Despite a long unbeaten streak in the Premier League late in 2014 and for the first two-plus months of 2015, it was clear that Liverpool needed more help up front. Raheem Sterling had taken up the mantle of lone striker as the club eked out close victories on the strength of an improved defensive effort, which was clearly a stopgap measure as they awaited the return of Daniel Sturridge from his lengthy layoff.
Welcoming the 25-year-old back into the side brought immediate returns, but it became clear as the days and weeks rolled on that the striker wasn't back to his best, and he struggled to shake off the rust until succumbing to another injury that may very well rule him out until the start of next season. Sturridge's supporting cast--Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, and Fabio Borini--have failed to match his effectiveness even in such limited minutes, which has cost Liverpool dearly this season.
A few days after noting that the club can't afford to rely on Sturridge as the main man up front, Brendan Rodgers once again highlighted the inability of his side to find the net, this time in the wake of a scoreless draw at West Brom:
"We just don't score as many goals - it's as simple as that. The players are giving the same effort, the same attitude and the skills they are transferring from last year are the same. We had two players last year who played in our front three who between them got 50-plus goals, and we don't have that. But as a team, the players are giving absolutely everything. You saw today that they gave everything; there was some really good bits of play, clever bits of invention around the box. It's just that final little piece.
"The numbers will tell you clearly in terms of our goals this year and comparison. This is the third season I've been here and they have grown each year I've been here. It's an area we'll look at in the summer and definitely one we have to do some work on. But I give credit to the players because they came out today after a difficult result and performance last week, and showed great confidence."
That's an oversimplification, of course, as Liverpool's early season struggles weren't entirely down to a lack of goals. Draws like today's, though, do underline the lack of threat going forward despite the talent, and the fault lies both with the players and the manager. Days like today indicated that neither personnel nor tactics are working with any great effect, with Balotelli working hard but once again not suited to the style of play Rodgers tried to implement as a lone striker.
There are certainly other areas in the squad that need to be addressed, with reinforcements or replacements throughout, but on days like today, it's impossible to ignore that Liverpool simply don't do enough in the final third to keep themselves in the running at the top end of the table.