Over for good? Are Liverpool now locked out of the top four?

There was a time when Liverpool were considered an unwavering member of the top four. For a few seasons this hasn’t been the case and except for last year’s second placed finish, the Reds have been completely squeezed out. Despite getting their star man Daniel Sturridge back and a new year revival resulting in a 10 match unbeaten run, Liverpool in April find themselves once again on the outskirts of the top four. Even manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted that Champions League football next season is probably beyond them.

Back to back defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United were the final nails in the coffin, leaving the Reds down in fifth, a huge seven points adrift with only a handful of games to go… and their competitors are only getting stronger.

Liverpool did feature in this year’s tournament, but crashed out of the Champions League in December, making it only as far as the group stages and, as a result of this, would surely have liked another run at it next season. But having picked up only three points from a possible nine and with crucial players refusing to discuss contract renewals, perhaps the Reds are in for another difficult league campaign next year.

With forward Raheem Sterling stalling contract negotiations Liverpool may have to look at other options in the up-coming transfer window. The Reds have been linked with Paris St Germain’s Edinson Cavani, but with competition for his signature coming from clubs like Arsenal and Manchester United why would the Uruguayan leave the French champions for a team that look likely to be playing in the Europa League next season?

Liverpool are no longer the dominant force they once were and if Sterling does depart for a wealthy team like Arsenal or Real Madrid, then they will start to look like a feeder club – especially after the loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona just last summer.

Big names will not want to join the struggling club if they can’t consistently break into the top four. Even if Liverpool do win the FA Cup it will not be enough for most footballers, particularly the foreign ones, who want to compete for big trophies and that is only made possible by climbing the Premier League table.

After such a successful season last time around this one has been quite a stark reminder of how easily and quickly fortunes can change. Some key signings and a new and improved manager has reversed Manchester United’s luck within just a handful of months and it is they who have now stolen Liverpool’s top four spot.

The loss of Suarez and injury to Sturridge meant that the Reds did not start the season as well as they would have hoped. The uselessness of Mario Balotelli further reduced their effectiveness and confidence going forward and his future at the club despite what he may produce in these last few weeks remains highly uncertain.

Whichever way you look at it Liverpool are missing that special something up front. Sterling is good, but generally not prolific enough and Sturridge can’t be relied on to play through the entire season. Liverpool need another centre-forward, someone who can partner Sturridge in a similar way to last season’s winning dynamic duo formula.

If Rodgers can find that special player then the club should throw all the money they can at him to ensure they get his signature. Otherwise they are destined to stay on the outskirts of the top four while the current victors tighten their grips on domestic and European glory.