Defeat at Stamford Bridge leaves work to be done for Liverpool
Olivier Giroud’s first half header was ultimately enough to give Chelsea all three points on Sunday and deny Liverpool a chance of sealing their place in the top four. This is always a top fixture in the Premier League calendar but it produced a really dour ninety minutes that leaves Liverpool in particular, in bad form and with work to be done.
Klopp fielded as near to his strongest team as possible, with the exceptionS of Henderson on the bench and Clyne at fullback. Despite their toil and attempted fight back in the second half, they rarely tested Courtois in the Chelsea goal and have left their opponents with a real chance of pinching a top four spot which two weeks ago seemed very unlikely.
Dead on their feet
From the kick off, it was clear that Liverpool were battle weary and they rarely clicked into gear at any stage. Klopp said he was happy with the performance if not the result, and to be fair given the circumstances, we gave a decent account of ourselves. Dominating possession in the first half, Chelsea were left to sit quite deep at times, and looked like the away team for a large chunk of the match.
Liverpool however were very wasteful when they did have chances to break. Trent in particular looked poor in the midfield three, whilst at one point Jams Milner had hearts in mouths as he limped around the pitch with an ominous grimace.
In fact throughout the game, Liverpool’s players and forwards in particular looked completely drained of energy. Roma’s antics in midweek will have sapped them, as will the heat on Sunday afternoon. It must also be remembered that this was our ninth game in thirty-two days, and half our midfield is on the treatment table. Some pundits have also pointed the rather large and distracting fixture coming up in Kiev in three weeks time. However Klopp is unlikely to have let their focus drop given the possibility of a slipping down to fifth place.
The form is now a bit of worry, yes the players are exhausted and have been heroic in their efforts in the Champions League, but it is now just one win in five in the league and in the space of ninety minutes we’ve gone from looking up at second place to glancing down fearfully at fifth. Worryingly Salah and Bobby both look short of form at a key stage of the season.
Again it’s understandable but neither man looked anywhere near their best, and have now faulted for three games in a row. A rushed panic has set in, in the final third, and the team really looks like its missing Oxlade-Chamberlain’s dynamic passing and drive.
There is plenty of hard work in the depleted midfield three, but quality at key moments is certainly lacking and stifling supply to the front three. The bench gives us little respite, neither Solanke nor Ings look good enough to be challenging at the moment and there really are no other genuine midfield options, unless we tweak our formation.
Most important summer in ten years
Whatever happens in the next three weeks, this game and the last few weeks have really highlighted the deficiencies in the ranks. Kieta’s arrival has almost slipped from memory as the deal was done in January; however the need to strengthen is paramount regardless of that deal. We now have a top class manager with the nucleolus of a top team, it would be criminal if we didn’t add at least five more quality players to the ranks in the next window. Given the fact, World Cup will also see our front line called into action it really does exacerbate the need for genuine options to be brought in over the summer.
Yet again, we find ourselves wincing at individual defensive errors. Some pundits have pointed to Dejan Lovren’s improvement and obvious influence in the dressing room over the past few weeks. However, if we are to truly challenge we must be ruthless. Neither Lovren nor Matip are good enough as starting centre-halves. The Croatian simply switches off too often. He did it at Roma in the first leg and yesterday in the first half. Anyone who has watched the Premier League over the past four years will know of Giroud’s aerial quality, and yet our experienced centre-halve didn’t stay alert to his presence yesterday and allowed him to get in front for a free header. Unacceptable and indefensible, an upgrade is surely needed. It is pointless having a world class defender being offset by a bang average and error prone operator. Half measures have been allowed to hamstring Liverpool down the years; we must upgrade the summer and jettison the aforementioned duo.
No need for panic
Liverpool must remain calm. The Brighton game is now massive and they will be no pushovers as they’ve proven all season, but we must stay focused. Two often in the past fortnight, we’ve had chances to counter and undone ourselves. Perhaps it would be better to switch tactics and shove Bobby upfront on his own supported by Salah, Milner and Mane behind. This would give us the option of switching to a diamond at times and really stretching Brighton’s back line. Whatever we do, the final ball must not be rushed, nor must panic set in if the deadlock remains unbroken for a while in the match.
At least things will be simple; a win sees us home regardless of what happens elsewhere. The senior players must step up and help give us a confidence boost ahead of Kiev. It was never going to be straightforward anyway was it?