Was Wigan defeat the final straw for Liverpool and Rafa?
In a season that has lurched from one crisis to another, a brief recovery was yet again stalled at the DW Stadium the other night.
Wigan’s first ever victory over Liverpool has checked the Reds’ recent revival and brought the critics, who had begun to retreat, back to the fore once again.
Liverpool remain in sixth place but have played a game more than Spurs in fourth, two games more than Man City in fifth and three more than Aston Villa who are just three points behind them in seventh.
Some fans are now fear the side could finish out of the European places completely, not just the Champions League spot.
Some credit has to go to Roberto Martinez’s Latics, who can be slightly miffed at the lack of positive press put in their direction since the win. With a proper surface to play on instead of the muddy bog of recent weeks, the Spaniard finally saw glimpses of the pretty attacking football that was the hallmarks of his time as a player.
Home wins over Chelsea and Liverpool have set the benchmark for the Wigan this year and they should now build on those results and secure their safety.
Meanwhile, Liverpool have to question the future of a number of key men. First in the firing line is manager Rafa Benitez. Winger Ryan Babel admitted the side lacks confidence but it also seems they lack heart and desire. Such a limp display is symptomatic of a side that no longer want to play for their manager – is this the case at Anfield?
Even in the recent past below par team performances have been bailed out by star duo Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. But both were lacklustre at best on Monday. Torres can point to rustiness after only just recovering from injury but Gerrard, for so long the heartbeat of this team, looked disheartened, uninterested and, to put it bluntly, thoroughly fed-up.
His form has matched his teams’ in recent weeks, a sign that things must be bad at Anfield. At 29 is now the time to cash in on their captain before his star fades still further? And without the prospect of Champions League football next year will Fernando Torres be lured away?
All difficult questions with equally tricky answers but if Liverpool are to avoid any more nights like Monday, those hard choices need to be made.
At 5/4 Manchester City might now be the best online bet to finish fourth and you can’t help but wonder if some Liverpool players might already be thinking about South Africa.
Torres, whose Spain side are favourites in the World Cup online betting, will not want to miss out on what will be the country’s best shot at glory in the competition for quite some time.