Another thing that needs to swing open is our chequebook; because I think that the second half performance against Southampton illustrated perfectly what work we need doing.
Whilst I don’t buy Brendon Rodgers’ assertion that our performance against the Saints on Saturday was “our best of the season” I do think that the first half is up there. We totally controlled the game and were massively unfortunate to not be in front long before Daniel Agger’s excellent and ultimately decisive header. I know we were only playing a promoted team, but the way we zipped the ball around and forced our control of the game was good to see.
The second half was a stark contrast to this. I don’t put it down to a simple tactical switch here or there, it’s far easier to explain for me – tiredness. I think our legs were very heavy. The midfield in particular felt the strain. Lucas was obviously going to be tired, it was his comeback from 3 months out, which came just 200 minutes or so of match-time after 8 months out with a serious injury.
His absence in midfield has led to a chronic lack of rotation. I think that Joe Allen has suffered from this. I think he’s an excellent player but has not performed to the high standards he set in the early parts of the season, and I put that down to tiredness. He has played almost all of our games, including some Europa League ones. He’s badly in need of a rest.
Gerrard also looks leggy. That may be a bigger problem than tiredness but it’s hard to say for certain at the moment. But he needs a rest. He is no longer a “must play” and no longer carries the team squarely on his shoulders, but still could be a very important part of the team. But he is not in a position where he can play every week – but he has to.
It’s not just midfield. The whole team looked tired on Saturday in the second half. Ultimately we held Southampton at arm’s length and whilst I was agitated (as well as cold) at the lack of tempo in the second half, I could understand it. We were obviously struggling to keep the fast start up.
We also, for the first time that I can remember, adopted the Mourinho tactic of “resting with the ball.” Everyone’s favourite translator might not have invented the idea, but he was the first man to make it a widely talked about the concept of keeping the ball but making a series of almost pointless passes to just allow everyone to get their breath back.
We did that a lot in the last 20 minutes of the game against Southampton. Just getting our breath back and preparing for the next passage of play. It grates on the crowd, especially against a team in the relegation zone, but it seems like it was a necessary evil.
But it’s obvious that the unbalanced squad needs addressing this coming transfer window. We are tired and we have no massive list of replacements to bring on from the bench, which is generally weak. The return of Lucas is a massive boon to the squad and especially midfield but we need more. We need one, maybe two attacking players. You could argue we need three if we sell Downing or Cole, which is looking increasingly likely.
With a must-win game against Udinese on Thursday (down to our own failings) there’s no sign of a rest for anyone. December is a busy period and we’re all counting down the days to the transfer window. For the sake of some tired legs, let’s hope FSG are ready to entertain the likes of that Neanderthal Jim White as the transfer window SWINGS OPEN.
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