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Gloom on Merseyside

Over the course of the 20th century, the two winningest English soccer clubs were the Merseyside duo of Everton and Liverpool. And, although this certainly was not the case in the first decade of the 21st century, both clubs enjoyed their share of success. Everton, after a dreadful 1990s, established itself as a top-six club. And Liverpool, while playing fourth fiddle to Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal, won two FA Cups, two League cups, and two major European trophies, including the Champions League in 2005.
But this year has been a different story. It’s early days, to be sure, but Everton sits dead last in the Premier League table, with three draws and three defeats to show for its six matches. Liverpool, only five places higher, has won one, drawn three, and lost two.
These are both “false positions,” I’m fairly sure. But Everton’s dream of returning to European competition and Liverpool’s dream of returning to the Champions League have already been set back considerably.
Moreover, this week both teams crashed out of the League Cup (known these days as the Carling Cup) under highly embarrassing circumstances: Everton fell to Brentford, from England’s third-tier league, on penalty kicks; Liverpool lost the same way to fourth-tier Northampton Town.
Neither Everton nor the Shite started its best eleven. But Everton could not overcome Brentford even after bringing on Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta. And Liverpool’s starting 11 included four players who featured on World Cup squads (Kyrgiakos of Greece, Agger of Denmark, Babel of Holland, and Jovanovic of Serbia), plus a player who has appeared in international competition for Brazil (Lucas).
Giant killings approaching this magnitude occur from time to time in the League Cup. What’s notable this year is that both slain giants play on Merseyside. But then, on current form, it can be argued that neither actually is a giant.

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