Sunderland vs. Liverpool: 7 Things We Learned
Nicklas Bendtner's somewhat fortunate strike means that Liverpool are adrift of fourth-place Chelsea by 10 points with just 11 league matches remaining.
Despite a Carling Cup win to add to Liverpool's trophy cabinet, Kenny Dalglish is a man increasingly under pressure.
Here are seven things we learned from Saturday's result.
Liverpool Are Still Lacking Goal Power
Liverpool have lacked goal-scoring ability all season long despite Andy Carroll improving slightly and Luis Suarez returning from his eight-game ban.
Liverpool struggled to carve out clear chances against the Black Cats and ultimately paid the price in a 1-0 defeat.
An attacking midfielder or two and a proven goal scorer are likely on the shopping list for the summer.
Sunderland Are a Strong Team
Despite not having the suspended Lee Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon available, Sunderland still put together a strong team that stood up to the task extremely well.
Their starting 11 should answer any critics' questions regarding their current squad depth, and they looked relatively comfortable dealing with Liverpool's attacks.
Steve Bruce essentially assembled the squad that Martin O'Neill has turned into a team capable of surpassing Liverpool in the league.
Liverpool are currently two points ahead with a game in hand.
Kenny Dalglish May Not Manage the Club Long-Term
Liverpool's achievement of winning the Carling Cup was fantastic.
Winning any competition in the modern age is extremely difficult, and Liverpool overcame some tough matches to get their hands on the trophy.
Despite the new silverware in the Anfield trophy room, Kenny Dalglish hasn't managed to get the Liverpool team performing to the same level in the league, which has begun to divide support somewhat.
Many feel that the Kop icon is outdated in his methods and tactics, while others think that Dalglish and Comolli's purchases in the summer were poor.
Others, of course, just believe that rebuilding Liverpool would always take time and that the Scottish manager needs at least another season.
Dalglish will definitely be given more time than most.
The Champions League Dream Is over for Liverpool
If you didn't believe the Champions League dream for Liverpool had expired with the defeat against Arsenal, then the Sunderland result surely has put the final nail in the coffin.
Liverpool now find themselves 13 points behind fourth-place Arsenal and 10 points behind fifth-place Chelsea.
With just 11 games to go, the points deficit looks too much to make up.
Liverpool have already ensured a place in the Europa League next season by winning the Carling Cup.
The Purchased Players Haven't Done Enough
The Dalglish and Comolli signings for Liverpool haven't performed well enough for the club aside from the Spaniard Jose Enrique.
Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and January 2011 signing Andy Carroll have all disappointed, while youngster Jordan Henderson could perhaps be given a reprieve due to his age.
Three-quarters of a season is long enough to establish understanding and form, but that hasn't been the case for the so-called "new" players.
Their inability to pick the lock of a weakened Sunderland team has further highlighted their failures.
Summer Will Be Critical
The result against Sunderland might not have been unexpected by some camps in the Liverpool sector, but one thing is for sure: Summer spending will be examined through a microscope.
Having failed to address the balance of Liverpool against Manchester United's league standing this season, the Liverpool faithful will put even more pressure on the summer 2012 signings.
Nicklas Bendtner Might Be Decent After All
Nicklas Bendtner has proclaimed all along that he could be the best striker in the world, and that statement is far from accurate, as I'm sure most people would agree.
Since signing for Sunderland, though, Bendtner has performed impressively and has gone a long way to silencing the critics who claimed he wasn't Premier League material.
He's now doing a decent job for the Black Cats.
You could argue that some of these points were known before the Sunderland vs. Liverpool match, but if nothing else, they highlight the concerns being voiced by fans and critics alike.
The Carling Cup victory was a great morale boost for the club, but it brings practically no monetary reward to a Premier League team.
In the 2010-2011 season, the Carling Cup prize money was £100,000—a figure that wouldn't pay for Steven Gerrard's weekly wages.
If Liverpool are hoping to attract new players on the strength of winning trophies, they may just struggle.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out Liverpool's Future: 10 Steps to Ensuring Champions League Qualification, and 10 Most Hilarious Footballer Names of All Time.
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