Gary Lim: Pool deserve to crash out of Champions League
Our writer says Rodgers' men have only themselves to blame for exit
(Steven Gerrard 81)
FC BASEL 1
(Fabian Frei 25)
Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League after a 1-1 draw with Basel yesterday morning (Singapore time). Here are the reasons why they deserve to be eliminated.
The goals have slowed to a trickle, and that's where Liverpool's main problem lies.
Last season, they fired in 101 goals in 38 league matches. They often started aggressively and, at times, even got the job done within the first 15 minutes of a match. Just ask Arsenal.
This term, they have fired in just 24 goals in 21 Premiership and Champions League matches.
Manager Brendan Rodgers brought in Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli to hopefully compensate the loss of prolific forward Luis Suarez.
But Lambert and Balotelli have combined for a paltry total of four goals in all competitions.
The never-ending injuries to striker Daniel Sturridge make things worse.
The strikes from midfield have stopped too.
Of the five goals they scored in six European games, four came against Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets Razgrad.
Liverpool under Rodgers never had a decent backline to begin with.
But, last season, they at least had a superb attack to bail them out of trouble.
The Northern Irishman's attempt to beef up the defence hasn't gone to plan.
Javier Manquillo, Alberto Moreno and, especially Dejan Lovren, are struggling to make an impression.
The team failed to keep a single clean sheet in the Champions League. In all, they conceded nine goals in six games.
Even Ludogorets plundered three goals out of them.
It was embarrassing to see a modest Basel offence tearing the Liverpool defence comprising Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique, Martin Skrtel and Lovren to shreds at Anfield yesterday morning.
The lack of cohesion and organisation at the back was painful for the fans to watch.
The invention came from everywhere last season.
There were Suarez, Sturridge and Raheem Sterling on top, and Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho and even Jordan Henderson from midfield to count on.
But the creativity has dried up.
The Reds struggled to string together five passes against Basel and, in the first half, could barely take the ball out of their own half.
There didn't seem to be a clear direction or pattern of play. At the first sign of an opponent approaching, the Liverpool players simply passed the ball back until the goalkeeper or a defender hoofed it upfield.
Or, in what has been a common theme this term, they would simply pass it to Sterling, hoping that his individual brilliance can inflict some damage on the opposition. But even the England attacker has looked lost this term.
It says a lot that despite spending £120 million ($247m) on nine new major signings, only two of them - Lambert and Lovren - made it to the starting 11 in arguably Liverpool's biggest game this season.
All the signings have been mediocre, and playing well below what their reputations suggest they are capable of.
Even key players such as Gerrard and Sterling are struggling for form.
As a result, the team confidence is at an all-time low.
You could tell from their displays.
Losing is fine, that's football.
But to lose and look second-best in all six group matches aren't normal for a team of this quality.
It's Rodgers' job to help the players rediscover their self-belief.
The manager also made some perplexing decisions during the Basel match.
Given what was at stake, it was understandable if Rodgers told the Reds to start cautiously and not concede first.
But, at half-time, with Liverpool a goal down and not looking close to scoring, he made two awful substitutions.
Swopping Enrique for Moreno, both left backs, simply made no sense. His decision to replace Lambert, his only striker, with winger Lazar Markovic was also baffling.
Surely he knew that the Reds needed two goals to turn the tie around.
Rodgers chose not to call upon Adam Lallana, one of very few players to have shown glimpses of his true ability in this campaign.
Midfielder Coutinho made an impact when he came on in the 74th minute but, why was he was not sent on earlier?
Why did the woefully off-form Markovic, who was later sent off, enter the field ahead of either Coutinho or Lallana? Only Rodgers knows the answer.
Elimination shouldn't have come as a surprise.
Liverpool didn't look like they were capable of progressing to the knockout stage since day one of the competition.
They might have entered the Basel game on the back of a four-match unbeaten run, but the performances have been very ordinary.
Their display against Sunderland in the EPL last Saturday, when they drew 0-0, was already an indication of what to expect.
In fact, apart from the 3-0 win over Tottenham early in the season, there hasn't been an outing worthy of note.
When the group draw for the Champions League was made, it looked a straightforward route to the next round for the Reds.
Yet, five measly points from six matches were all they could muster.
By now, Liverpool fans (above) must accept that these awful displays are not simply one-offs.
The Reds are in a crisis and it could take some time before they get out of it.
"If you need to win, why not put them under pressure from the word ‘go’? We waited until we were down to 10 men with 20 minutes to go and then we throw everything at them."
— Former Liverpool manager Roy Evans
"I would have brought (Adam) Lallana on for (Joe) Allen at half-time. I think Allen looks like a little boy at times. Liverpool’s performance was better after the red card (for Lazar Markovic)."
— Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler
"The big problem (for Liverpool) is scoring goals. Rickie Lambert has played a lot of games in a short space of time and he did not really get much service tonight."
— Former Man United midfielder Paul Scholes
"The (Luis) Suarez exit shows just how good that fella is, because he transcended that whole team and the club, and the players around him."
— Former Reds midfielder Jamie Redknapp
"If things don’t change, then ultimately Brendan (Rodgers) will pay the price."
— Former Reds defender Steve Nicol