Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat against Chelsea leaves the door open to an exciting finish for the top 4 places.
Olivier Giroud’s header in the first half secured all three points for Chelsea against an abject Liverpool side. Sunday’s result sets up an exciting finale for the top 4 places. In order to qualify for next season’s Champions League Liverpool need to win at home against Brighton in their final match of the season or match Chelsea’s result in their final game.
Liverpool dominated possession in the first half and troubled Chelsea’s back three on a couple of occasions, only to be bailed out by Thibaut Courtois. In spite of having more of the ball, Liverpool looked clueless in the final third as the first half progressed.
The Reds were punished after Giroud headed the ball past Loris Karius in the 32nd minute. Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren could have done better to put Giroud off during the build-up to the winner.
The second half saw Liverpool fail to muster up a single shot on target as Chelsea blocked off all passing lanes and tightly marked Liverpool’s front three.
Here are the three things that went wrong for Liverpool at the Bridge.
#1 A dire performance from Liverpool’s midfield highlights the need to sign an orchestrator
Jurgen Klopp made a solitary change in midfield from the side that played at the Stadio Olimpico with right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold taking Jordan Henderson’s place.
A toothless performance from Liverpool’s midfield trio stressed on the need to sign an orchestrator during the upcoming summer transfer window. Coming to the game, none of Liverpool’s midfielders were able to break the lines and unleash the front three.
Georginio Wijnaldum, who was deployed as a number 6 on the afternoon failed to provide any through balls for Liverpool’s forwards to attack. Most of his passing was either sideways or backwards which allowed Chelsea to get back into their shape. In short, the Dutchman’s performance was abject.
James Milner’s performance was also similar to that of Wijnaldum’s as the Englishman failed to link up well with Left Back Andrew Robertson and threaten the right-hand side of Chelsea’s defence.
Meanwhile, Trent Alexander-Arnold had an afternoon to forget as the teenager struggled to cope with the physicality of Chelsea’s midfield and a number of his passes went astray.
The likes of Jorginho, Ruben Neves would serve as brilliant options to shore up Liverpool’s midfield as the above mentioned players possess the tactical acumen to take Liverpool to the next level. This would also help Liverpool’s front three to get the required service which they fail to receive while playing against teams who sit deep in their own half.
#2 Liverpool’s front three looked isolated on the day
Liverpool have played some breathtaking attacking football with their famous triumvirate of Salah, Mane and Firmino scoring goals for fun. Unfortunately, the Bridge would not witness their fireworks as they were well marshalled by Chelsea’s back three.
The only forward who looked to threaten on the day was Senegalese winger, Sadio Mane. During the first half, Mane made some really clever runs which created certain openings between Chelsea’s back three and midfield which was initially exploited.
Some lacklustre finishing prevented Mane from getting on the scoresheet as several shots of his were smartly parried away by Thibaut Courtois.
Premier League’s top scorer Mohamed Salah failed to find the back of the net against his former employees. Salah was well marshalled by the likes of Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso as they tightly marked the Egyptian, giving him no space to turn or shoot.
Salah had a paltry pass success rate of 63% and lost 5 of his 7 duels against Chelsea’s defence. The Egyptian was dispossessed on 3 occasions and did not succeed in successfully taking on Rudiger. Overall, it was a bad day in the office for Salah.
Roberto Firmino looked isolated throughout the game and was forced to operate from midfield, thereby limiting his ability to make some intelligent runs to free up space for the likes of Salah and Mane.
#3 Substitutes fail to make the desired impact
Solanke flattered to deceive against his former club.
Olivier Giroud’s first-half header meant that Liverpool needed to attack more effectively, efficiently in the second half. The second half saw Jurgen Klopp replacing Nathaniel Clyne with Jordan Henderson in the 59th minute. This saw Alexander-Arnold shift back to his favoured Right Back position with Henderson occupying the number 6 role.
Henderson stuck to his task of recycling possession, keep things tidy in the middle, making some interceptions in vital areas of the pitch. Albeit keeping things simple, Henderson failed to find the final ball to release Liverpool’s front three and failed to help his side in getting the equaliser.
Klopp replaced Andy Robertson with Dominic Solanke which saw Firmino drop into midfield and Milner occupying the Left Back position. Solanke failed to direct his header in the second half and saw it sailing over Courtois’ post. The Englishman failed to hold up the ball and was easily shrugged off by the likes of Cahill and Azpilicueta.
Alberto Moreno came on during the dying seconds of the game and failed to create any clear cut opportunity.
This performance highlights the need to invest in some squad players who could come on and make a difference. It also highlights the need of a plan B which is required against sides who like to defend deep in their own half. If Liverpool want to end their drought for the Premier League, they need to invest smartly on some quality players, thereby increasing their squad depth.