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Why Liverpool Don't Stand a Chance of Finishing in the Top Four This Season

23/09/2014 17:23 BST | Updated 23/11/2014 10:59 GMT

It's been an unpredictable start to the Premier League season all round, but that's true of Liverpool more than most. A solid opening day win followed by a toothless performance against Man City. The trashing of Spurs, followed by defeats to Aston Villa and West Ham.

They now lie in the bottom half, with just six points out of 15 possible. Before the season, Brendan Rodgers was talking the side up as title challengers, so what's gone wrong?

For a start, the fact that they've continued their dreadful defensive performances from last season hasn't helped - there are only four teams in the entire league who have conceded more goals this term than Liverpool's eight from five games.

Injuries to Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan haven't helped matters, but the main problem is, once again, the lack of a quality centre-back pairing. New signing Dejan Lovren can't do it all by himself.

Another unfortunate hinderance is that Steven Gerrard is now really starting to show his age. Despite what Rodgers may say, there must now be some internal concerns over the captain, and it's probably time to start resting him far more often, bringing someone like Emre Can in to stabilise in front of the back four.

With or without Gerrard though, Liverpool's midfield is still having a tough time of it. This is a trickier one to explain, because by rights they should be performing - there's a lot of good players in that midfield, Jordan Henderson and Lucas among them.

So what's the problem there? Well, it could be the current Liverpool staple - not enough depth - but that makes a weak excuse after they spent over £100million on a plethora of players this summer, which allows us a neat segue into the next problem.

Brendan Rodgers was bad in the transfer market this summer. Not apocalyptically bad, but he failed to properly address the areas he needed to improve while simultaneously overpaying for players that the squad might have survived without.

For example - and it feels unfair to pick on him because he's a hard worker who deserves the opportunities he's got, but he embodies this perfectly - Adam Lallana isn't a £25million player in any sane world. Not when Cesc Fabregas cost Chelsea just £5million more. Especially not when Liverpool already have a host of players who can play a similar role as Lallana, to a similar level. Poor guy's only played twice this season.

What did Liverpool actually need? Another centre back and a top-class striker to replace Luis Suarez, for a start. And to pre-emptively silence any dissenters - Mario Balotelli isn't a top class striker. He's a decent player, but he's not a replacement for Suarez. Alexis Sanchez could've been. Angel Di Maria, Falcao, even Mario Mandzukic would've been closer to the mark. All of them were available this summer.

And now we near the hub of Liverpool's biggest problem. Their talisman is gone, and they seem a little adrift without his ability to bail them out. Last year, their defensive frailties didn't matter too much because Suarez would be on hand to bang in even more goals than they let in.

He was directly involved in 43 league goals last season (31 goals and 12 assists, if you're counting), and that's hard to replace. Daniel Sturridge looks lost without his hunting partner too, chipping in with just the single goal in the three games he played before his injury.

Whether or not they should've fought harder to keep hold of Suarez - which to be fair, seemed like a lost cause - is a pointless argument now. What matters now is how Liverpool will deal with his loss. The answer, so far, is 'badly'.

The way Liverpool are headed at the moment, it's entirely possible that they'll be left to scrap it out with Manchester United for the last place in the top six, which would be a rather painful comedown after their title challenge last season.

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