Liverpool’s disappointing end to the season continued on Sunday after a shock defeat to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi final put an end to their hopes of finishing the campaign with a trophy.
Having fallen behind their rivals in a bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League, their trip to Wembley took on even greater importance as they looked to gain some momentum heading into the final six league games.
But despite taking the lead through Philippe Coutinho’s first-half strike, the Reds were unable to see the game through and were deservedly beaten as Villa booked their place in the final.
Their abject display once again highlighted a worrying trend they have developed under Brendan Rodgers, and the Liverpool boss was quick to point out how he felt his side were unable to cope with the pressure once again following their latest defeat.
It’s become a habit of the Rodger’s reign that has cost them dearly and is clearly starting to have a detrimental effect on the team.
Last season Liverpool came within touching distance of winning the Premier League and with just three games to go had the title in their own hands. It finally looked like their wait for a first Premier League trophy was about to end.
But the pressure seemed to get to them and in their biggest game for years Chelsea ended their 11-match winning run with a defeat which would ultimately cost them the title. When it really mattered they were unable to produce the same level of performance that had won so many admirers during the season much to the disappointment of the fans who had started to believe the trophy was theirs.
Fast forward to this season and it’s been more of the same for the Merseyside outfit. They failed to put in a decent performance in any of their six Champions League group games that saw them exit the competition with a whimper. Victory over Basle in their final game was all that was required to progress into the knockout stages, but once again the Reds failed with another unconvincing display that saw them draw one-all.
And then after putting together a terrific unbeaten run in the Premier League that began in December, Rodgers’ side had the chance to leapfrog fierce rivals Manchester United and move into the top four just a few weeks ago; something that many expected them to do. But yet again they failed to turn up on the day and were outplayed in all areas. Steven Gerrard’s dismissal just moments after coming onto the field epitomised the way they failed to handle the situation and highlighted the problems it is beginning to cause the team.
They were then thrashed by Arsenal a week later to put their top-four hopes in real doubt and they now need an eight-point swing in the final six games given their inferior goal difference, something that looks well out of their reach.
Having already fallen at the semi-final stage of the League Cup, the club would have been itching to go one better when they faced Villa, but Tim Sherwood’s side were the latest to capitalise on Liverpool’s lack of mental strength which is only showing signs of worsening.
The more times they fail to come out on top in these season-defining fixtures will only make it harder for them to stop the rot and this will prove a huge mental block for the players over the coming seasons.
Off the back of the last two season’s it’s going to be increasingly difficult for the squad to believe they can see out the job after finding themselves in such a promising position, and this doubt could well be the difference between winning and losing trophies.
Perhaps they just need a change in fortune, but hopefully the players will have learnt from these heartaches and use them as inspiration to improve and ensure they can turn things around.
They face Stoke at the Britannia in their final league game, by which time they may well have nothing left to play for. On the off chance their rivals slip up over the coming weeks however it could mean a win there would give them a chance of making the top four after all. But yet if that were to be the case, even the most optimistic Liverpool fan would surely find it no surprise were they to lose and mess it all up once again. We certainly wouldn’t.