happen as a hoped for finish starts to slip away is to look at the list of fixture results and say "what if?" What if we had beaten this team? What if we had avoided this draw? What if that goal hadn't happened?

It's certainly an understandable instinct, especially when the league title is at stake. There's certainly some results that Liverpool have to wish they had back; the holiday losses to Manchester City and Chelsea, the home draw to Aston Villa, and the loss at Hull City all immediately spring to mind. Just an extra point or two from any one of those matches could be of massive importance at this point in the season.

The problem with that line of thinking is this: bad results happen. They're part of the game. They happen to every team. Perfect seasons just don't happen. Even the "Invincible" Arsenal squad drew a dozen matches, holding on for dear life on a number of occasions to avoid a loss. It's something that cannot be avoided during the course of a season, and in many ways that's part of the beauty of football.

It's also a street that goes both ways. For every bad break Liverpool has gotten this season, there's been a good one too. The late wins over Fulham and Swansea. The penalties at Old Trafford. Clawing back a late draw at Newcastle. Heck, any of those three 1-0 matches at the start of the season could have gone either way. If some of those poor results had gone the other way, you can bet some of the good ones would have flipped too, and we'd be sitting in the same boat, having the same conversation.

"What if" results certainly aren't unique to Liverpool this season. Just glancing at the schedules of Manchester City and Chelsea show half a dozen matches for each club that, with a little bit better luck, would have them sitting strongly atop the table. And you know what? Dollars get you donuts that their fans are sitting there playing the "what if" game too, to the same end result of just getting more frustrated than they were when they started.

Obsessing over past results does no one any good. If anything, it makes a stressful time even worse, because the scenarios for examination are endless.  At this point, all we can do is sit back, hold on, and hope for the best. To do much else is to invite madness, and I want no more of that.

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