In terms of the result and path to get there, Liverpool were able to look more defensively stable, which resulted in a clean sheet. With only one point gained from a very uneventful game, it appears that this is the stodgy kind of performance that the Reds wanted in order to start regaining control of games.
When looking at the starting line-up, it really was a case of putting out a team that deserved to start. Fabinho looks slow and inefficient this term, whilst the captain remains the continual weak link within a team that requires both energy and intensity. Ali was a certainty to come back in for Caoimhin Kelleher, and his performance was validated with one great moment that kept his clean sheet assured. Trent had a hamstring injury (which kept him away from the FA Cup replay), so a place on the bench was his first step back to first team action. With Robbo replacing Kostas, it just made sense to have the senior left back starting.
The middle area was the most talked about part of the team as the ultra-impressive Stefan Bajčetić retained his place alongside Thiago & Naby. This is a trio that deserved to start, with Klopp clearly opting for what may garner more consistency from the midfield. With a keen sense of awareness and a compact nature to our defensive work, it was clear that the German’s tactical instructions was overriding the previous expressive patterns of play.
In attack it was a case of shoe-horning players in, with Harvey looking an ill fit as the left sided attacker, and the Egyptian King returning to his normal right sided berth, that left Gakpo to resume in a central position. With a lack of incisiveness behind them, there was a painful lack of fluidity to Jurgen’s attack. With Diaz, Darwin and Jota all unable to start this game, there was a lack of power and urgency as the home side failed to create anything of note. Though Cody Gakpo is only in his first few games for Liverpool, there is already a question as to what he can offer this team. This slow build up has offered very little insight into the Dutchman’s game, so the next few games could be decisive as other Las start to return.
GK – Alisson Becker
RB – James Milner (c)
LB – Andy Robertson
RCB – Ibrahima Konaté
LCB – Joe Gomez
RCM – Naby Keïta
CDM – Stefan Bajčetić
LCM – Thiago Alcantara
LF – Harvey Elliott
CF – Cody Gakpo
RF – Mohamed Salah
63’ Darwin Núñez – Naby Keïta
72’ Trent Alexander Arnold – James Milner
82’ Fabinho – Stefan Bajčetić
82’ Curtis Jones – Cody Gakpo
82’ Jordan Henderson – Harvey Elliott
With the line ups and substitutions as shown above, the match started and ended with the Reds maintaining a compact structure designed to bring more off ball stability.
The defence was probably the feature of the match up, with a continuing relationship building between Ibou & Joe Gomez. With a set of fullbacks that were reluctant to push too far forward, it gave Chelsea only fleeting opportunities to hurt the Reds. The disallowed Havertz goal kept the fanbase relatively calm, but it was the close range Ali save from Chelsea new boy, Benoît Badiashile, which stood out in a rather slow first period.
The second half produced even less excitement, as both teams seemed unwilling to let themselves open up. With both managers on the receiving end of criticism, you feel that a loss for either was deemed unthinkable. Mohamed Salah looked lost without his false nine beside him, and he must be aching to see Sadio Mané & Bobby patrolling the surrounding zones. This game was a 95 minute show of frustration, with only a Trent blazing effort within that second 45 minutes, but it could be the kind of performance that halts teams being able to get at us so easily.
In terms of the subs, they seemed ineffectual and it was a shame not to see Darwin pushed through the middle. As Cody continues to immerse himself in the Anfield way, the lack of cohesion was apparent to everyone in attendance. The withdrawal of Naby was predicted, with such little football within the Guinean’s legs. Placing our diminutive winger, Harvey Elliott, into central midfield saw our control ebb away, when better decisions could have been made. It’s just another glaring issue with how few midfield reinforcements we currently have.
It’s hard to write too much about this game, as there was so little that could be documented throughout the underwhelming match. In a snap shot, the defence and keeper were good, the midfield was efficient (until Naby dropped out), whilst the attack was starved of service.
We needed to get back to basics, and basic was exactly what this was. Jurgen Klopp has a huge job to get this group re-energised, or a battle with Chelsea for mid-table supremacy will inevitably continue.