Any last, faint hopes Liverpool might have had of making the top four are dead. Finishing seventh and, depending on the result of the FA Cup final, either missing out on Europe entirely or being forced to enter the Europa League early in the qualifying stages, is now somewhere between conceivable and, given Liverpool’s current dire form, likely.
Liverpool need five more points for Brendan Rodgers just to match the total that saw Rafa Benitez—who had a far more impressive resume, had won more with the club, and had received no support from owners who were amongst the worst in the game—fired for finishing seventh in 2010. At times against Hull City, it appeared the players had given up on the season and were just going through the motions.
"It was very disappointing because we set high expectations and expected to win coming here," said a deflated Jordan Henderson following the match. Liverpool, though, didn’t look like a side expecting to win. Mostly what they looked like was a side wishing the season was over. And with the way things have turned out following last season’s title challenge, it’s fair to say a lot of fans feel the same way.
"We knew Hull would make it difficult," he said. "They’re fighting for their lives and they did. It was similar to the West Brom game where they were sitting in and making it hard to break through, and unfortunately we couldn’t. We had a couple of good chances to go ahead or to get back in it and we couldn’t take them. We need to be better in that sense, and we also need to make sure we’re not conceding sloppy goals."
Even with a win, the top four appeared out of reach. Victory over Hull City would have put Liverpool four points back of Manchester United, but goal differential would have given any tie on points to Louis van Gaal’s side. Now, they’re seven points back with four to go, and the goal differential means they would need to do eight better than United to finish in the top four.
Looked at from the other direction, five points for United puts the top four mathematically out of reach. And that’s assuming Liverpool don’t drop any themselves—something that on current form few would bet on. Hull may have made it difficult, but Liverpool didn’t exactly look like a side expecting to win. Often they didn’t even look a side that cared if they won.
"We’ve just got to move on as quickly as possible to the next game, which is QPR at home, and hopefully just try to win every game from now until the end of the season and see where we are," added Henderson. It’s clear where Liverpool are, though—and where they won’t be. Trying to pretend there’s much of anything left to play for isn’t going to change that.