Liverpool’s capitulation to Crystal Palace has left their title hopes hanging by the most slender of threads.
Realistically, they were never going to win the title on goal difference.
And now the equation is clear – Manchester City have to lose to either Aston Villa on Thursday morning or West Ham on Sunday night for Liverpool to possibly win the title.
And in an ironic twist of fate, Liverpool’s hopes depend on two men who were expensively purchased, before being quickly and cheaply discarded to West Ham – Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll.
Carroll will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest panic buys in the history of football. Liverpool paid Newcastle the large sum of 35 million pounds in the last moments of the January 2011 transfer window, after he had scored 11 goals in 19 league games.
In the following eighteen months he scored six goals in 44 league games. He won the League Cup in 2012, but his greatest chance at glory came in the 2012 FA Cup Final, in which he scored in a Liverpool defeat.
He was subsequently loaned out to West Ham, then sold for 15 million pounds, and the Carroll experiment was largely decried as a failure.
Downing had split opinions throughout his career, despite being an England international. He arrived at Liverpool for roughly 20 million pounds in July 2011. His first season appeared to settle the argument in favour of the naysayers.
36 league games. Zero goals. And even more damningly for a winger, zero assists.
Granted, it was not his always his fault – in his sole trip to Anfield your author saw the aforementioned Carroll head a cross onto the bar when he really should have scored – but the numbers do not lie.
A stronger second season was not enough to save him from being sold to West Ham in August 2013.
It was a new dawn at Liverpool – as seen by their rise from also-rans to the present – and neither Carroll nor Downing were to be a part of it. Until now.
Barring a superhuman effort from Aston Villa, Liverpool’s hopes rely on their two discards striking it richer than Man City owner Sheikh Mansour. Downing has provided two assists all season. Carroll has two goals in his 13 injury-interrupted games.
But as we know, in football, all it can take is one cross and one header. And of course, a superhuman effort from the West Ham defence to hold out the opposition strikeforce.
Liverpool fans once hoped that the Downing-Carroll combination would win them titles. It may have cost them more time, money and ribbing from other fans than they anticipated, but it will have all been worth it should the duo get the job done on Sunday night.