No European Football Will See Rodgers' Liverpool Prosper

We look set to finish behind Everton once again, but sacrificing a place in the Europa League next season will help Liverpool in the long run.
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We look set to finish behind Everton once again, but sacrificing a place in the Europa League next season will help Liverpool in the long run.

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Brendan Rodgers used his press conference this week to put forward the proposition that failure to qualify for next season's Europa League may not necessarily be a bad thing for Liverpool. That adding three or four quality players to the squad could enable us to mount a concerted challenge for the top four.

Away from the obvious fact that I don't recall anybody canvassing the opinions of the fans on European qualification (hint: the answer is we should, every year, without exception, anything less is failure in our eyes) it looks as though Brendan will have sufficient opportunity to test his theory next season.

A scoreless draw at a Reading team marooned at the bottom of the table must surely signal he end of any lingering European qualification hopes for this season. Everton's relatively comfortable win over the equally doomed QPR leaves our neighbours with a five point advantage over us and a game in hand. It's safe to say that the time we have remaining to catch Everton is running out. We look likely to finish below them for the second season in succession. I'm 50, I don't think this has happened in my lifetime. I don't like the feeling.

Thankfully this weekend's stalemate wasn't a repeat of last Saturday's turgid performance against West Ham, although even then we supposedly managed eight shots on target - I was there, it certainly didn't feel like we had. Today was all about a goalkeeper who hadn't played for five months, who had clearly returned with a point to prove. Yesterday was yet another day (and there have been a few of them in recent years) where an unknown quantity decides that it's time to put in a world class performance because Liverpool are in town.

15 shots on target, an offside decision against Coutinho and a string of 'how the hell did he keep that out' saves. We know where the goal is, we just had one of those days where we couldn't get the ball into it. Not through lack of ambition or application or a cutting edge, just, simply, one of those days.

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The worry now is that our core players are beginning to tire. Gerrard has played more football this season than he has for a long time, Lucas isn't that long back from injury, Carra is clearly getting no younger; our options for cover look limited. With no Allen, Borini or Sterling we are starting matches with two centre backs on the bench for the simple reason that there is nobody else available with any experience. There are no game changers, the season isn't going to get any better. There is a definite possibility that it may well peter out from here.

But there is still the fact that if we had won today then we would have equalled our points tally for all of last season. Basic mathematics would dictate that a victory next Sunday would surpass that haul. That next weekend's fixture sees Rafael Benitez return to Anfield while the media runs stories that he wants his old job back doesn't fill one with confidence for a win, the script is far too good for us to ruin it with a victory.

We will beat last season's points total, we may finish the season one position higher than we managed under Dalglish, we are certainly (generally) playing a far more enjoyable brand of football than we produced for the last four months of last season; this is surely progress. Isn't it?

This time last year we were travelling back from our second visit to Wembley of the season, a thoroughly enjoyable FA cup semi final victory over Everton. We had one cup under our belts and were anticipating the possibility of another. I can look at the season rationally ( I tend to every other week on average ) and see progress. It just doesn't feel that way sometimes.

Another frustrating afternoon, then, in another frustrating season. I hope Brendan's theory about not playing European football is right, he may well need it to be.