After putting out a semi-arsed XI for the first time in a domestic cup game this season, Jürgen Klopp’s Reds nonetheless fell at Stamford Bridge, suffering their second consecutive loss for the first time since January 2019, and sparking hysteria in the fan base.
Below, we look at some winners and losers on the night, as well as dive into why this is all actually fine, we promise!
Treble Winners: With the Reds out of the FA Cup, any hopes of a treble have now been dashed, and — as was the case for Arsenal’s Invincibles last week — that means celebration for Manchester United, who will remain the only English treble winners, for another year at least.
With no genuine chance at winning anything of significance this season, I guess it’s nice that these other teams can find some drops of joy in the misfortune of others. We shouldn’t deny them that.
Kepa Arizzabalaga: The world’s most expensive goalkeeper has been on the bench for Chelsea’s past five games, after it came to light that he wasn’t really very good. Replaced by former Manchester City substitute and potential Immortal Willy Caballero, the Spaniard was given a chance to prove his worth in England’s second-tier domestic competition tonight, and, while proving a value of £75m in a competition worth at most just shy of £7m is literally impossible, the 25-year old did his job when called upon, making five saves, four of which came from about eight yards.
It is worth pointing out, however, that despite the proximity of the ball to the goal when these shots were taken, none of them forced the goalkeeper to make any particularly spectacular saves. You see...
Shooting: ...the Reds took really bad shots. Of the five shots Liverpool’s attackers managed to place between the sticks tonight — from 14 total — one hundred percent were laced directly at the goalkeeper. That four of these were absolutely massive chances from close range at which any sort of placement to the side of the stopper would have made them completely unsaveable makes it all the more frustrating for fans of the Merseysiders. However...
Adrian: ...shooting straight at the goalkeeper can actually be a pretty sensible strategy, or so would Adrián San Miguel de Castillo’s performance have you think. Chelsea battered the Spaniard with three laced efforts directly at the center of his being in the first half, and by the time the third attempt came around — a belter from Willian wide to the right — the former West Ham man had forgotten how hands work, or what sport he was playing.
Seemingly attempting some sort of volleyball bump, Adrián failed to make proper contact with the shot, and could only watch as it bounced off him and nestled into his side netting. It gave Chelsea an opener and forced their visitors to chase a game for the fourth time in a row, a task that proved too much on the night.
Anxious Fans: This writer very much does not count himself among these, as will be explained in a second, but if you’re of the nervous persuasion, the coming week is probably going to be pretty rough, huh. The Reds have lost three times in four games. They may be dumped out of two of their remaining three competitions in the space of eight days. Their once seemingly unassailable 22-point lead in the league has been cut to... well, still 22 points. Indeed, dark times are ahead.
Controlling the Narrative
Social media sites are never the best place to find a measured take, and Liverpool fans are riddled enough with trauma from previous decades to be particularly susceptible to the sort of hysteria that follows a loss or drop in performance, but heavens to Betsy there was some hyperbole out there tonight. If you’re inclined to believe the sky is falling on Anfield right now, here are some words that will, hopefully, calm you just a little bit.
- The Reds weren’t actually unbeatable at any point. Liverpool’s preposterous points haul — 109 points from the last 114 on offer — did not reflect their dominance up until this point of the season and was not sustainable. It was a result of a very, very good team — one of the very best, in fact — catching some timely breaks. Having conceded only 1 goal in 11 games, from 8.6 expected goals, the Reds were always going to regress at some point. That regression is fine and expected.
- The Watford game — while undeniably terrible — was not part of some trend. The Reds were behind against West Ham, having conceded the first two shots on target to the tune of a whopping 0.13 expected goals, but had taken an early lead before that, and always felt like they had another gear in them. Similarly, for all the criticism Klopp’s men received for beating Norwich by only a single goal, the match was never close or in danger of getting away from them. The Watford match — in which Liverpool simply didn’t show up — is an extreme outlier in a season where they have largely found a way to win very even contests, and happened to occur within a stretch of even contests where the Reds have, quite normally, I assure you, not always found a way to win.
- Losing away to Chelsea and Atlético Madrid is fine! Not once in any other year would these sorts of losses have been considered anything but completely normal. The latter are the best defensive team on the continent and got an early lead from a 4v11 on a corner, while the former are the third of fourth best side in England, and beat a Liverpool XI with five starters, who nonetheless should have scored at least two goals from their four massive chances. We used to lose all the time, to much worse teams. Losing away to actually good teams is not uncommon.
- The Reds aren’t throwing away the title. They won’t be Invincibles, won’t win a treble, probably won’t win a double, and may not even set the record for points scored in a league season, but the Premier League title is coming home to Anfield for the very first time in May. Enjoy that. Please!
What Happens Next
The Reds host 18th placed Bournemouth — their fourth consecutive match against teams in the relegation zone — on Saturday tea time and will look to not only bounce back from the Watford loss and FA Cup exit, but also get the good feeling of a win back ahead of their must-win clash with Atlético Madrid the following Wednesday.
Up the still definitely winning the league Reds!