Liverpool FC's defeat of Fulham this Wednesday is being hailed as a turning point in the Merseyside men's 2010-11 campaign. Two wins in a row! Eureka! Dalglish is brilliant as ever! The game also saw the supposedly triumphant return of Steven Gerrard, certainly one of the best midfielders of his generation. Yet Liverpool didn’t as much beat Fulham as it did stand by and watch Fulham beat itself.
The 1-0 decision on Wednesday came down to Fulham right back John Pantsil’s own goal, a botched attempt to clear a Torres strike rebounding from the post. Had Pantsil not miscalculated his kick, it seems unlikely that Liverpool would have come away with the win.
Despite a spirited 3-0 thumping of Wolverhampton four days earlier, the Merseyside men lacked drive, clarity and cohesion against Fulham. They were a far cry from Dalglish’s ’86 side, which thrashed Fulham 10-0 in that season.
After the match, Gerrard, whose return was nothing short of dull, was quoted as saying: “Seventh's not acceptable at this club.” Certainly a bold statement, and considering the history of Liverpool FC, there’s some truth to it.
What Gerrard failed to realize—and what many have trouble coming to terms with—is that the current Liverpool side, and “the club” as a historical, cultural and financial entity, are far from the same thing.
Regardless of what is and isn’t acceptable for Liverpool FC as a club, the current Liverpool team is lucky to be in contention for a place in Europe next year. Were it not for a handful of truly terrible teams—Wigan, Wolves, Villa before the arrival of Bent—and a number of others that are struggling significantly—West Ham, Birmingham, West Brom, Fulham, Everton—Liverpool would be sitting much lower in the EPL table than it currently is.
Aside from the spirited attempts of Torres, Meireles and Škrte, an occasional burst of brilliance from Gerrard and genuinely fine play from Carragher before his injury, the Liverpool of the 2010-11 EPL season is a shambolic side. The idea of blaming Roy Hodgson for the sub-par performances of his players, especially in light of their continued under-performance under Daglish, is absurd. Liverpool is simply not that good a team.
Case in point: a side with one of the best strikers in Europe—Torres—and two world-class midfielders—Gerrard and Mereiles—can only beat a squad struggling to avoid relegation through the fateful gift of an own goal.
Were it not for the valiant efforts of Fulham’s impressively in-form American midfielder Clint Dempsey, Fulham would undoubtedly be in the thick of the relegation herd. A team with players as talented as Liverpool's shouldn't struggle to defeat a side like Fulham, but there it is. The only logical conclusion is this: the Merseyside squad is less than the sum of its parts. Significantly less.
Some indirect attempts to acknowledge this deficiency have been made on the part of the Liverpool FC organization—rumors connecting them with Charlie Adam, Dempsey and Uruguayan goal machine Luis Suárez are abundant during this transfer window. Such a transfer is surely a bold step in the right direction.
Ultimately, King Kenny can’t be blamed for Liverpool’s losses, but can he really take the credit for their back-to-back wins? Gerrard may declare that seventh isn’t good enough until he’s blue in the face, but if Liverpool want better, they’ll have to earn it. Nothing is given in the EPL, especially in a league stacked with young, impressive sides like Arsenal and Totteham.