It has been a long and arduous season for the players at Chelsea, and one that ultimately will end in success. It has not, however, been an end-of-season run-in laden with glory and victories of the dominant, sweeping nature that permeated much of their early campaign.

And such is the reactive nature of football that opinions are often clouded when there is a player or team that does not end the season well. That is precisely what happens each year with the team of the season and goes far to explain why Cesc Fabregas has been omitted from this year's PFA line-up.

Fabregas has even been subjected to a fair amount of criticism for the limp manner in which his season has petered out. When Arsene Wenger turned him down last summer, it had looked like a catastrophic decision once the Spaniard hit his stride at Stamford Bridge, swiftly helping the Blues to the top of the Premier League. They have barely moved from there since, and yet they have been derided as boring in the aftermath of their dull goalless draw at the Emirates on Sunday and plenty have concluded that Wenger was right to reject him. Fabregas bore the brunt of the criticismm on his return to his former club.

He was not the effective passer he had been earlier in the season, unable to control the game like in other outings for Chelsea. Nor was he a tough-tackling brute that would break up play efficiently and regularly. Neither seems reason enough to belittle his importance to Chelsea or praise the wisdom of Wenger in rejecting the chance to re-sign him.

Fabregas and Nemanja Matic made up the most formidable central midfield partnership for most of the season, and though both have suffered drops in form of late, that has in part been down to Mourinho's reluctance to rotate his squad. The 22 players he has used across the course of the season is by a distance the fewest by any Premier League team. Fabregas and Matic have missed two and three games, respectively, whilst also starting every Champions League game, and both playing major roles in the Capital One Cup triumph.

Even considering any recent downturn in Fabregas' form, it is harsh to fault a player that has contributed as much as he has to a successful Premier League campaign for merely losing form in the season's latter stages. Mourinho has built a functional team that has remained effective winners, regardless of their not blowing teams away as regularly. Many of their recent wins have involved sitting back and waiting for opponents to make mistakes; not the kind of football for which Fabregas is used to playing or famed for, and it makes sense that he doesn't shine in that kind of display.

You have to remember that Fabregas has registered 16 assists this season; some six more than any other player and almost as many as Burnley (19), Aston Villa (18) or Sunderland (17) have managed altogether. Yes, he has now gone four league games without an assist, but his partner-in-crime Diego Costa (with whom he makes the Premier League's most effective assist-goalscorer combination, with six goals) has only been available for 10 minutes in those games, and Chelsea have as a whole been underperforming going forward.

His average WhoScored.com rating has dropped from 7.92 prior to the turn of the year, to 7.27 since, indicating quite how stark that lapse in form has been, but also a) how well he was playing at the beginning of the season and b) that he is still doing well despite the drop. His rating for the season of 7.67 ranks him third of all Premier League players behind Eden Hazard (8.04) and Alexis Sanchez (7.86), even with the 'slump' he has suffered.

It seems bizarre that Fabregas, the Premier League's leading assist-maker and chance creator (2.8 per game), should miss out on the PFA's team of the season. According to WhoScored's ratings, Philippe Coutinho, who did make the team, has been the 28th best player this season, and the 11th-best midfielder (of those to make 20+ appearances).

Coutinho has been wonderful to watch at times this season, and he has become integral to Liverpool since the departure of Luis Suarez and injuries suffered by Daniel Sturridge. He is amongst the best in the league for dribbles completed (3 per game) and also takes a lot of shots (2.8 per game), but with only four goals and four assists all season - even if some of them were goal of the season contenders - does that warrant team of the season inclusion? He timed his best run of form - and wondergoals against Southampton and City - to coincide with the mid-March close to the voting, and that seems to have made a difference.

To say Fabregas has been poor for Chelsea is patently misguided. To say that his poor second half of the season is sufficient to criticise him, or to call Wenger's decision not to sign him a wise one, are also both clearly wrong. His form has faded a little, but so has Chelsea's style of play. They have remained winners, though, and Fabregas has played a huge role in that inevitable triumph. It is just that too many in football have extremely short memories, and Chelsea's midfield maestro has suffered the consequences.

steven gerrard

On his penultimate appearance at Anfield, Gerrard missed the penalty that would have restored the hosts' lead after Leroy Fer's volley had cancelled out Philippe Coutinho's first-half goal.

But he showed a enduring knack for picking the moment when he pounced three minutes from time.

Defeat leaves QPR - who had Nedum Onouha sent off for two bookable offences within the space of four minutes,  seven points from safety with just nine to play for and Manchester City up next.

Liverpool close the gap on Manchester United to four points in the race for Champions League qualification but some supporters made feelings known; a plane trailed a 'Rodgers out, Rafa (Benitez) in' banner across Anfield before kick-off.

There was a sombre atmosphere around Anfield before kick-off, though, after the news of the death of QPR defender Rio Ferdinand’s wife, Rebecca, and Liverpool paid their respects before the game as Gerrard handed Joey Barton a bouquet of flowers to pass onto Ferdinand.

The visitors, who wore black armbands, thought they had the lead just seconds into the game as Fer bundled home Matt Phillips’ corner, only to the see the linesman flag for a goal-kick after the ball went out of play.

It took Liverpool until the 16th minute to have their first attempt on goal and it was Rickie Lambert, making his first start in the Premier League since December 6th, who had it, cutting inside on his right foot before firing a shot straight at Green.

Despite QPR’s promising start, it was Liverpool who took the lead as Lambert picked out Coutinho with a pass from the right wing and the Brazilian took one touch, before curling the ball beyond Green and into the top corner (19).

Liverpool were finishing the half the stronger and they thought they should have had a penalty when Raheem Sterling’s cross appeared to hit Clint Hill’s arm, but referee Martin Atkinson remained unmoved.

Rodgers’ side had one final chance to double their advantage just before the break as Gerrard fired a free-kick goalwards but Green moved to his right well to make a smart save.

QPR boss Chris Ramsey was forced into a change at half-time with Yun Suk-young replacing the injured Steven Caulker, but it failed to stem Liverpool’s attacking threat. Adam Lallana was the first to go close as he dragged his shot wide before Sterling missed a glorious chance at the far post after Jordan Henderson’s brilliant cross.

The hosts looked like they had paid the price for not taking their chances when Fer's strike gave QPR hope of a point with 17 minutes remaining, but Gerrard eventually got them out of trouble.

The Liverpool skipper was handed his first chance to win the game in the 80th minute as Onuoha bundled Skrtel to the floor in the box, but, from 12 yards, Green was Gerrard’s nemesis again.

Minutes later, Onuoha - who was booked for the foul on Skrtel - received a second yellow card after a late challenge on Jordan Ibe, and with just three minutes remaining, Gerrard made up for his penalty miss to head home Coutinho’s corner.

Anfield rose as one as the 34-year-old was substituted soon after to hail another matchwinning performance, Liverpool still just in the hunt with three games remaining but QPR's fate at the other end all-but sealed.

Soccer Saturday verdict – Matt Le Tissier

“QPR were a little bit flat they started better and looked the sharper of the two teams in the opening exchanges. I was surprised when Leroy Fer got them back into the game but because they didn’t look like scoring in the second half. They didn’t threaten after that and it was no surprise when Liverpool got the winner.”