Liverpool isn’t a one-man team, as they have proven quite often by beating big teams like United and Chelsea without some of their main players, but why the sudden slump following Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres's injuries? Is it just their injuries that have affected the team, or does the cut run deeper than it actually looks?
Was Xabi Alonso’s transfer the breaking point? Steven Gerrard might think so. The skipper recently said that he was still “devastated” by the sale of Alonso to Real Madrid. He was quoted saying, “It will be a while before Alonso’s out of our system because he was such a top player. He was so good at protecting the central defenders and, going forward, he was one of the best passers I’ve ever played with.”
Since Alonso’s departure, Liverpool have lost six of their last eight games, their only victory being against the latest premier league champions Manchester United. His terrific play last season helped Liverpool to a remarkable finish in the Premier League, threatening to over throw United till the very end.
Without Alonso, the underrated playmaker, Liverpool’s rhythm appears upset and their confidence seemed to have faltered. The new first team additions by manager Rafael Benitez seems to be lacking the quality of Xabi Alonso, the defence abilities of Jamie Carragher, or the impeccable finish of Fernando Torres.
People tend to take things for granted until they are lost, and like Steven Gerrard says, “It was always going to be different when you lose one of the best players in the world—and people are finally realizing that’s what he [Alonso] is, on the back of his form for Real Madrid and the difference in us from last year.”
Alonso himself hasn’t been silent about Liverpool’s current downfall. He has talked of his sadness at his former teammates performing so disappointingly. It is obvious that Alonso still is up to date about his team and has a bond with some of the players.
In relation to their recent form he says, “They have had injuries, they've had some bizarre moments like the one at Sunderland [when Darren Bent's shot bounced off a stray beach ball and flew past Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina. Liverpool will always be in my mind. I keep in contact with my former team-mates, I look for their results and, whenever I can, I watch their games on TV."
Liverpool’s unfortunate run has also given a reason for fingers to be pointed at manager Rafael Benitez. Admittedly, certain decisions seen by the Spaniard may have left people puzzled and led them to ask for his exit, but Xabi Alonso thinks different. Despite the seemingly hostile relationship between the manager and player, Alonso took a stand for his former manager saying that he remains to be the right man for Liverpool.
“It is not the Liverpool way to sack a manager after a few bad results early in the season,” he said. “They have full confidence in him and he is the right man for the club. He’s a great manager and certainly one capable of managing the squad that he has right now. It would not be a good decision to change the manager.
"I still have great respect for Rafa and I am very grateful to him for the five great years I had at Liverpool. He knows the squad very well and is working with the team on a daily basis. Benítez knows how to turn things around.”
Benitez sticks by his decisions, including confusing substitutions and isn’t giving up hope. He says "We have come back before—and we can do it again. We now must be ready for the next match. I have confidence that we have the quality to overcome these problems.”
Without Alonso and Arbeloa, with all the injuries and what appears to be an incomplete line up, is an early exit from the Champions League next in line? Is Liverpool’s second place finish last season the closest Benitez will get to Premier League triumph?
According to Pepe Reina, things aren’t over. "We must show heart, passion and belief. If anyone can do this, Liverpool can."