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Liverpool need a miracle, and some strikers

In recent seasons, Liverpool have specialised in digging themselves into holes, clambering out of them. The one they find themselves in right now looks steep-sided at the least, writes John Dykes.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2009 00:22 IST
John Dykes

In recent seasons, Liverpool have specialised in digging themselves into holes, clambering out of them. The one they find themselves in right now looks steep-sided at the least.

In Europe, Tuesday's defeat by Lyon left them needing to win their remaining three group games. On Sunday they face old rivals Manchester United in the BPL knowing defeat would leave them 10 points behind Fergie's men. The next Wednesday brings a Carling Cup encounter with the young Arsenal charges.

In terms of league fixtures, the schedule reads: Fulham (away), Birmingham (home), Manchester City (h) and Everton (a).

With the possible exception of Birmingham, they all look like tricky fixtures, especially the last two. In fact, Liverpool's biggest problem right now is that just about every team they play will fancy their chances.

A pundit made a point ahead of the game at Sunderland that Liverpool fans would rather have seen a strike-force of Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones on their teamsheet, than on that of the opposition.

Take Torres out of Liverpool's lineup and somehow they do not pose the sort of threat they should. Dutchmen Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel are perceived as having struggled this season, David N'Gog showed how far he has to come. If there is one thing this competitive BPL season is teaching, it is that clubs with attacking options are doing better than Liverpool.

Spurs have Liverpool cast-offs in Keane and Crouch. Arsenal have the likes of Eduardo and Bendtner as support to striker Van Persie and scoring midfielders Fabregas and Arshavin. Manchester City's riches have bought options, with another Liverpool cast-off, Craig Bellamy, coming up trumps. Chelsea may be short of numbers up top, but they have Nicolas Anelka to support Didier Drogba.

It wasn't an issue last season when Liverpool scored 77 goals. Of these, Gerrard and Torres contributed 30. So the supporting cast did its job - Kuyt (12) and Benayoun (8) with 20 of them. Chelsea were more reliant on Anelka and Lampard, who scored 31 of their total of 68, while United's Rooney and Ronaldo supplied 30 of 68.

In digging itself out of holes in FA Cup, Champions league campaigns and individual fixtures, the club has fashioned an identity as one prone to mood swings. Statistics say Kuyt has scored more BPL goals this season than Tevez, Babel more than Crouch. Benitez will place his trust in those players. But if they fail to do the job against United this week, it looks likely Liverpool will need to buy a proven goalscorer in January if they are to dig themselves out of the latest hole.

Catch John Dykes on ESPN's Football Focus every Tuesday and First Edition on Friday