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Digging Deeper Into Liverpool’s 0-1 Loss to Chelsea

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We try to find some bright spots and explore why they were so few after the Reds fall to a fifth consecutive Anfield defeat.

Liverpool v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Chelsea Football Club/Getty Images

The Reds’ season keeps on rolling, and it’s been all downhill for a while now. Nevertheless, we do our best to find positives among the dreck, and attempt at an explanation for why things went as they did on this particular night.


Winners

Diogo Jota is Back: He didn’t contribute much, registering only seven touches in the half hour he spent on the pitch, but after a lengthy spell on the sidelines following a knee injury suffered in a meaningless dead rubber back in December, it was good to see the Portuguese attacker back out there, and on a night where highlights were few and far between, we’ll take what we can get.

Jota’s presence can only be a boon to this team. Hopefully it won’t be cut short again before the season is out.

Alisson Becker: After a trio of horrendous howlers cost the Reds points in consecutive games, the Brazilian goalkeeper was back to his best tonight, displaying bravery, reflexes, and well-drilled technical execution in one-on-one situations. The consensus best goalkeeper in the world in 2019 and 2020 hasn’t had a great year, and hopefully tonight was an indication of a return to form.

Losers

Fortress Anfield: After breaking all kinds of records last season, the Reds have headed in the opposite direction this year, and tonight, they recorded a fifth consecutive league loss at Anfield for the first time in club history. That’s bad. There really isn’t much more to say about that.

Champions League Ambitions: A win today would have seen the Reds re-enter the top four on goal difference, within striking distance of both Leicester and Manchester United. Instead, they remain stuck in seventh, at the fringes of European qualification, with both teams directly ahead of them possessing a game in hand.

Now that Chelsea appear to have found their footing under Tuchel, they’re highly unlikely to see a dramatic drop in results, and as such, Liverpool’s odds of partaking in the Champions League next season are now mostly reliant on winning the whole thing this year.

Hand Ball: It was, and it should have been called, and the refereeing standards in this league can only be described as atrocious.


Credit to the Opposition

Thomas Tuchel — having succeeded the man at Mainz in 2009 and Borussia Dortmund back in 2014 — probably understands Jürgen Klopp and his strategical tendencies better than any human being on the planet, and certainly than any football manager. That was in evidence tonight, as Chelsea neutered the Reds’ ability to create anything of note with remarkable effectiveness.

Certainly, Liverpool’s offense has been misfiring for most of the year, but they have usually created a big chance or two to squander. Tonight, they were unable to generate a single non-headed shot in the 18-yard box, an extremely rare occurrence, and on the occasions when they looked like they might break through, a poor touch or decision saw the swarmed by disciplined blue shirts.

It was a defensive performance not dissimilar in tactics to the one that Brighton employed back in October, as a 5-4-1 medium block was paired with aggressive closing down, and Chelsea combining for 37 tackle attempts on the night. The end result was a Liverpool side denied of space in the wide areas and time in the centre, managing only seven shots in total, with the front three combining for a meager two attempts.

At the other end, Chelsea managed to break through the Reds’ accelerationally challenged backline on the counter on a handful of occasions, and only a vintage performance from Alisson kept the scoreline respectable in the end.


What Happens Next

The Reds host Fulham on Sunday, and the Londoners are in fine form, collecting eight points from their last five, and were unlucky not to get something from Tottenham earlier today. It’s a chance for Jürgen Klopp’s men to break their historic home streak against a side currently in the relegation zone, but it will not be an easy win by any means.

Then, on Wednesday, RB Leipzig clash with the Reds in Budapest, looking to overturn the 0-2 deficit from the first leg. As mentioned, the Champions League now holds Liverpool’s only true chance at success this season, and they need to overcome this first obstacle if the rest of the year isn’t going to be a pure write-off.