First Liverpool were title contenders. Then they stumbled, but they were at least still top four favourites. Now they aren’t even that, having fallen to fifth just a point ahead of Manchester United. Having once been on pace to crack the 90-point barrier, based on their league form in their last ten games they’re heading for 68.
It’s a total that likely wouldn’t get Champions League football, and with Liverpool set to face Tottenham next while United face Watford, nobody would be massively surprised if they ended next weekend behind their rivals and out of the European places entirely. One unlikely pundit, though, is convinced there’s a happy ending.
“Liverpool had a period where they could pick the same side and had a week to prepare,” noted Sky talker Gary Neville, the former United defender pushing back against the growing narrative that Liverpool have thrown away their once-promising season and seeing a reason for hope while most see only reasons for doom.
“The minute that squad hit three games a week, with the way they play, was always going to hurt them,” he continued. “Liverpool will get stronger now they are out of the cups, they’re back to a period where they will have a week between games, and that is when they can get their energy up and become devastating.”
Aside from having to deploy Lucas in defence in place of the injured Dejan Lovren, Saturday saw Klopp’s first choice eleven fail. It’s worth noting, though, that it was the first time they had played together since before Liverpool embarked on their disastrous winter run. It may have been too much to expect an instant turnaround.
Everyone, though, saw what this current group’s best could look like back in the autumn. The past two months may have shown this squad to be too thin and fragile to make a legitimate title run, but the club’s best players, fit and in form and only having to play once a week, have proven themselves to be at least top four quality.
This Liverpool squad has its flaws and shortcomings, but at their best they can, as Neville notes, be devastating. Perhaps giving them more than a single week back together before calling time on the 2016-17 season would be prudent. As bad as the past two months have been, there’s still time to get the season back on track.