A rather uneventful afternoon at Anfield ended goalless against Chelsea, as both sides saw their remaining but limited hopes of champions league qualification take a further dent. In truth, Liverpool deserved nothing more from a game where they offered minimal threat for the majority of the occasion. As both teams take a point and move on, we look at the lessons learned from the early kick-off in a real ninth versus tenth trade-off.
SELECTION AVOIDS LOYALTY CLAIMS
There was surprise amongst many Reds when the teamsheets were announced, but in a positive way without doubt. Naby Keita and young Stefan Bajcetic saw their performances against Wolves in the fa cup rewarded with consecutive starts in the middle three. The youngster picked up a yellow card early on in the contest, but still delivered a solid performance whilst similarly Keita wasn’t outstanding but produced some nice moments, including an outside of the boot pass for a Salah chance.
The omission of Trent Alexander-Arnold was announced as down to a ‘minor muscle injury’, but upon his introduction he appeared unsure as to which team he was actually playing for. It would have been interesting to have heard the likes of Matip, Henderson and Fabinho’s thoughts about their place on the subs bench, but in truth it was positive to see Klopp reward those deserving of their chance and bench those not performing. That’ll suppress the loyalty shouts for a little while.
COMPACT AND CAUTIOUS – NOT EXCITING BUT PRAGMATIC
There were a few positives to take from the game believe it or not and back-to-back clean sheets is the biggest one without doubt. Liverpool weren’t pressing aggressively from the start and instead focused on remaining compact and reducing the glaring gaps that have been obvious in recent games. After dismal performances in recent times against Brighton and Brentford, it’s understandable that a team low on confidence appeared more focused on not conceding than anything else.
The other main positive was the start of the second half, as the Reds pinned Chelsea back in their half for a good 10-15 minutes, but to no avail. Jurgen Klopp commented afterwards about the blocking and intensity, whilst also being brutally honest in stating that it wouldn’t have happened a few weeks ago. It’s not the most exciting watch for Reds at the moment, but it’s understandable given the current circumstances. Liverpool have something to build on at least.
For all the talk of Liverpool’s defensive frailties in recent times, there is a real concern on the attacking side. In Liverpool’s last three games against Brighton, Wolves and now Chelsea, they only have a Harvey Elliott blockbuster to show for it. It would be unfair to call them toothless here, but an ever-changing front three failed to find the net again on this occasion. In truth, a side that looks desperately low on confidence is seeking a spark of inspiration from somewhere and nothing helps that like goals.
Cody Gakpo is being unfairly judged at the moment in a struggling team, but the Dutch attacker is still to find a goal or assist in a red shirt. Harvey Elliott toiled in an unfamiliar wide left role, whilst Mo Salah looked the most likely but lacked his usual composure in front of goal. The likes of Diaz and Jota will be welcomed back with open arms as will Nunez who clearly wasn’t fully fit, but introduced to try and bring a new dimension to the reds forward play. The days of 9-0 victories at home feel like an eternity ago…
If you knew nothing about the two teams before kick-off and we’re told this was a battle of ninth versus tenth, then in truth you’d probably have expected what was served up. Only the most wildly optimistic red will believe they’re still in with a shout of champions league qualification and the harsh reality is that there’s better and more deserving teams occupying those positions just now. Even Everton’s woes are providing little comfort of any sort.
With there seeming to be limited hope of any further players walking into Kirkby before the end of this transfer window, the reality is that there will be more underwhelming days ahead for this team and fans alike. There’s still an FA cup and champions league campaign to conclude but there’s a feeling many would be happy to end the pain of this season right now and move to the summer window, whatever that may bring. Brace yourselves for what the near future holds. It’s possible it’ll be more of the same.