Liverpool 1: Can 9'
Chelsea 2: Cahill 14', Costa 67'
We're running out of ways to talk about the disappointment in a week that's seen Liverpool lose three straight matches. Today was probably better overall than last weekend but not quite as resolute as the loss midweek, with Chelsea showing why they're very much the frontrunners in the Premier League and Liverpool once again leaving us contemplative of what exactly we're supposed to expect. Whatever it is, it's left them well off the pace of the top four heading into the international break and desperately in need of improvement.
The positives seemed clear enough, with Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho leading the way going forward in the first half. Can's goal came via deflection but was the result of a positive run forward from the midfield--and Liverpool playing it out from the back successfully, which would prove rare on the day--while Coutinho looked at his best darting through the spaces afforded by the Chelsea midfield. Raheem Sterling had a few moments early as well, finding more joy operating from a starting spot on the left.
Outside of those three, it's hard to know if there's anything we can really take away from this Liverpool performance that we don't already know. And while Liverpool should have had a penalty in the 88th minute after Gary Cahill's clear handball, the match was effectively shut down after Diego Costa got his winner in the 67th. Brendan Rodgers tried a change by bringing Coutinho and Can off for Allen and Borini, but two strikers were just as ineffective as one, with the lack of influence coming through the air rather than along the deck (or, in the case of Mario Balotelli, offside).
Reverting to the personnel from last weekend brought mixed results; using Jordan Henderson to nullify Cesc Fabregas proved useful, but it was also a very inconsistent display from Henderson, especially in the final third, to go with Steven Gerrard's poor performance. Dejan Lovren had another shocker in central defense and looks clearly third-choice at this point, and possibly fourth if Mamadou Sakho is healthy after the international break. Glen Johnson had a few key blocks during a rampant Chelsea spell late in the first half but left Coutinho on an island for what proved to be the winner, providing another piece of evidence for the growing sentiment that his time at Liverpool will soon be at an end.
Maybe the biggest revelation--and it's not really that revelatory, just disappointing--is that Rodgers' talk of meritocracy is a myth. We lived with it last year because it worked while Liverpool were setting the world alight, but after the events of the week, there were at least two or three personnel selections that made it clear the manager is only paying lip service to the idea of picking players on merit. Those culpable for many of Liverpool's problems this season were absent Tuesday but present today (and last weekend against Newcastle), and it seems clear that this trend continues unless circumstances dictate otherwise.
Hopefully this break and the fixtures to follow serve as an opportunity for things to change, because it's clear that from top to bottom, front to back, Liverpool need fixing.