Early Doors

Liverpool: The most consistent team in the land

The College of Cardinals might want to get on the phone to Steve Clarke and Ben Foster and check their Papal eligibility because how they somehow manufactured a victory for West Brom at Anfield last night was nothing short of miracle.

After withstanding a barrage of pressure and with Foster superb between the sticks, West Brom finally managed an attempt on goal in the 80th minute that was deflected away for the corner which eventually gave them their opening goal and set them up for an unlikely win.

Early Doors hasn't seen smash-and-grab stuff like this since the London riots, but you also couldn't say that Liverpool were unlucky to drop another three points in their stop-start campaign – they fell apart mentally and tactically in the final 15 minutes of the game and ultimately paid the price for their own wastefulness.

Brendan Rodgers again said 'he couldn’t fault' his players after the defeat but the Northern Irishman is starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to assessing his own team.

Encouraging performances in their previous two matches against Arsenal and Manchester City yielded only two points and Rodgers again was heard talking about how his team 'deserved more' from those games.

Bemoaning a lack of luck has some credence when taken in isolation, but the season is now 26 matches old and it is time for Liverpool, and Rodgers, to accept that they are what they are – a slightly above average team that still needs massive surgery if they are to return to the Premier League's top table.

On a quick glance you might say that Liverpool have been wildly inconsistent this season, but have a closer inspection and you will see that they are probably the most consistent team in the Premier League.

The most remarkable statistic of their campaign comes when you look at their record against other teams in the top half of the table.

Played 14, drew seven, lost seven, won zero. That's right: ZERO.

When you play 14 matches against the teams around and above you and can't win a single one, you lose any credibility when you try and argue that you are still one of the country's top teams, as Rodgers often does.

Sure Liverpool might have been unlucky in one or two of those games against the top sides, but all 14? You're living in a fantasy world.

However, Liverpool are still in the top half of the table, so they must be doing something right. And they are: that is, beating the teams they should be beating – teams that lie in the bottom half of the table.

Against such teams they have won seven of their last eight, scoring 23 goals in the process and conceding just five.

They beat the teams below them and fail to beat those above them– they are meeting statistical, if not historical, expectations on a weekly basis.

Of course, for a club like Liverpool, such mediocrity is not good enough and their fans' assessment of the Rodgers 'project' at Anfield seems to excessively meander between extreme optimism to over-the-top panic depending on what the latest eyeball test has offered up.

You just have to look at the comments on this website after Liverpool matches to see that. Last week's fine performance at Manchester City suggested everything was on track, now this defeat has fans calling for Rodgers' head.

Ultimately, though, the results of the Rodgers experiment at Anfield remains inconclusive and the best way for Reds fans to judge this campaign is to write it off as one big long pre-season in preparation for future battles.

There have been signs of encouragement this season but there is no doubt the side needs to stop making excuses and start toughening up.

Yes, they might have played well in recent games against Arsenal and Manchester City, but they also conceded leads in those games. At the Emirates they were 2-0 up, but once Arsenal got one, a second swiftly followed.

Their mental fragility was on display last night too. After Gerrard missed their penalty you could just sense a state of deflation in the Anfield air as the players carried a 'it's just not going to be our night' look of resignation about them.

Pretty-to-watch signings like Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho are all well and good and fit into Rodgers' 'philosophy' but Liverpool don't have the mean streak that all the great Premier League sides have had.

Rodgers needs to stop making excuses, stop bemoaning bad luck, and start filling his dressing room with characters who are willing to take responsibility for their performances, both good and bad.

Only then will Liverpool have a chance of being consistently good again – as opposed to what they are now: consistently average.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I came to be a champion with the club" - is that some casual trolling from Andre Santos after Arsenal shipped the misfit left-back out on loan to Gremio? Stay optimistic Arsenal fans - your eight-year trophy drought has corresponded with Pope Benedict's eight years in charge at the Vatican. New Pope, new hope, and certainly not having players like Andre Santos at the club, seems like a step in the right direction.


FOREIGN VIEW: Relegation-threatened Deportivo La Coruna slipped deeper into crisis when coach Domingos Paciencia quit after only six games in charge and was replaced by Fernando Vazquez. Depor have fallen a long way since winning La Liga in 2000 and blazing a trail in Europe and are one of many Spanish clubs who have been forced into administration due to crippling debts.


COMING UP: One thing you can guarantee at Celtic Park tonight is plenty of noise as Celtic take on Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League. We will, of course, have live comments on that clash, plus Valencia's first-leg with Paris Saint-Germain in the night's other game; meanwhile, Paul Parker will be along this afternoon to give his thoughts on this week's Champions League fixtures.