Inconsistent Liverpool Will Cost Themselves a European Challenge

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2013

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16:  Manager Brendan Rogers of Liverpool looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on March 16, 2013 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Liverpool's late season charge toward European qualification for next season took a hefty blow on Saturday as they fell to defeat against lowly Southampton, losing 3-1 against the relegation strugglers.

Having seen his team work extremely hard for a 3-2 victory against top-three side Tottenham Hotspur last week, manager Brendan Rodgers will be extremely disappointed that his team threw away the chance to continue their recent good run against a team who have been in desperate form themselves.

Though Southampton have certainly played very well at times under new manager Mauricio Pochettino, they have not been able to gain any sort of margin of victory for some time, winning just one of their last eight games before Saturday's game against the Reds.

Liverpool, on the other hand, had won their last three in the league, and four in all competitions.

Thoughts had begun to turn again, amongst the reckless and the optimistic, toward a dramatic bid for a top-five spot, or perhaps even beyond.

One weekend on, with victories for Arsenal and Everton and a defeat for Liverpool, those dreams have pretty much been extinguished once more.

While this was always going to be a transitional season for Liverpool, progress is also required year on year. In performances on the pitch, this has certainly been in evidence, but Rodgers really needs to find Liverpool a top-six finish to keep the majority of fans onside.

Otherwise he's really going to have to hit the ground running in 2013-14, and that after bringing in some quality additions during the summer.

For the remainder of this season, Liverpool have to keep playing to win every game with the aim of finishing in a top-five position, even if they don't ultimately attain it. Ending the season sixth, ahead of Everton, should really be the minimum requirement.

The continuing inconsistency of the team, though, is the only thing which will prevent the Reds from ending the campaign as the dominant team on Merseyside once more.

Everton are not a top-four side, and do not have a top-four squad, but show remarkable consistency to win games when it matters. That is what sees them up in sixth place at present, where they can realistically expect to challenge for judging by expenditure and recent history.

Liverpool, as a club, have to re-learn that complete consistency, by way of a professional and determined approach to every single game, is required to get themselves back in the upper reaches of the Premier League.

The energy, effort and emotions that went into the game one week ago against Tottenham Hotspur have been rendered meaningless just six days later by the sluggish, tepid and unresponsive defeat to Southampton.

Until the Reds get to grips with the most basic of requirements that is playing at the top of their game every week, qualifying for the Champions League will remain a tantalising prospect; close, attainable and possible, but ultimately out of reach.

Given their fixture run-in over the last eight games of the season, the only club who can really stop Liverpool finishing in the top five this season is themselves.