Reds need to start knocking over their main rivals consistently to improve Champions League credentials
Such is the issue facing Brendan Rodgers after the Liverpool boss felt it necessary to concede his side’s hopes of Champions League qualification are now effectively over.
After a chastening defeat to Manchester United came Saturday’s embarrassment at the Emirates.
There’s an old adage that only when people are put under the most intense stress and pressure do they reveal their true selves.
Some thrive, some wither, some remain unchanged.
For Rodgers, the discovery this season has been too few of his squad presently fit into the first category, too many seemingly struggled to cope at the crucial moment.
Rarely can it have been more graphically illustrated when Lazar Markovic, reverting to the player lacking confidence during the autumn, foolishly chose to pass instead of shoot when clean through against Arsenal.
Concerns first came to the fore after the limp first-half showing against United.
And Rodgers, perhaps unwittingly, concurred of sorts with such worries when making the point Liverpool’s slight revival after the interval on Saturday came when they had nothing to lose.
Mind games, however, only go so far. Liverpool, clearly, just aren’t good enough at present.
Since taking over at Anfield, Rodgers has won only five of 23 Premier League games against top-four rivals Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Of course, there are many other top-flight teams who possess a similar or inferior record.
But these teams aren’t challenging at the top end of the table. They don’t harbour hopes of winning the title.
Look at this season. Liverpool have now lost at Arsenal, City and United, been beaten at home by Chelsea and United and were within a minute of doing likewise against the Gunners.
Yes, there was the win over City at Anfield. Even that, though, required two worldies from Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho.
With just four points from seven games, the Reds have taken fewest points in head-to-head clashes between the top five. It’s why they sit outside the top four.
Rodgers can point to last season’s romp at Old Trafford but, in three years in charge, he has still to win at the Etihad, the Emirates or Stamford Bridge.
Three summer signings started on Saturday. Markovic, after shirking the responsibility to shoot, was hooked at the interval. Alberto Moreno had a nightmare while Emre Can stupidly allowed himself to be dismissed.
Each failed to ultimately deal with the situation.
What mustn’t be overlooked, however, is all three are relative youngsters. This is a young Liverpool squad, and while it needs time to learn the departure of Steven Gerrard means it will lose another wise head.
Fenway Sports Group should consider veering from usual transfer policy and bringing in at least one seasoned campaigner this summer.
Somebody, preferably, with big game experience.