Jurgen Klopp spent time in the press conference praising Chelsea’s ‘smart business’. The former Borussia Dortmund manager oversaw a relatively disapponting season in 2020/21 after the high of a Premier League victory in the previous campaign. The returns of centre-backs Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip handed a boost to Liverpool, and they started the new season with renewed vigour.
Two straight wins provided strong optimism, but neither of those opponents were the Champions of Europe. They came into the game to win it. By the time Anthony Taylor brought down the curtains on a frustrating game, Klopp would have mixed emotions to deal with.
Chelsea’s Ten Men Hold Down the Fort at Liverpool
Controversy Mars Thrilling Game
For 45 minutes, this was an end-to-end game with some tasty flicks and opportunities to score. Kai Havertz grabbed the headlines with a superb header. With his back to goal, the German produced a looping header that beat Alisson and nestle the ball into the far corner. Chelsea managed the game well, and it seemed for a while that they would be able to see out Liverpool.
That all changed on the stroke of half-time. A melee in the Chelsea penalty area caused mayhem, and ended with Sadio Mane hitting the ball towards goal, where Reece James was on hand to block. Unfortunately for the Chelsea man, the ball hit his hand. Referee Anthony Taylor, after a replay courtesy of VAR, decided that it was a deliberate move that warranted a red card and a penalty. Mohamed Salah coolly dispatched the strike, as expected. In a tense second half, Chelsea produced a superb defensive display to thwart Liverpool and maintain their unbeaten run.
Frustation for Liverpool
Liverpool tried and tried and tried, but to no avail. Chelsea, without doubt, were defensively excellent. Liverpool, however, made it easier for them. They lacked the incision required to slice through the well-drilled side, and on the few occasions they beat the defence, Edouard Mendy was a formidable presence in front of goal.
Jurgen Klopp kept 18-year Harvey Elliott in the lineup. With Xherdan Shaqiri gone, Liverpool have fewer options in midfield now. Havery Elliott was given the opportunity after impressing on loan at Blackburn Rovers last season, and he has done well. He kept his place, but that wasn’t the most surprising decision. Despite Diogo Jota starting the season well, he was dropped in favour of Roberto Firmino. That experiment ended before half time, as the Brazilian made way for Jota on 43 minutes following a hamstring injury.
Mo Salah kept drifting wide all game in the hope of a one-on-one situation with a defender. The Egyptian did not have too much luck, however. Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger both did well, and Liverpool’s number 11 was mostly stifled. Trent Alexander-Arnold was imperious at the start, but his influence waned. The Blues were a tough nut to crack, and Liverpool failed the test.
Lack of Transfer Activity
Liverpool have been strangely quiet in the transfer window this summer, even as their competitiors have strengthened. Chelsea signed Lukaku for £97.5 million, and are in negotiations with Sevilla to sign France international centre-back Jules Kounde. Manchester City have signed Jack Grealish for a Premier League record £100 million fee, and remain in the hunt for a striker. Manchester United have done the most, signing World Cup winner Raphel Varane, winger Jadon Sancho, and bringing back Cristiano Ronaldo.
Liverpool have good attackers, without doubt. Salah and Mane are among the world’s best, and while Firmino has fallen in form a little, he remains a quality forward. Diogo Jota is one of the best signings in recent history, while Harvey Elliott is a great prospect. They lack depth, however, with their lack of signings. They could do with a traditional number nine in the ilk of Lukaku, while another winger to replace the departed Shaqiri.
Liverpool’s midfield and defence are among the best in the league. Virgil van Dijk and Matip dealt well with Lukaku, who one week earlier, had simply toyed with Arsenal’s defence. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson were fairly good against Chelsea, and the fact that Klopp could have brought Thiago, Naby Keita or James Milner on is proof of their immense depth. In defence, he could give injury returnee Robertson a breather at the end by bringing on Kostas Tsimikas, while new centre-back Ibrahima Konate is yet to start a game.
This depth and variety is sorely missing in attack. Liverpool are good enough to finish in the top four, but it remains to be seen if they can genuinely challenge for the title.
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