Whatever way you look at it, the 2009-10 season for Liverpool has been a disappointment.
Following the excellent campaign last year which saw Liverpool amass a club record amount of Premier League points on their way to finish second, many fans, pundits, and professionals tipped the Merseyside club to go one better this season and finally win the league title once again.
It won't happen. At the time of writing, Liverpool find themselves in a battle not for the title, but for fourth place.
Having lost just twice throughout last season, Rafa Benitez's men have tasted defeat on eight occasions already in the current campaign.
Couple this with early exits from the FA Cup, Carling Cup, and the Champions League, and the word "disappointing" begins to look like an understatement of epic proportions.
In this slideshow, I will look at the five main reasons why Liverpool's supposed dream season has turned into such a nightmare.
The common consensus among Liverpool fans was that a couple of good signings in the right positions would elevate the club onto the next level. They would finally give them what they needed to end the 20 years of hurt.
But the signings have not worked out as planned.
The biggest blow, as has been well documented, was the departure of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid's "Galacticos". The Basque play-maker was a key member of the side, and provided that vital link between defence and attack.
Mascherano would win the ball, give it to Alonso, who would give it to Gerrard or Torres who would score. That was the plan.
Since his departure, however, that link has been missing. Alberto Aquilani was brought in to fill the substantial void, but while he recovered from his injury, Liverpool's form dipped.
Lucas Leiva was Alonso's stand-in, and the much maligned Brazilian was simply not good enough. He doesn't deserve much of the criticism he has received, but he can't distribute the ball the same way Alonso could.
This meant he had to take on Mascherano's mantle instead, winning the ball. While he did this well, it wasn't the same world-class level Mascherano was operating at.
Instead, Masch was forced to play the Alonso role, distributing the ball, which didn't play to the Argentinian's strengths. The result was a midfield far short of last season's.
Aquilani finally returned, but he is still yet to shine in a Liverpool shirt. I recently traveled to Anfield to watch Liverpool play Bolton, and Aquilani's performance was one of the worst I have ever seen live.
This signing has made the most headlines, but two others have been important too. Alvaro Arbeloa followed Alonso to Madrid for a knock-down price. His replacement, Glen Johnson, was largely seen as an upgrade.
In the opening weeks, it seemed that way, as Johnson provided the width and attacking prowess Kuyt, as an unatural winger, didn't.
But recently Johnson has been dogged by injuries, and with only Degen as a first team back-up, it has had an impact on the team.
Jamie Carragher has often had to move from his favoured centre-back role to counter this, which inevitably weakens the core of the side.
When fit, there is no doubt Johnson is a top player, but his injuries hurt the team. Arbeloa, on the other hand, was as solid a right-back as there is. He rarely got injured, and always put in a decent performance.
Selling him, coupled with Johnson's injury woes, has had an unforeseeable effect on the team.
Sami Hyypia's move to Bayer Leverkusen has also had a negative impact on the club. The big Finn was a legend at Anfield and his experience was invaluable.
He provided vital depth and, when called upon, you knew he had the quality to deliver. He may not have been the fastest, but there were few wiser heads in the league.
With Carragher spending most of his time at right-back, Hyypia could have been instrumental in steadying the ship.
The transfer dealings made by Liverpool in the close season directly affect the next slide...
Liverpool have a first XI that can challenge anyone in the world. But teams don't win titles, squads do, which is why Manchester United have been so successful recently.
It used to be the case that just 14 players would be used in an entire season by a club. Now, 14 players are used in most matches.
The depth of a squad, therefore, is massively important.
As I have already said, Liverpool's first team is as good as anyone's.
With four world class players (by that I mean among the world's elite in their respective positions) in Reina, Mascherano, Gerrard, and Torres accompanying the likes of Carragher, Johnson, and Kuyt, very few teams can cope with Benitez's men.
In fact, Liverpool have as many world class players as Chelsea and more than both Manchester United and Arsenal.
Chesea boast Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba, while United just have Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney in that bracket. Ferdinand and Vidic made have made the list last season, but this term has been a disappointment for the two centre-backs.
Arsenal have Cesc Fabregas and Andrei Arshavin as their world-class players. Yet all of these clubs, even Arsene Wenger's youngsters, have stronger depth than Liverpool.
If Chelsea lose Drogba they can replace him with Anelka. If United lose Rooney they can replace him with the £30m Berbatov. If Arsenal lose Arshavin they can replace him with Rosicky.
But if Liverpool lose Torres, they replace him with David N'Gog. If they lose Gerrard, they replace him with Benayoun who, while being more than capable, is a long way from the Liverpool skipper in terms of quality.
Liverpool's first choice side is among the best in the world, but it's second choice is light years behind it. This not only seriously affects the team when a new man has to come in, but it ensures the competition for places isn't as ferocious as it perhaps should be.
