When St Johnstone went to Parkhead and nabbed a plucky point they were probably expecting some plaudits from the Celtic manager for their efforts. Instead, Brendan Rodgers questioned why the St Johnstone players seem to up their level against the Old Firm and perform worse against lesser opposition. Back in December, St Johnstone also went to Ibrox and had a famous 3-1 victory against Rangers which again was a complete contradiction compared to St Johnstone’s form. In recent weeks, St Johnstone have lost quite easily away to Motherwell, home to Partick Thistle and twice to Hearts. To go from that to performing extraordinarily against the Scottish champions does ask the question, where was that level of performance against the smaller sides?
Rodgers is right
In the Premier League, Newcastle who have struggled to win at home in the Premier League since October and then went on to perform admirably and beat Manchester United. There was a clear contrast between the effort levels the Toon army put in against the Red Devils in comparison to when they played Swansea for instance. Rafa Benitez will question the motivation of his players in this game and may now demand more from his squad as they have shown that on their day they are capable to mix it with the top teams.
The same can be said of Rochdale, bottom of league one can hold a Spurs side which are fighting at the top of the England’s top league. If the players had the same motivation for Spurs as they did for League One opponents they surely would be in a much better position. These are professionals and should be motivated for matches whoever the team they are playing is.
Rodgers is wrong
It may be that St Johnstone playing style is suited more to playing against Rangers/Celtic as they have less of the ball and are able to counterattack from there. Some sides struggle at home where the emphasis is on them to attack and create chances. It may be that their system is more suited to playing on the break. Other sides find it very difficult to defend when they are having to push forward against smaller sides. They may revel in being the underdog as they can keep their shape and not be criticised for not being too adventurous. Also some players may find the “minnow” tag liberating as it enables them to play without fan expectation or pressure.
Whatever the answer St Johnstone must try and replicate their performances against the Old Firm into more consistent performances. Whilst the big sides must ensure they do not underestimate smaller sides as they may put in mammoth performances against them.
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