By James McManus
Anfield is a stadium which conjures up memories of how mighty Liverpool used to be. Both at home and abroad, the Kop and all that came with it stood proudly in L4 as England’s most intimidating prospect but now, with a side in transition to follow its decline, its air of invincibility is simply a distant memory.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were held to a 1-1 draw by Newcastle on Sunday afternoon, helping to preserve their 18-year unbeaten record over the Magpies on home soil. With records such as this one routinely broken during the club’s slump these past few years, it took a goal of truly world-class proportions from Luis Suarez to haul the hosts back into the game.
It was only in the aftermath of that superb equaliser that the famed atmosphere returned and had an impact on proceedings, with the terraces as flat as the display out on the pitch and the supporters have seemingly become conditioned not to expect anything whenever the team breaks forward now.
| LIVERPOOL’S HOME WIN PERCENTAGE
Expectations have been dampened to such an extent that hope has now given way to cynicism and with just three wins out of their last 15 home games, it is little wonder, with the crowd given very little to shout about.
The lack of home form has been a worrying downward trend in recent seasons and the club have picked up just 29 points from 29 games at Anfield during the whole of 2012 so far. When you compare it to the 51 points gleaned in 2011, the 45 in 2010, 58 in 2009 and 65 in 2008, it is the tell-tale sign of a team in decline.
In the past calendar year Liverpool have suffered defeats at the hands of Wigan, West Brom and Fulham while also slumping to disappointing draws to Aston Villa and Stoke, while the 3-1 defeat in the Capital One Cup to Swansea just last week exposed how fragile and thin the depth of the squad currently is.
In six home games this term, Rodgers’ outfit have picked up just six points and scored five goals. Of course, when a side is in transition like Liverpool currently are, there will be bumps in the road to negotiate as they continue to get to grips with the new style imposed on them from above, but progress has been slow, almost painfully so at times.
Defensive errors and poor form right through the spine of the team has dogged them in recent weeks and without a consistent stream of goals up front, there is no real way to mask the obvious and somewhat inherent flaws within the make-up of the side.
Swansea under Rodgers were dangerous on the counterattack and equally as adept when tasked with breaking down the opposition in front of them. Liverpool, though, seem lacking in terms of creativity in the final third at the moment, and they are becoming increasingly reliant on Suarez to bail them out time and time again.
Last term under Kenny Dalglish, the team were often found to be incapable of capitalising on their dominance and when results do not match up to performances, confidence can dwindle and poor form sets in. Judging by the flat display against Alan Pardew’s side, the rot may have already begun to set in, in what is quickly becoming a depressingly familiar pattern.
Cabaye’s assertion prior to the game that if you stop Steven Gerrard, making his 600th career appearance, you stop Liverpool from playing well appeared wide of the mark in what turned out to be yet another lacklustre display from the captain.
However, it was Rodgers’ own remarks that there is “no quick fix” and that there would be more “pain along the way” that proved to be disturbingly accurate.
For the people that line the terraces at Anfield each week, given how much they have already had to endure in recent times, they may struggle to find comfort in the realisation that despite a new era emerging, the same old problems are holding them back from matching their lofty aspirations.
Anfield used to be a fortress, but the regularity with which it has been plundered by opposing forces over the past 18 months has seen them struggle to arrest what is quickly becoming a terminal decline into ‘sleeping giant’ territory and mid-table mediocrity. Arresting that slide is the single greatest challenge facing Rodgers and his charges in the coming months.
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