Last night saw Liverpool, who recently lost their claim to be England’s most successful side in history when Manchester United equalled their 18 league championships, struggle to a 2-2 draw at home with lowly Birmingham. They have now won just one of their last nine matches – that one win, ironically, against Manchester United.
The pressure is firmly on manager (coach) Rafa Benitez after such a poor run. The club is suffering a massive injury crisis with many of their top players, including the two players widely regarded as indispensable for the team, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. The club is also suffering from raised expectations, after they ran Man Utd very close last season for the Premiership title, the closest the club has been to winning the championship for almost 20 years.
Perhaps the most telling thing though is that the lack of squad depth at Liverpool is being revealed by the absence of these two top players. Man Utd and Chelsea have bigger squads more capable of withstanding absences of their star players, but Liverpool don’t. And it shows. They are mid-table in the Premiership, as after 12 games they have won only one more game than they have lost. They are, barring a miracle, out of Europe’s showpiece tournament, the Champions League, and all the riches that provides.
When Leeds United suffered a similar run of poor form that led to their European elimination, the impact was drastic: The money dried up, their debts became unpayable, the club insolvent, and was relegated twice, a fate from which they are yet to recover. It would be madness to suggest the same thing might happen to Liverpool, but serious questions are being asked about their place in England’s prestigious “top four”, and rightly so.
Perhaps this is a good example of the effectiveness potentially of limiting squad sizes for European teams, instead of the illogical Platini proposal to cap salaries mentioned in the last blog post by Brad. I’d be interested in any research that has been done to investigate the effect of squad size on soccer outcomes.