For so long, it has been the technical inabilities of the likes of Emiliano Insua, Lucas, and David N’gog that Liverpool fans have been lamenting, but on Monday night against Wigan something much more serious was called into question.
Does Liverpool really have the fight to battle their way to fourth place?
Are players displaying the right attitude on the pitch?
Is there anybody taking responsibility?
For a club traditionally associated with their battling qualities, immense hard work, and unnerving determination to succeed, it comes as quite a shock for such doubts to be raised.
The current crop of Liverpool players should be thoroughly embarrassed at the way they performed on Monday.
Whether players have fallen out of love with Rafa Benitez or not, there is no excuse for a performance so lacking in commitment, leadership, and responsibility. Steven Gerrard probably played one of his worst games since turning professional, and his attitude is cause for serious concern for Liverpool fans at the moment. His head is constantly turned downwards and he shows few signs of encouragement to teammates.
It may sound strange, but Gerrard could learn from Chelsea captain John Terry.
In the face of enormous adversity, Terry has battled through non-handshakes, stinging criticism from all corners of the country and media derision to lead Chelsea to within two points of top spot in the Premier League, with a game in hand.
Terry has made technical mistakes in the past few weeks, but his immense leadership on the pitch has been obvious for all to see.
It may have angered many, but his celebration on Sunday after scoring against Stoke spoke of man committed to leading his club to silverware, no matter what it takes.
Gerrard must start to display such determination to the Liverpool cause.
Does he want to play Champions League football next season?
At the moment it would be hard to tell.
Of course, Gerrard is not the only underperforming Liverpool star. Though his recent injuries are partly accountable, Fernando Torres is yet to hit top form since returning. He has often been lethargic in possession in recent games, and continues to run into defenders and fall over far too often.
Dirk Kuyt is another who has performed poorly, particularly against Wigan on Monday when he gave the ball away consistently.
Fans accept that players will perform badly sometimes, but they can never tolerate a player giving below maximum effort. When Rafa Benitez said angrily that the attitude of his players on Monday night wasn’t right, Liverpool supporters really started to worry.
Everyone must take responsibility for guiding Liverpool to a Champions League spot, especially Gerrard. If Gerrard cares to tune in to Match of the Day on Saturday, he will see the commitment John Terry puts into captaining Chelsea.
If Gerrard then applies that against Portsmouth on Monday night, Liverpool may finally start to look like fourth-place favorites at last.