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Ronnie Whelan: Limp Reds in trouble

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Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (L) challenges Liverpool's Lazar Markovic

Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (L) challenges Liverpool's Lazar Markovic

Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (L) challenges Liverpool's Lazar Markovic

I HAVEN'T been as irritated and annoyed by a football match in years as I was by Liverpool's limp attempt to prove that they are something than more than mid-table material against Arsenal.

Don't be fooled by all the positive talk you've been hearing about how well Liverpool are beginning to play and how nicely they move the ball around.

I'm not buying it. All it does is paper over very, very big cracks.

The biggest of them is Brendan Rodgers' defence and the fact that Martin Skrtel is at the center of a muddle at the back.

All Liverpool had to do to win this game was to defend a corner a minute from half-time and just after they went in front.

Basic stuff really. Every kid on every football pitch across the land knows that you must focus doubly hard just after you score.

Skrtel failed in his first job and allowed a man smaller than him to get a jump on him at the back post in a set-piece. Awful

Liverpool had completely dominated the first half and should have been at least two or three in front. But more about that later.

Let's stick with the defence because in all the talk about Luis Suarez leaving, Daniel Sturridge being injured and Mario Balotelli doing whatever it is he's been doing, the fundamental problem with Liverpool for a long time now has been at the back.

Last season, the strikers really did hide a multitude of sins but when the pressure came in in the final weeks of the season, a weak defence crumbled completely and against Arsenal, more of the same was plain to see.

BONUSES

Running parallel with that is the fact that Liverpool no longer have players who can score the number of goals needed to succeed at this level.

And you would hardly be throwing around bonuses for the way Rodgers' midfield has been playing since August. All in all, I believe Liverpool are now in a serious crisis.

I believe we can forget completely about Champions League football next season and when you look at the fact that Liverpool currently stand five points clear of the relegation zone, maybe that's the direction we should be looking.

That's not an easy thing to contemplate but short of major investment and luck in the January transfer window, this team is going nowhere.

But what about the chances created at Old Trafford? Or the win over Bournemouth or even the chances created against Arsenal yesterday? I've heard fans seek comfort from crumbs like that.

Let's be honest here. Five months after coming within a game or two of winning the Premier League title, I don't think Liverpool fans should be in a position where a win over Bournemouth provides cause for optimism.

I'm not sure the Fenway Sports Group will dig deep enough to make a difference in January, even if the opportunity arises to bring in a player who can score goals consistently and from a standing start.

BETTER DEAL

From what I'm reading and hearing it seems that Liverpool offered a better deal to Alexis Sanchez than Arsenal did but London was the game breaker for him when it came to making a choice.

I know if I was a decent, ambitious striker looking for a deal in January, Liverpool would not be very attractive right now. As I said, Champions League football is not going to be on the menu next season.

I would love to be wrong about that and I know I'm probably going against the positive reaction there has been to the fact that Liverpool have been able to string a few passes together over the last half dozen games.

But I'm sorry. Games which should be won are drawn and games which could be drawn are lost because of basic mistakes at the back and the fact that the players Liverpool spent an enormous amount of money on in July are not good enough.

Adam Lalana slows the game down and Lazar Markovich loses the ball too often. Our supposed best players, like Philipe Coutinho, are guilty of the same thing. Coutinho does one or two good things and everyone purrs but he will rapidly cancel that out by handing away possession.

Raheem Sterling can play but he was lightweight and ineffective against the Gunners, themselves hardly shooting the lights out with dazzling form.

It was strange to realise during the game that this was mid-table football and nothing more. Arsenal were poor in the extreme and didn't deserve anything from the game.

But Rodgers' players have been good at offering up points to undeserving teams. Crystal Palace have won once this season in 17 tries. You guessed it - they beat Liverpool.

I'm not one to throw the word crisis around lightly but I believe that is exactly what Rodgers has on his hands right now and I'm not sure I see a way out of it in the short term.

As I've been saying for years, two or three world class defenders and a couple of equally capable strikers would do it.

There's no chance we'll see that happening any time soon.


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