Remember before United came to Anfield and the possibility of a failed season was just cynicism flying in the face of upwardly trending reality? We're one fixture on from those feelings and a loss at the Emirates would thoroughly deflate any remaining Champions League idealism for the Reds. Yuck.
Nearly two weeks, two suspensions, three injuries, a Dreemtastrophe, some charity, and a plethora of half hearted international fixtures later, and we're still just trying to extract the poison left behind from the North-West Derby loss at Anfield.
Most poisonous, of course, was the half minute red card performance from the legendary Red. Thanks for that. People are suggesting Gerrard's head may already be in the MLS, but that's only because his feet remain firmly implanted in Ander Herrera and Juan Mata. The way Stevie green light that poorly thought out, over funded sequel about an explosive catastrophe had Michael Bay apoplectic to work together on the next Transformers installment.
Without Stevie the Reds remain outside the top 4, and now it's Arsenal - no margin for error. Liverpool need this win to keep this carefully mapped out project smoothly ticking over, never mind the season. Brendan Rodgers' charges need to go full not fuckin around crew from here on out. The good news is Liverpool have done this before. Under Rodgers, this very year, actually.
The tactical shift that saved this season was extreme in its impact, but the initial decision was fairly conservative: embrace squad strengths and knuckle down. Three at the back enabled a mercurial RCB, reintroduced a shielding DM, paid for tickets to a Lazar show, unsheathed a Unicorn, loved a Mama, found a New Captain, and most importantly it sat Dejan and Rickie the fuck down (no offense, Rickie). So, with things going a bit Apocalypse Now: Redux all of a sudden, we suggest another drastic-yet-obvious move that could come up aces: Super Mario Balotelli.
No, go ahead. Finish rolling your eyes, we'll wait...
Mario Balotelli. This guy. The guy who does these. And some of those. Been known to partake in a little of this right here. And never leaves home without that. To start with, we aren't suggesting that Balo is going to come through these two months by re-inventing Rodgers' wheel. Liverpool will absolutely need to dance with the ones who brought them to this point.
The attack will need Sterling to do Sterling things. Can is going to need to dump that cement from his boots. We'll need sex from Phil. Lucas is going to need to stay healthy. Sakho is going to need to stay healthy. Joe Allen is going to - you know what, lets just call it a solid run of health all around, shall we? This foundation will need to remain if it is to be embellished at the margins.
The core of the fifth placed team in the Barclays Premier League is as it has been all year. That group will need to redouble efforts, but at least it will not need to create something completely new. There is hope of walking through this particular storm - that's the given. Yet season defining moments, and the ones we now need to go our way, often occur at the margins. It's time for some unexpected ones to step forward.
Who in Red will ever forget the eminently forgettable Kiko The Kid? All limbs, hair gel, and hype, but the lad gave The Dark Lord Ferg a necessary half percent, did he not? Crossing sports, it took a revenge title tilt for the San Antonio Spurs to wipe away the memory of Jesus Shuttlesworth hitting that corner 3 in Game 7. Henrik Larsson was conducting a vintage career swansong when his gorgeous assists turned the 2006 Champions League final for Barcelona against Arsenal. Steve Bartman making that incredible catch for the Florida Marlins. Steve Kerr's entire career. Margins!
The point is: Mario Balotelli is a margin for the 2014/15 Liverpool team. Before this point in the season, all that has meant is he's been marginalized, going from potential stud to bit part role player. But now is when role players get to deliver their lines. And Balo isn't marginalized because he doesn't have the chops, or because he's in the rehab room - its just been such an awkward fit hitherto.
The rub is it may still be an awkward fit heretofore. Yes, Liverpool may send his glorious mohawk on its mischievous way in the summer. But so long as he is fit, in Red, and a sublimely gifted footballer, then Liverpool need to come to a realization: there is neither time left in the season, nor options left to burn through to be continually eschewing this much striking skill.
Liverpool need to secure Champions League qualification and all of the unique institutional ramifications that come with it. With the lack of firepower being what it is, the only realistic way to do so is by Rodgers wringing absolutely everything he can out of the squad during this run in. We still quibble with how the Gaffer has gone about failing to extract everything out of the Italian this season. But past transgressions are easily forgiven in the face of some well timed Mario magic. Do it, Brenny. Stop worrying about why it's always him and embrace the fact that it is always him. Just ask Manchester City whether it's worth it.