As in Collapse, that is—because the Liverpool Football Club seems destined to do same by the end of this increasingly dismal campaign. The beloved battlers of Anfield Road have slipped to eighth place in the English Premier League, after the sort of instantly notorious incident that functions as a sure sign that the Gods are against thee and the End is nigh. And today, presented a golden chance to put right a wobbly Champions League effort, Liverpool went down 1 : 2 at home to Lyon. With the Forces of Evil, in the form of Manchester United, due at Anfield over the weekend, it would seem that the Reds have one final chance to stave off full-scale crisis.
Let us, as they say, unpack.
The loss to Lyon leaves Liverpool with just three points after the first three rounds in its four-team qualifying group. Lyon, bully boys that they are, now have the maximum nine, while Fiorentina went to six points after beating Hungarian also-rans Debreceni today. That means that Liverpool, with three games and just one home date remaining, essentially need to win ’em all to secure one of the two top slots and survive. (Beat Lyon away = 6, likely still in third; beat Debreceni away = 9, probably still in third; Fiorentina would most likely come to Anfield for the final matchday with 9, 10 or 12 points, so Liverpool could theoretically overtake them in the kind of dramatic and defiant European display that is one of their hallmarks.)
This is not a rosy scenario, and missing the knock-out phase of the Champions League would cost the club millions of pounds. The plummet in the Premier League, however, is even more worrisome. As this Soccernet story explains, the real threat to Liverpool lies in the very real possibility that the side will fail to qualify for next year‘s Champions League. Like its fellow members of the Premier League’s so-called Big Four, Liverpool has functioned on a steady supply of funny money—the term “financial doping” has, in fact, been used to describe how Big Four clubs leverage their way to dominance over smaller clubs unable to tap the credit markets to the degree the fancy lads can. In Liverpool’s case, the debts are basically due, meaning the team needs to keep raking in Champions League cash to meet its interest obligations. Failure to do so could mean both competitive and organizational unravelling.
The brilliant “Buddhist economist” E.F. Schmacher once wrote something to the effect that absurdities can’t continue forever. None of the big English clubs is on a particularly sustainable course. Arsenal and Manchester United are afloat on seas of debt; Chelsea, facing brutal discipline for transfer-market malfeasance, rely on the bank account of “enigmatic” post-Soviet entrepreneur Roman Abramovich. It looks, however, like Liverpool might be the first forced to confront the fundamental truths about their situation. Maybe the reckoning can’t come soon enough.