A full 90 minute performance would be nice
It feels rather churlish to be offering criticism when we’re top of the league, but we really have got to sort out this first half/second half thing.
For all five competitive matches this season we’ve strutted our stuff during the opening 45 minutes, dominating possession with some impressive ball and player movement and threatening the opposition goal at regular intervals.
This Dr Jekyll of a side then retreat to the dressing room at half-time, and re-emerge 15 minutes later in their Mr Hyde guise, unable to string two passes together and providing the opposition goalkeeper with the time to plan a tour of Europe and renegotiate his next boot contract.
Whatever potion Rodgers and co are putting in their half-time energy drink, maybe it’s better to go back to a good old cup of Rosie Lee.
I’m struggling to put my finger on what strange affliction grips us at half-time: sometimes of course it’s just the opposition upping their game or making some tactical adjustment that tips the balance; and in others we decide we’ll defend what we have and risk the ball flying in off someone’s backside or some similar misfortune spoiling our well-laid plans.
But when we spend the second half of five consecutive matches living on our nerves it suggests that whatever it is, something should be done about it.
Could it be that we’re not fit enough? Has a carefully calibrated training regimen been devised which sees us peaking mid-way through the season, but leaves us short of energy at the start of the year? I know it’s a long season, but we haven’t got the ‘distraction’ of Europe this year, and a decent-size squad, so should this be a major consideration?
Maybe we’re just not good enough yet to be able to sustain the intensity of our passing-and-pressing game for a full 90 minutes. If that was the case, surely we should at least see flashes of it during the second half?
At present the latter 45 minutes of games are becoming exercises in hanging on for grim death, fraying our nerves that precious points that should have long been sewn up are to be needlessly squandered near the end.
Ok at Swansea we lost Coutinho after an hour which undoubtedly upset our rhythm but we were noticeably less fluent even before he went off.
Surrendering space to the opposition always invites pressure, and though we didn’t lack for effort in defending, this time resilience wasn’t enough and we could easily have lost but for a couple of magnificent tackles from Skrtel.
Even though we daren’t have dreamed that we would be in the position we’re in at this stage a few weeks ago, we have a real chance to put a down payment on a Champions’ League place at present while other teams accommodate new managers, players and playing styles and drop unexpected points.
With a comparatively easy fixture list coming up we could put some clear blue sky between us and others which we may well need when things get tougher.
If we can just banish these second-half jitters, we might surprise even ourselves at how high we can finish.