Date: 3rd October 2014 at 4:19pm
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It’s now been a month since Liverpool managed a Premier League win, and I for one feel I have aged at least six years having watched each one of our last six performances. The Everton game aside perhaps, the Reds have looked a shadow of their former selves, and results have been such that tomorrow’s clash with West Brom Albion falls into the ‘must-win’ category – and we are just a few days into October. The fact tomorrow’s game is at Anfield is crucial – considering our miserable record at the Hawthorns over the past few years – and also because it is vital the supporters get behind the team on their quest for three crucial points. That may prove difficult however, as everywhere you look there seems to be problems for Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers at present, coming from even our most brilliant and inspirational players. Watching the usually faultless Steven Gerrard over the past month, has been like being forced to watch Jack Nicholson perform as Buttons in an ‘amateur dramatics’ pantomime of Cinderella. And speaking of pantomimes, Mario Balotelli has taken on the role of villain perfectly in recent weeks. Sulking and moping around up top, looking all isolated and slow, providing flashes of brilliance followed by 15 minutes of frustration. It seems everyone has had their say on Liverpool’s £16million signing, of which every piece of ‘analysis’ ends up comparing him to Luis Suarez. Listening to Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers give their thoughts on Balotelli, sounds like a mate trying to talk up the rebound girl he is dating having been dumped a couple months previously.  They are putting on a brave face, but it’s clear Mario is not Luis – the one everyone still loves and is pining for, despite not wanting to admit it publicly out of pride. “The boy is trying”, Brendan said in something of a patronizing manner on Wednesday night. Balotelli must sense it himself. And like the rebound girl, Balotelli knows deep down there is only one way to make us forget the ex – in this instance, with goals. And goals are what has been in short supply for both Balotelli and Liverpool as a whole this season, whilst the same defensive concerns remain. Tomorrow’s clash with West Brom Albion has taken on added significance following Wednesday’s ‘soft’ display in Switzerland. The corresponding fixture last season saw Luis Suarez fire a sublime hat-trick, and Daniel Sturridge contribute one of the goals of the season with a 25 yard chip, as the Reds ran out 4-1 winners. With those raw and painful memories of Suarez the only thing remaining of the Uruguayan at Anfield, and with Sturridge still on the treatment table, tomorrow’s fixture will give us a massive indication as to just how serious the situation is. If ever there was a time for the likes of Balotelli and Lazar Markovic to show up, then it’s tomorrow. With an international break to come the following weekend (don’t all cheer at once), anything less than three points tomorrow could see Liverpool spend a fortnight hovering dangerously above the relegation zone. Worryingly, there appear to be problems all over the pitch for Liverpool at present. Simon Mignolet looks as though he has a mistake in his locker at any moment, whilst Martin Skrtel is the same. Quite how the Slovakian has managed almost six years as a virtual Premier League ever-present whilst still unable to defend a set piece is beyond me. The set piece situation is becoming more and more farcical by the week, so much so it’s got to the point where I find myself calling ‘goal’ the second any corner or free kick is whipped into the penalty box. And depressingly, I’m usually right. It has become more of a habit in recent weeks, with our performances being so poor that the only crumb of comfort I get from watching Liverpool at present is being able to act like some sort of fortune teller, predicting the future and calling ‘goal’ seconds before Dejan Lovren looks around the penalty box with a confused look on his face. “See. I f****** told you. Should have put a bet on.” Of course, there are plenty of reasons behind Liverpool’s recent slump. The sale of ‘he-who-shall-not-be-named’ of course, but also the injuries to four first team players of last season. Joe Allen has proven a major loss, and is now being deservedly recognised as Liverpool’s unsung hero of the past 12 months. Sturridge is the most obvious, whilst Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson – to a lesser extent – were ever-presents during the Reds spectacular winning run last season. Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren and Balotelli still have plenty to prove, although Adam Lallana, Javi Manquillo and Alberto Moreno have looked promising so far, whilst despite an obvious dip in form this season – it would be foolish to write off Steven Gerrard. Performances like Wednesday night in Basel make it difficult to be objective and remember that there is so much football to play, that with a couple of wins against West Brom and QPR in our next two will mean all this seems like nothing but a minor blip. I’m still hanging onto the hope that things will get better despite a wretched month, but anything less than three points when West Brom visit Anfield tomorrow and the prospect of two weeks hovering above the relegation zone during the international break, will be almost impossible to put a positive spin on.