Jamie Carragher conceded yesterday that he can now only pray that Liverpool will salvage something from a season in which their confidence has dipped to a level where their players are struggling to believe they can recover from going a goal behind.
Defeat on Sunday to an Arsène Wenger side which Liverpool dominated for 45 minutes has left both Carragher and his manager, Rafael Benitez, concluding, with Liverpool seventh and five points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa, that the side's problems are psychological. The Liverpool vice-captain now believes some divine intervention is necessary. "It's going to be a grind at times between now and May," Carragher said. "But we have got to stick together, get through it and, as I'm doing, pray to God that at the end of the season there will be something worthwhile for what we've gone through."
Despite Liverpool's three wins in 15 matches, the Premier League table could have a different complexion five days from now after two of the type of games that Liverpool must win, the first of them at home to Wigan tomorrow night, followed by Saturday's trip to Portsmouth. But their failure to recover after going behind – there were 32 minutes to rectify things against Arsenal – is a result of the panic that can now set in, Carragher said.
"We're only human and when things aren't going well the confidence does go a little bit," he explained. "You can see that at times. We played really well in the first half [against Arsenal] and then the goal goes in at the start of the second and that's when the confidence seems to go a little bit. That's when you need character. The only way the confidence comes back is by winning games. You grind out a few results and, hopefully, with each game you get more confident. But when you're on the run we are, the confidence goes, and that's only natural."
With Wolves at Anfield on Boxing Day, Liverpool have the chance to build before the visit to Aston Villa three days later. Carragher spelt out what he he felt could be demanded from his team-mates for the days ahead. "Not standing there looking around at each other," was one of the prerogatives he laid down. But he acknowledged the pressure Liverpool are under, with an awareness that failure to hit the top four in May would leave the club a minimum of £10m worse off by failing to qualify for next season's Champions League. "It's not a criticism of anyone, but any club that goes through a run like this is obviously going to be missing a bit of confidence," Carragher reflected.
Liverpool can, as Carragher acknowledged, take comfort at least from their first-half showing against Arsenal, in which they led through Dirk Kuyt's 40th-minute goal, albeit against a weakened side. "As much as we didn't do enough with the ball, you can't say Arsenal tore us apart or had a lot of chances," Carragher said. "I can't remember one chance – even the goals weren't great chances. I've been torn apart by Arsenal and that wasn't the case here.
"There's always light at the end of the tunnel. The great thing about football is that there's always another game to put it right and that other game is Wednesday. We have to start again. If we win on Wednesday, everyone's delighted and we take that into Saturday. You know how the season's gone, and the only way we can judge it is at the end and see where we are. We could pick up a couple of cups and everyone would be delighted. We have got to take every game as it comes."
Carragher acknowledged that Sunday's team – with Fernando Torres starting for the first time since 4 November and operating with Steven Gerrard – was as strong as Liverpool can field. "We can't look for excuses. That's the way it is in top-level football. We know that any little thing can get pounced on and that's happening at the moment. Wigan is a massive game for us. I've tried too many times down the years to work things out, so there's no point looking further ahead than that."
The contrast with Arsenal's Theo Walcott could hardly have been greater, the winger describing yesterday – ahead of tomorrow night's trip to Burnley – how Wenger applauded his side back into the dressing room, 45 minutes after his half-time dressing-down had inspired them to a second-half recovery.
"We like to keep things in the dressing room to ourselves but the boss just showed his passion for the game and that he has belief in us," Walcott said. "Coming in at the end of the game and getting a round of applause from the boss showed that we listened to him. All the players were bubbling and it was great to see."