5 May ~ In the WSC season preview for 2011-12, I wrote that, for Liverpool, "a nice quiet season with no trauma would probably be the happiest result". It's hard not to feel sometimes like the universe is mocking you. And yet a season that has included indefensible actions from a star player, one of the most ludicrous PR blunders ever committed by a top-flight football team, a home league record as bad as anything since the 1940s and an expected finishing position lower than any season since the year Graeme Souness was sacked, could yet reach a conclusion that feels, in some bizarre way, positive.
After all, two domestic trophies in a season – for the first time since 2001 – is not an achievement to be sniffed at, nor is an already guaranteed return to Europe. Despite a truly wretched set of home results, the football has largely been of a higher standard than it was under the new England manager. That has been in spite of, rather than thanks to, last summer's crop of signings, and all the half-decent football in the world cannot make up for a complete and unforgiveable lack of conviction in the final third.
Winning the FA Cup at Wembley would end a traumatic season on a high note. It would not redeem the season entirely, but it would be an exponentially greater fillip than a lacklustre Carling Cup win. But there has been little in recent months to give a rational supporter hope that Liverpool will beat Chelsea today.
For the good things Kenny Dalglish has done in his second spell – and there have been some – there is little sense that the club has anything approaching an established first 11 in a preferred formation. It is very difficult to sum up what Liverpool's style or gameplan is, beyond "hit the woodwork five or six times and then concede a late sucker punch goal".
Yet, in just about every conceivable way, if there has been a pattern to Liverpool's season at all, it has been in defying expectations, whether positive or negative. Some of the club's players seem to be able to rouse themselves for one-off, everything-on-the-line games and the team as a whole has a remarkable record against Chelsea of late, winning four on the bounce and sitting undefeated for two calendar years. Given the startling regularity with which the two sides tend to meet, that is no mean feat.
Unfortunately, all these glimpses of hope are likely to achieve is to make any eventual defeat seems like a genuine disappointment rather than the resigned inevitability that usually comes with being the underdog. That is the story of Liverpool at the moment. Even our pessimism lacks conviction. Seb Patrick