Liverpool's flop forwards lack firepower
Reds set to miss out on top four and their four forward flops are the main culprits
Last season, Liverpool's forward line struck fear into the heart of every opponent.
Both their strikers finished in the top two of the English Premier League top-scorers' list - Luis Suarez with 31 goals and Daniel Sturridge with 21.
What a difference a year makes.
The Reds' forward flops have come under fire all season, and the full extent of their failure is becoming clearer as their disappointing campaign draws to a close.
One embarrassing statistic stands out.
Liverpool's four strikers don't even measure up to Chelsea's back four in the final third of the field.
So appalling have they been that Sturridge, Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini have combined for fewer goals and assists than Chelsea's back four.
In all, Liverpool's quartet have contributed a meagre eight league goals and three assists, compared with the 10 league goals and eight assists chalked up by the Blues' first-choice backline of Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill.
And Chelsea further underlined the difference yesterday morning (Singapore time), when Terry opened the scoring in the meeting between the two teams at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool had to count on ageing midfielder and skipper Steven Gerrard, who notched his eighth goal of the season in the 1-1 draw to move clear of the club's top-scorer's chart.
The Reds' lack of firepower explains why they are as good as out of the running for a coveted top-four spot.
When Suarez and Sturridge were firing on all cylinders last season, the team netted 101 goals in 38 games to finish second in the Premiership.
With two games left this term, they have managed just 50 goals.
Sturridge had been entrusted with the task of leading the frontline but, hampered by injuries and subsequently loss of form, the England international couldn't come close to reproducing the form he showed previously. His tally of four goals and one assist summed up his wretched campaign.
Balotelli, who cost a hefty £16 million ($31.8m) when he was signed from AC Milan, has been a complete flop.
Despite being given an extended run of games at the start of the season, he failed to improve and has only one goal in the Premiership to date.
Lambert, bought as a back-up striker, proved unreliable when he was called upon, with only two goals and one assist.
Borini clamoured for the chance to prove that he could make it in Brendan Rodgers' side. But his return of one goal and one assist should facilitate his departure from Anfield.
The toothless displays by his strikers prompted Rodgers to use Raheem Sterling as a No. 9 during the season, but the result was a mixed bag.
Sterling notched seven league goals in all, but should have scored more if not for his poor finishing.
The club can't wait to welcome Belgium striker Divock Origi, who is due to join the Reds after being loaned back to Lille following his £10m move.
But the 20-year-old alone won't solve the crisis.
It is clear that the Reds are in desperate need of a world-class striker like Suarez.
But, with the Champions League eluding them next season, it remains to be seen if they can lure the top goal-poachers in the world.
Gerrard: Move forward, Reds
(John Terry 5)
(Steven Gerrard 44)
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard (above) urged the club to look to the future, after their Champions League hopes all but evaporated following a 1-1 draw at Chelsea yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Gerrard headed in the equaliser but the result left Liverpool six points below the Premier League top four with only two games to play.
Gerrard, 34, will leave Anfield for the Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of the season, but he said that despite Brendan Rodgers's side coming up short, there were grounds for optimism.
"I think now this team's got to prepare for next year," he told Sky Sports.
"We've shown that with a few additions, we can compete next year.
"We've shown we've come up a bit short. I think it's important the lads get some rest, the owners try and dig deep and help Brendan out. There's a great core of players here."
Liverpool granted newly-crowned champions Chelsea a guard of honour before kick-off and Gerrard said it had been an unpleasant moment.
"It's not nice, the guard of honour, but Chelsea have won the league," he said. "They deserved it, but it wasn't nice doing it."
Gerrard was baited by Chelsea's fans throughout the game and, although he was given a standing ovation from the home supporters when he was substituted late on, he played down their gesture.
"Chelsea fans have shown me respect for a couple of seconds, but slaughtered me all day," he said. "What's important is the support from the Liverpool fans. They've been with me from day one."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho revealed that he had tried to sign Gerrard for Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, and he said that he was sad to see the 34-year-old go.
"To get an ovation at Stamford Bridge is special for Steven Gerrard," Mourinho said. "We have lots of respect for the top guys. I will miss him."
Gerrard returned the compliment, saying: "I have huge respect for him. He's the best manager in the world in my opinion.
"I would have signed for him on three occasions if I wasn't such a big Liverpool fan. He's the reason my head was turned on a couple of occasions.
"But he knew why I couldn't do it, because I love Liverpool Football Club. It always means more when you win for your people."
- Wire Services.