Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, yesterday shrugged off his team's poor record in front of goal this season – 30 goals from 26 Premier League matches – and said their strike rate is of more interest to those outside Anfield than within it.
Last weekend's first home defeat of the season, to Arsenal, summed up Liverpool's season so far, with plenty of good approach play failing to result in goals. More worryingly, Arsenal's late winner for 2-1 put a huge dent in the Merseysiders' hopes of a top-four finish – they are now 10 points adrift of the London club, who occupy that final Champions League spot.
With their poor strike rate, it is surprising that Liverpool have managed to stay in the hunt for so long. Only five clubs have a worse goalscoring record and three are in the bottom five.
After the Arsenal defeat, Dalglish suggested his side may have to learn to win ugly. Yesterday, though, he seemed to backtrack on that."Winning ugly is probably when you are not at your best or when you are down to nine or 10 men and you are back defending and you have to boot it clear to give yourself a bit of respite," he said.
"But I would much rather we play the way we play, and if we have to dig deep I am sure we can. The media seem to be obsessed. We've been through everything we can say. We'll continue to do what we do best – that is to play the way we train, and if we play the way we train we will eventually get our reward.
"For us we had the disappointment immediately after the defeat [against Arsenal] but when you sit down and analyse it, they can't do much more than what they did. There is nothing we said after the game that we feel we need to redress. If they keep playing like that, keep bringing performances like that against a quality side, then we are going to win more than we lose."
Luis Suarez is the club's top scorer this season with 10 goals in 26 appearances, although he is matched in league goals by Craig Bellamy, who has a slightly better strike rate. Suarez is currently Liverpool's premier striker but the Uruguay international has scored just 14 times in 39 appearances since joining in January 2011. He has missed two penalties this season. Prior to that his record was 133 strikes in 212 matches for the Dutch sides Ajax and FC Groningen and Uruguay's Nacional.
Some critics have suggested the 25-year-old is trying to do too much by being creator as well as scorer, while others have said he will not be a prolific striker in England. Dalglish, however, has no doubts about Suarez, who was his first signing on returning to the club for a second spell 14 months ago.
"There is plenty of evidence to show what he can do," said Dalglish. "We know what Luis can do, I think everyone knows what he can do, and I don't think there is a lack of evidence to prove that he is a fantastic footballer."
Dalglish at least had some good news with the captain Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson returning to training yesterday, having missed last weekend with injuries from England duty.
The Liverpool managing director, Ian Ayre, meanwhile, believes the glow from the Carling Cup triumph, the club's first trophy in six years, has to be "grasped with both hands" after months of negative headlines at Anfield.
The club came in for worldwide criticism for their handling of October's Suarez-Patrice Evra race row – which Johnson re-ignited yesterday by accusing the Manchester United defender of stoking up further anti-Suarez feeling by initiating the infamous non-handshake at Old Trafford last month.
Ayre said: "We've had certain things that have gone on that people have put a negative slant on Liverpool – but this is a positive one and we should grasp it with both hands and move forward with it. We've shown we're ready to compete for trophies. It means people see Liverpool are still up there and still a team competing for trophies. That's what we all need."