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Chelsea v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective
An excellent result and performance from a Liverpool point of view with both teams having to make compromises with team selection, it was not really a true reflection of the way the teams will play throughout the season. But it was 3 more points and a team performance that showed Liverpool are once again up for the title race.
The first half saw the game settle into a pattern of Chelsea dropping deep, Liverpool controlling the possession and then Chelsea breaking with Werner. That was a big part of their problem, it was down to Werner alone as he got no support on the break at all and was too lacking in confidence on his left side to offer Fabinho a problem. Then Christensen killed their hopes with a moment of madness when he rugby tackled Mane. Though it must be said he was not helped by Kepa, who was not far enough off his line and so slow to come out.
The second half just became a masterclass in how to play against a team down a man as Liverpool moved the ball quickly, created spaces and overloads and scored the two goals they needed. Chelsea had no answer and were unable to get anything of the ball to create anything themselves.
Chelsea came into the game with a clear gameplan, not just to sit deep and hit on the counter, but also Lampard had clearly given thought as to how to counter. That is why he went with Werner on the left and Havertz down the middle. Havertz was in place to keep van Dijk pinned and Werner was there to exploit the space behind Alexander-Arnold and to take advantage of Fabinho being a makeshift centre-back.
There were just two problems with the tactical plan. Firstly Werner has no left foot at all, he constantly cut in, condensing the space and allowing himself to be closed down and block out a shot. The one time he did finally see sense and hit a shot on his left foot, we all immediately understood why he was so reluctant to use it previously! He should, however, have realised that he did not have to be the one to take the shot and that he would have been just as well to hold up the play and wait for support if he was not comfortable going out on his left foot.
If nothing else, Werner should at least have attempted to vary it. It was far too easy for Fabinho as he knew exactly what Werner was going to do and all he had to do was wait for the German to come to him. Meanwhile Havertz was locked out of the game completely as he was barely even seeing the ball and Werner was not working with him. That is something that Chelsea will need to work on for the long term. There is a potential for an excellent partnership, but the two need to work together, rather than as two separate individual players. I am sure that will come in time.
Their midfield struggled due to Kovacic and Jorginho offering very little and, wonderful as Kante is, even he is not quite good enough to do the work of three players. Though it must be said he was magnificent at times and did a very good job of keeping the score down. Kante could even be said to have kept them in the game in the second half almost singlehandedly. That was one of the biggest mistakes of the match, that changes were not made sooner to give him help in midfield. Someone like Mount would have provided some energy and closing down, unlike Jorginho who just ended up getting embarrassed when he tried to close down.
Defensively James did well but the rest looked worryingly shakey, even before Christensen’s mistake they looked to be defending at full stretch, always on the verge of breaking. How much of that is down to Kepa and his errors is difficult to assess, but it certainly does not help when it is clear the team have absolutely no confidence in him.
Overall though, you could see how desperately Chelsea need to get their missing players into the team, as they are lacking in squad depth. Which is crazy when they always have so many players out on loan each year. Questions should really be asked of whether it is really helping improve the first team having all that money tied up in multiple loanees. They will not have a Hazard sale every season to allow them to splurge, so maybe they need to rethink the way they operate.
Klopp – once again he made the right changes and it ensured that the team took full advantage of Chelsea being a man down. The team ended up showing just how to beat an opponent that is down to ten men. It was a masterful performance throughout the second half.
Alisson – had little to do, but what he had to do he did well.
Alexander-Arnold – still not at his best, though he was involved in the team play, it is clear he is still searching for full fitness. Again, nothing to complain about in his play, it was just he was not at his incredible best.
Fabinho – played out of position at centre-back but was exceptional. Poor Werner must have wondered how many black cats he ran over on the way to the stadium to have to face a makeshift central defender who played him so well. Played so well it made lots of people on the Liverpool site call for him to be played in defence more often.
van Dijk – had little to do as Havertz was anonymous in the first half and then got taken off at half time. He could have sat in a deckchair and watched other than when he went forward for setpieces.
Robertson – helped keep Chelsea penned in, made some excellent runs and was a huge part of a mainly excellent team performance.
Keita – it was lucky for Liverpool that Jorginho and Kovacic were so poor because their midfield was pretty much a man down with Keita in there. He was once again ineffective.
Henderson – pretty much made up for Keita’s lack of effectiveness in the first half, but then had to go off at half-time with an injury.
Wijnaldum – much improved performance from the previous game, but still not at his best.
Salah – he was never going to be able to match his sensational previous game, but he was once more excellent. He was all over the pitch causing havoc.
Mane – despite James and Kante’s best efforts, Mane was exceptional. Chasing down lost causes, scoring goals and it looked like the Mane of the tail end of last season once more.
Firmino – really good game, one he is well suited for as he draws players to him and holds them off while playing others in. This is the kind of game that you need him for as he does not need space in behind to be fully effective, or space at all in fact. He keeps the ball in tight areas and then can usually produce something to get the ball into a player in space. As always, it does not always come off when Firmino does his flicks and tricks, but he ensures defenders never have an easy game.
Thiago – replaced the injured Henderson at half-time. A mouthwatering performance for a player who has barely even met his team-mates before the game. He was able to showcase a quite incredible range of passing, but he did show a need to work on his defending. The timing of his challenges did show a lack of sharpness.
Milner – brought on in place of the ineffective Keita after 64 minutes. You know what you are getting with Milner, whether from the start or as a sub you can rely on him to produce and he certainly never let anyone down.
Minamino – only came on in place of Firmino in the 86th minute, so never had time to impose himself on the game. He certainly did his best to get involved as much as possible though.
Written by Tris Burke September 24 2020 19:42:38