The lack of depth is highlighted by another factor, however...
I will be the first to admit that Liverpool have had their fair share of luck in the past, but this season it seems to have completely deserted them.
One-off incidents such as Darren Bent's infamous beach-ball goal are examples of such bad fortune, but they are individual, freakish circumstances. Liverpool's bad luck has been running a lot deeper all season.
One aspect that has plagued Benitez's men this campaign is the late goal. It was such a good friend last year, saving the side on many occasions, but now it is doing the opposite.
Reading's late equaliser and subsequent extra-time winner dumped the club out of the FA Cup, and those goals certainly weren't isolated incidents.
Another factor related to luck that has hurt Liverpool's season is injuries. I have already spoken about the injuries to Glen Johnson, but other players, such as Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger have also suffered this season, which has resulted in an unsettled backline.
Some injuries can't be put down to bad luck. Aquilani was signed in the knowledge he would be out for the start of the season, and that should have been taken into consideration.
Injuries are not, of course, exclusive to Liverpool, but the absence of captain Steven Gerrard for extended periods of times have had a bigger affect on the side than others.
Perhaps the player worst hit, however, has been Fernando Torres. Rarely has Liverpool's number nine been fit enough to take to the field and, when he has played, he hasn't been at 100 percent.
The fact the he hasn't had a rest for almost three years now (Euro 2008 and Confederations Cup in the past two summers, with the World Cup this one) is beginning to show.
Every team has their fair share of bad luck throughout the course of a season, but most managers will tell you that it evens itself out by the end. For Liverpool, a lot of good luck is needed from now on to ensure that.
The overriding story of the 2009-10 season so far has been the improvement of the "chasing pack."
While the big four have dropped far more points than usual, the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham, and Aston Villa have pushed harder than ever to pressure the established big boys.
These improvements have come for a number of different reasons.
Man City's are well documented. The multi-millions spent during the summer on Emmaunel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, and Gareth Barry, to name just three, have improved their squad considerably.
So much so that the departure of a player the quality of Robinho has gone almost unnoticed in terms of performances.
Add to this the appointment of Roberto Mancini in place of Mark Hughes, and a team consisting of many world-class players have a world-class manager to lead them.
Harry Redknapp may not be in the same category, but the wily veteran has built up an impressive squad at White Hart Lane.
With the speed of Jermain Defoe coupled with the height of Peter Crouch and, until recently, the all-round skill of Robbie Keane, Tottenham's frontline is among the best in the league.
Even after Keane's departure, Roman Pavlyuchenko and the recent addition of Eidur Gudjohnsen provide quality depth.
Behind them is a superb midfield consisting of any four from Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric, Jermaine Jenas, Tom Huddlestone, Wilson Palacios, Niko Kranjcar, and David Bentley.
Aston Villa also have a very capable manager and an exciting team. Martin O'Neill has done brilliantly in assembling and nurturing many young, English players.
James Milner, Ashley Young, and Gabriel Agbonlahor all provide free-flowing football that, at times, is among the best in the country.
With these contenders breathing down Liverpool's neck, fourth place doesn't seem so easy to obtain, despite the promise from this man...
Liverpool fans are world-famous for their unyielding support, but this season seems to have divided them into two camps. The "In Rafa We Trust" brigade and the "Anti-Rafa" group.
I refuse to be categorised as such, but should someone choose to do so, I'm sure I'd be placed in the former.
I think Benitez is still the right man for Liverpool. However, that doesn't absolve him of blame for Liverpool's less-than-stellar season thus far.
In fact, you could argue that most of the reasons I have outlined in this slideshow are down to Benitez. He made sure he had control of transfer dealings, so when they don't work out, he should be held responsible.
Xabi Alonso's departure may well have been a direct result of Rafa looking to get rid of him the season before.
The lack of depth, again, is a problem created by Benitez's signings. The likes of David N'Gog are not good enough to stand in for Fernando Torres. The Frenchman is fast improving, but the gulf in class between him and "El Nino" is monumental.
In terms of injuries, blaming Benitez would be perhaps a step too far, but he signed Aquilani in the knowledge he was injured, and that hurt the team.
The improvement of the challengers aren't directly affecting Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal as much as they are Liverpool which, after a second place finish last season, shouldn't be the case.
But for every finger pointed at the dugout, twice as many could be pointed at the boardroom. Many of Benitez's decision that have led to the poor performance this season have been because his hands are tied.
He has had to sell to buy.
In order to get another top quality player, he needs to sell one of his existing world-class players. You don't need to be a genius to figure out that is no recipe for improvement.
Benitez has made mistakes, I don't think you'll find a single fan who would deny that, but the good he has done for the club far outweighs that.
Six months of below par performances shouldn't undo six years of improvement.
For once, I am actually thankful that our owners have no money as otherwise I'm sure Benitez would have been sacked by now, which would have set the club back years.