There is a word that Liverpool Football Club supporters mutter almost in unison to describe their season—inconsistent. Despite Herculean efforts to combat it, Brendan Rodgers has been unable to use spurts of good form to cauterize the scourge that continues to rear its head and has plagued his first season in charge.
Even as Liverpool seems to take two steps forward and one step back, many fans agree that the club is playing some of the finest football they have seen in recent memory. Buoyed by the successes since the January transfer window, some believe that the results that were once a staple at Anfield aren’t far off.
And yet they seem so maddeningly far away.
What must be vexing for Rodgers, and frustrating for the fans, is that the intoxicating ether of almost-there excellence is continually wafted away by Jekyll-and-Hyde first-team performances like those against Oldham Athletic, Aston Villa and Southampton.
Some of that might be laid at Rodgers feet. He has come under some criticism that his choice of horses does not always fit the course.
Playing an injured Joe Allen last weekend provided another question mark as to whether dubious personnel selection is at the root of spurious team performances.
Even if it has been more by necessity than design, fielding 12 debutants this season demonstrates that Rodgers is clearly not afraid to experiment in perfecting his blend. However, he will not be afforded the luxuries of latitude next year, and engineering a machine that runs without spluttering will have to be done quickly.
Rodgers has openly spoken about his desire for reinforcements. Defensive frailties, coupled with Jamie Carragher’s swan song and the potential departure of Martin Skrtel, makes it imperative that he identifies a pairing whose week-in and week-out performances assure those in front of them that the defensive gates are locked.
Domestically, Liverpool has surrendered seven leads this season, winning only twice in those contests. But the inability to maintain the advantage can’t be pinned entirely on defensive lapses or personnel choice and points to something that should be of a larger concern for Rodgers—a systemic lack of confidence.
The Liverpool boss has used both the lash and the honey to some effect on individual players, but he will have to discover a squad-wide means to infuse the ice of unassailable self-belief that will give opponents just reason to shudder if he is to capture the consistency that has evaded him thus far.
No team has scored more goals in the English Premier League (26) than Liverpool since January 1, and only Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur boast a better record, suggesting that Rodgers’ toil is bearing fruit.
Saturday’s performance against the Saints, however, remains a stark reminder that there is tilling yet to be done.
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