Liverpool slip up - again!
Home draw against Southampton reinforces a belief that Liverpool lack crucial mental strength
This is usually where, and how, another season begins to unravel for Liverpool.
No matter what the prize at stake, one Premier League campaign after the next, Anfield's annual wobble remains very much alive.
The Reds have done little to inspire confidence that a brighter tomorrow will not just become another Groundhog Day, after a 0-0 home draw against Southampton yesterday reinforced a belief that the players have yet to develop the ruthless streak that truly top sides possess.
A late capitulation remains unlikely to be enough to jeopardise their dreams of a top-four finish, given the tough run-in of their main top-four rivals Manchester United, who have to juggle their Premiership ambitions with the prospect of Champions League entry through the Europa League backdoor.
As they did in 2014's anticlimactic title race, Manchester City's game in hand will allow them to seize the impetus in the battle for third.
Arsenal, who are by no means completely out of the top-four picture, refuse to stop snapping at Liverpool's heels in spite of the potential futility that awaits them. Even they know that mental fortitude remains a gateway for them as much as it continues to prove to Juergen Klopp's nearly men.
Klopp had warned that his side would need to "eat a lot of frogs".
He has plenty of them within his ranks already, judging by the toothless showing against Southampton.
He had urged the Anfield crowd to keep the atmosphere "bouncing" from the first moment to the last.
Within half an hour, it had resembled a half-deflated helium balloon - much like their team.
Claude Puel's side have proven an Achilles' heel which they simply cannot overcome.
That was reflected in a jittery showing from the outset which belied Klopp's claim that his side relished playing on home soil.
Lesser Liverpool sides have found themselves consumed by the ire of a crowd that has grown restless in its quarter-century wait for a league title.
The current crop look set to be little different in that respect.
"To play against 10 deep defending Southampton players is very difficult. We could have scored, that would have opened them up a bit. It is a point more but doesn't feel like that."Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp on Liverpool's display
Southampton remain the only EPL side that the Reds have consistently failed to break down this season in all competitions.
A fourth score-less outing against the Saints reaffirmed why their mid-season coronation proved highly premature.
Even when fortune favoured them, the omens did not.
Only three times this season had they won without scoring in the first half.
James Milner, usually one of the cooler heads in Klopp's squad, was uncharacteristically agitated as he toiled against the visitors' relentless pack.
That lack of composure came home to roost when he had the chance to equal Ruud van Nistelrooy's long-standing record of eight penalties in an EPL season.
Though formidable in his stop, Fraser Forster could only take partial credit; it was one of Milner's weaker spot-kicks.
"He should not blame himself - that is football. Him scoring would have helped of course but that is not the only decisive thing today."Klopp on James Milner's penalty miss
The similarities with Brendan Rodgers remain impossible for Klopp to shake off - the pair had an identical sequence of results and points from their first 65 games at the Anfield helm.
Last season provided countless evidence that the German remains an upgrade on his predecessor, now maintaining the status quo of a footballing monopoly in Scotland.
But an ongoing sequence of statistical parallels will continue to plague him the longer Liverpool's inadequacies continue to surface at regular intervals, as they did again here.
Klopp may still prove the messiah that Liverpool continue to crave.
Securing a return to Europe's elite club competition would go some way to restoring that leap of faith in him.
Do not expect it to be a formality, though; they have rarely done it that way.