Even if Liverpool are enjoying one of their best starts ever to a Premier League campaign, while getting an abundance of goals from their SAS duo up front – Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, the alarming drop in performance from the first half to the second has to be something Brendan Rodgers takes care of and soon.
Against Crystal Palace, the match was over after 38 minutes. Luis Suarez used all of his agility and swarminess ability to score the opener after a quick 1-2 with Jose Enrique in the box. The second came only four minutes later through Daniel Sturridge, using his dancing skills to throw off the Palace defense and its goalkeeper, scoring from a touch angle to make it six for him this season already. The third was a penalty kick that shouldn’t have been called, but Steven Gerrard converted it nonetheless.
In the second half? Pretty much nothing. The push that comes from the defense dissolves, while Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Victor Moses drop deeper and the link up with Sturridge and Suarez disappears. Raheem Sterling, who was very active in the first half, gets no one to join him on the right wing, and on his own it’s just a case of selfish dribbles and bad defensive coverage.
But for Liverpool’s standards, whatever this season-start is, they’re fine with it. The football may not be great, but it’s improving, and Rodgers is learning from his past mistakes, making the most of the situation that includes the injuries to Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Agger (already starting to come back) and Glen Johnson, Luis Suarez back from suspension and Mamadou Sakho getting used to a new team and new league.
Rodgers couldn’t use Lucas Leiva, so he finally gave Jordan Henderson the chance to play in the middle. It still gives Liverpool a two-midfield look, but it’s enough against teams like Crystal Palace, and the change did Henderson, Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, starting on the right wing, a world of good. Not having to chase wing backs or play like he was born to burn the touchline makes Henderson look like a player that wasn’t such a huge overspend of money. Sterling still frustrates those watching for so many minutes, but he’s a better option to cover the wing.
The attack does well regardless of what’s behind them, at least in certain minutes. Luis Suarez and Sturridge are both players who can’t stay in one place for too long, and their movement, which makes up for some players in certain positions missing (no left winger, no real attacking midfielder), is almost impossible to track, especially for a team that is limited and frankly weak like Crystal Palace.
The best striking duo in the land right now already has nine goals together, with Suarez playing only two matches. The good thing is that they seem to have a growing understanding of each other, with Suarez not needing a month or more to find his footing with the team once again.
As this season progresses and stronger teams appear (Liverpool have had a mostly comfortable start to the season), playing well for only one half isn’t going to cut it anymore, and relying on Suarez and Sturridge to supply goals without providing them with sufficient assistance will erase all the progress Liverpool have made through the first 7 weeks of the season.