90 minus 45 equals LFC this season
“Well, first half good, second half not so good.”
So went the mantra of Sven-Goran Eriksson during an England tenure that became dogged by a curious inability to replicate an encouraging opening 45 minutes once the teams were back out after the interval.
And it’s an issue with which Brendan Rodgers is now grappling as his Liverpool side demonstrate similar traits of an infuriating lack of consistency over the course of a match. The backs-to-the-wall effort in the second half at Swansea City on Monday night was nothing new.
It was the same against Manchester United a fortnight earlier. It was the same at Aston Villa the previous week. And, to a lesser extent, it was the same during the closing moments on the opening day against Stoke City.
Even Notts County in the Capital One Cup fought back from 2-0 down at half-time before finally being seen off during extra time.
So what’s happening?
At the Liberty Stadium, the loss of Philippe Coutinho 10 minutes into the second half was keenly felt.
With the Brazilian on the field, Liverpool completed 48 passes in the final third. Without him, the number dropped dramatically to just four passes.
But Coutinho wasn’t absent for the previous three league games when Rodgers’s men were guilty of similar shortcomings.
Much has depended on the pattern of the game, with Liverpool ahead by half-time on each occasion to leave the opposition with little option but to push forward in search of an equaliser.
Liverpool’s personnel has meant they have been happy to sit back and defend their lead. But that’s a policy fraught with danger, particularly with Rodgers still seeking a settled defence due to new arrivals and injuries.
It’s playing with fire. And while Rodgers has rightly praised the mental strength and durability of his side, the suspicion is the Anfield outfit will soon be burnt.
The midfield also gives cause for concern, with Lucas Leiva in particular struggling to impose himself on games alongside a deep-sitting Steven Gerrard.
Losing Coutinho would be a blow, given how isolated Daniel Sturridge was for much of the second half on Monday. Indeed, Iago Aspas appears too lightweight at present to feature prominently in such a busy central role.
And with Glen Johnson sidelined, only new signing Victor Moses offered any alternative pace to the Liverpool attack at Swansea.
Good timing, then, for the return of Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan the obvious link between midfield and attack with his willingness to drop deeper to accept possession and run at opposing defences.
Of course, Rodgers would much rather be in this position of addressing a problem while unbeaten at the top of the league than in Liverpool’s corresponding position last season, when they were languishing in 17th having already lost twice.
But the Northern Irishman will know the promising first steps will lead nowhere unless his team’s Sven-like schizophrenia is banished.