|Kenny Dalglish has been left scratching his head in recent weeks|
Since racking up their highest Premier League total of 86 points in the 2008/09 campaign, the Reds have slumped to 63 points in 2009/10 and 58 points in 2010/11. With eight games remaining in the current campaign, Dalglish's side need 17 points to demonstrate the slightest bit of progression from last season and 13 points to edge past their worst Premier League total of 54 points. English football's biggest prize is a distant dream for the eighteen-time winners.
It can't be said that Dalglish hasn't been backed by the board. Around £120 million has been splashed out on Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll, Sebastian Coates, Stewart Downing, Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson and Luis Suarez but there is very little to show for it as far as the league is concerned. Adam (£8.5 million), Enrique (£6 million) and Suarez (£22.7 million) have all arguably lived up to their price tags but the same sentiments can't be aimed at the English trio of Carroll, Downing and Henderson which cost Liverpool a massive £75 million. Just nine goals have been scored between them in all competitions this season. Value for money? Far from it.
Sunderland, Everton, Swansea and Norwich are all within striking distance of the Reds who know that they simply have to win away at Newcastle on Sunday to stand a realistic chance of catching their opponents in fifth place. A miserable run of form in February and March has yield just four points from seven league matches and if they don't stop the rot soon they could be destined for a bottom-half finish.
Dalglish has openly admitted that his team needs to change its philosophy to a certain extent, but surely it's too late for that at this stage of the season? The big money signings who have failed to fulfil their potential up until now ought to step up to the plate and restore some respectability to Liverpool's dwindling league campaign. If that doesn't provide adequate motivation for the likes of Carroll, Downing and Henderson, perhaps the chance of playing at this summer's Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine will.
The final stretch of the 2011/12 season may not involve a battle for Champions League football as anticipated, however, it's an absolutely crucial period for Dalglish and Liverpool as they aim to prove they have what it takes to re-establish themselves amongst the elite of English football.