Stunning at Anfield, stagnant on their travels. Liverpool's tendency to lurch from one extreme to the other resurfaced in their latest away-day disappointment, a 1-0 defeat by the unexceptional Greek side Olympiacos, prompting some home truths from their longest-serving player.
Jamie Carragher is ideally placed to put the contrast in context, having been at the club since Kenny Dalglish was the manager and he was in junior school. With Liverpool visiting another continental side, Chelsea, on Sunday, followed by a trip to Fulham, his comments amounted to a call for commitment - from the flair players as well as their more functional colleagues.
But first the facts. Liverpool have won all three Premiership home fixtures and dispatched Monaco in the Champions' League. However, since drawing at Tottenham on the opening day of the domestic campaign, they have lost at Bolton, Manchester United and now Olympiacos, their only goal coming from United's John O'Shea.
Carragher, the definitive no-frills defender, seldom fluctuates in quality or commitment depending on the venue. But the difference between the swagger of Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso in front of an adoring Kop and the peripheral involvement of Rafael Benitez's principal summer signings in the volatile atmosphere of Piraeus must concern the new manager.
During the five years of Gérard Houllier's stewardship, Liverpool struggled to break down visiting teams (they lost five home league matches last season) whereas they often revealed a resilient streak away from Anfield. "Now the pattern seems to have been reversed," reflected Carragher. "No one can put a finger on it, but we have to sort it out quickly.
The England full-back added: "If we play at Chelsea like we did against Olympiacos it will be the same result. It's about striking the right balance. It wasn't quite there under the previous manager, and it remains a problem for us."
The flip side of flamboyance is often flakiness. Without naming names, Carragher argued that Liverpool must demonstrate unity and mental strength in a hostile environment. "You get more of the referee's decisions on your own ground, and vice-versa away. So you have to be more of a team.
"Olympiacos have a noisy crowd, but no spectator ever scored a goal and it's still 11 against 11. But there is something different about playing away, and that's when you have to be men. People have to want the ball and make challenges. It's in away games that you see the true character of your team."
For all Liverpool's frustration - both at failing to muster a single attempt on target and allowing Rivaldo's supposedly waning powers to prove influential - Carragher remains upbeat on their prospects of qualifying for the knock-out stage.
"It's just the one defeat," he said. "We're still well in there."
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