If Liverpool win the Premier League title this season, they won’t look back on their many cruising victories, but on the wins they scraped when not at their best.
And you’d imagine this match will be near the top of that list.
It looked as if it might prove surprisingly straightforward when Roberto Firmino added to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s sublime effort, but after N’Golo Kante’s equally dazzling, if preventable, strike, it was shelter behind the couch stuff.
Here are the standout numbers from an unconvincing yet no doubt significant victory.
Reds’ game-management deserts them
I’ll start on a somewhat critical note and work my way to a suitably positive conclusion. Liverpool, in all honesty, didn’t play particularly well at Stamford Bridge.
Usually, they are able to take control of the contest when in the lead, but on this occasion, they couldn’t find a way to halt the relentless waves of Chelsea pressure in the second half.
The Reds couldn’t put together the kind of possession spells which would take the noise levels down a few notches and sap belief from the opposition. Their use of the ball was sloppy and their movement off it below-par.
In fact, our 72% passing accuracy is, by a five per cent margin, our worst of the Premier League season so far. We wound up making 405 passes in the game, again our lowest domestic tally this term and a huge plunge from the 847 we strung together last time out against Newcastle. Of course, this was always likely to be an entirely different game, but our totals even dipped significantly from earlier big six meetings against Arsenal (553) and Manchester City (525, Community Shield).
This meant the Chelsea onslaught continued unabated, and they would have attempt 13 shots on our goal to our six. Fortunately, from our perspective, Frank Lampard’s side was far from ruthless, with only two of the shots making Adrian work.
Set-pieces continue to provide joy
Both of our goals came from dead-ball scenarios, the first Trent’s drive and the second Firmino’s free header from Andrew Robertson’s whipped free-kick.
Chelsea didn’t appear wise to the danger despite our unparalleled set-piece prowess.
Since the start of last season, we have scored 34 goals from set-plays which, as Opta point out, is at least seven more than any other Premier League side.
It’s such a valuable string on our all-conquering bow, providing an alternative route to goal if, as has been the case in the past couple of matches, the front three fail to come to alive.
Matip delivers… again
The Liverpool juggernaut is relentless and it owes a lot to the unwavering brilliance of Virgil van Dijk’s partner Joel Matip.
Few would dispute that Matip is in the form of his life right now, and this man-of-the-match display (at least according to Jamie Carragher) will only see his stock rise further.
Matip won five aerial duels and made three tackles and nine clearances, statistically out-performing Van Dijk. You can legitimately put that down to the likelihood that opponents target the centre-back who isn’t the best in the world, but still, I would make the claim they’ve performed at a similar level in 2019. And that’s quite the accolade.
Incidentally, Joe Gomez, an insurance substitute in the 92nd minute, is being largely restricted to a watching brief. He has only one start at centre-back this calendar year.
The stats that matter most
It’s probably too early, however tempting, to be zeroing in on the league table. Instead let’s focus on our quite remarkable winning streak, which now stretches over 15 games.
We need another three to tie Manchester City’s all-time PL record of 18 on the bounce, and it just so happens that the opportunity to match it will arise at Old Trafford if we find a way past Sheffield United and Leicester City.
These aren’t the only eye-catching details: we’ve become the first PL team ever to win our first six in back-to-back seasons and have gone 23 games unbeaten for the first time since November 1990.
To me at least, they’re numbers worthy of champions.