The following graphic shows games Liverpool won with goals after the 80th minute. This obviously does not count those where Liverpool equalized to pilfer a point – such as last spring's late late late penalty to draw at Arsenal – or games where they've piled on the misery – as against Birmingham under Dalglish, Steaua under Hodgson, etc.
Just late winners. And there haven't been enough of them.
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Goalscorers: Kuyt 7; Gerrard 6; Torres 5; Benayoun 2; Cole, Maxi, Ngog 1
• 4 PL, 2 CL
• 2 home, 4 away
• 7 PL, 2 CL
• 4 home, 5 away
• 2 PL, 1 EL
• 1 home, 2 away
• 2 PL, 3 EL
• 3 home, 2 away
Seven players, 23 goals. Two of the seven who scored late winners in the last four seasons aren't with the club anymore. Three are increasingly (and rightfully) relegated to the periphery, each responsible for only one of the 23 tallied. Captain Fantastic can't stay (or get) fit, and Kuyt's starting place is less guaranteed than at any time during his Liverpool career.
Liverpool scored fewer late winners in 2009-10 and 2010-11 combined than in that remarkable season prior. While the number of late winners rose last season, Liverpool's lone in the league came against Bolton (twice). Two of the three Europa League matches were already dead rubbers by the time Kuyt and Gerrard popped up. The third was the lone late winner in Dalglish's 24 games, the second leg against Sparta Prague in the round of 32.
Liverpool's 2008-09 points total was so dramatically better because of those nine late winners. It's better to be lucky than good, but it's even better to not know when you're beaten. That side had absolutely no clue when it was beaten, and pulled rabbits from the hat time and time again. By the end of the season, comebacks were expected, not the exception.
Watching Liverpool fumble against Sunderland for the final half an hour, reminiscent of so many failures in the previous two seasons, never encouraged that feeling. The draw became expected; in fact, given recent stomach punches, a late Sunderland winner – when Cattermole et al counter-attacked in injury time, for example – would have been wholly unsurprising.
I hate crediting confidence and luck over and over, but it's a conclusion frequently reached. Liverpool have to rebuild the former, which will lead to more of the latter. It's that simple and that difficult. Single spark, prairie fire.