So, trophy, yo. That’s never a bad thing, even if we played poorly for much of the game and even if it stretched a number of players for minutes that we’d rather they have spent against Southampton (and probably will have to, anyway.) One of those, of course, is Roberto Firmino, who came on as a halftime replacement, thinking he’d be playing 45 minutes and instead ended up playing 75. But we might have gotten away with fewer of them if he’d played from the beginning, as there’s no way to question the simple reality that is this: Bob makes this team run.
Three minutes after coming on at the half, Firmino fed Mané the ball for the equalizer. For the next 10-15 minutes, Liverpool was relentless as Firmino pushed the team forward into the form and shape it carried for much of last season. The transformation was stark.
From creating chances on the offensive end, to moving the ball through the middle third, to tracking back and assisting the back line, there’s no one who plays that false 9 position like Bob. Klopp emphasized in the post-game press conference that Mané and Origi can play that position, but it’s simply not the same. While both of them have their own set of strengths and abilities, Bob’s vision, footwork, tenacity, and movement make him one of the best footballers in the world at that role. The team’s offense and defense both hugely benefit from his presence. And that’s kind of a concern, when you get right down to it, because there’s no way we can expect him to play 90 minutes a game for 60+ games or whatever we end up playing. You’d like to think that the Cube would be the ideal replacement, as his style of play is similar to Bob’s. But, so far, that hasn’t been in Klopp’s plans. Perhaps when the first games for the League Cup roll around, we’ll see who ends up running out there.
But, never mind all that. Our fourth Super Cup (they’re going to have to update the walls in Melwood and Anfield again) means that the club now stands at 46 major trophies, passing ManU (45) once again as the most successful club in England. Five more to go this season…
Our manager. Leave it to Klopp to do the Rocky line on camera that all of us have been doing since last Friday. Credit where it’s due, though. Adrián’s been here nine days and he already has as many European trophies as Manchester City and one more trophy, period, than he collected in his entire career at Real Betís and West Ham. He played well, made a couple sterling saves, and got called for an extremely questionable penalty but just kept playing his game until he put the final nail in the coffin by dragging his leg on Chelsea’s fifth try. I’ll always be a little nervous about Alisson not being present, but I’m feeling better with every minute that Adrián is between the sticks.
Continuing with the kinks in VAR. Before anything else is said, let’s clarify that Stephanie Frappart and her crew called a great game. Full stop. They kept the game moving, called the obvious ones, and let the questionable ones go. I have a little irritation developing with the new offside procedure, in which the players know it’s offside, but the whistle hasn’t gone, so they end up doing things with the ball that they wouldn’t otherwise, but that’s not the crew’s fault. That’s on UEFA. The only exception to their performance was this moment:
Now, Frappart didn’t have a great angle on this, as she was coming from the left center and was way behind the play. That said, VAR should have caught this and let her know that it was the wrong call. That’s a dive by Abraham. All my regular readers (you know… all three of you) know that I am always in favor of calls going to the offense in the box. Mo Salah takes so much contact without going down that he basically has to dive to get a whistle. But this was not one of those situations. Adrián tries to play the ball, misses it, and then pulls away from Abraham. Of course, this is the best angle of the play… which VAR didn’t have. Because of course UEFA doesn’t have full coverage of the field for a major European trophy! There’s already enough turmoil about VAR’s introduction to the Premier League (Proper Football Men, start your whining!) Can you imagine if a crowd in one of the 18 EPL stadia that have big screens (everyone but Old Trafford and, uh, Anfield…) got the broadcast feed of a play like this and VAR didn’t? You’re trying to introduce something new, which means that people will be reluctant to trust it (despite continuous examples of its benefit in the two World Cups of the past two years) and Proper Football Men will jump on any chance to “prove” that it doesn’t work. Having access to all possible feeds/angles of the pitch seems like the best place to start, no?
Still contemptible. Continuing on the topic of Tammy Abraham: after he won Chelsea that fake penalty and then let his own slow attempt get blocked by Adrián in the shootout, the typical Chelsea fans emerged on Twitter. I won’t duplicate some of the vile shit that I read, but rest assured that no fanbase in the EPL is quite like Chelsea when it comes to racially abusing their own players. Cheers, assholes. “Fire will test the quality of each person’s actions” and all that and you guys are remarkable for showing your true natures whenever that fire gets lit. Oh, and apologies, US Soccer fans. Pulisic or no Pulisic, no decent person cheers for Chelsea.
Facts and results. I can’t find an xG map anywhere, so you’re just going to have to trust me. The midfield was… not great, overall. Milner didn’t have a good game and Henderson looked like he was doing a lot of work making up for Gomez being out of position. Fabinho, though, did have his usual solid day (which included taking a penalty after hobbling off with cramps at full time; he was Monaco’s designated taker when he was with them.) I’m not sure if Ox’s invisibility on the left was a product of him still working himself back into game shape or if he’s just not cut out for the forward role. But Chelsea took full advantage of us not having the best XI on the field and continued that worrisome trend of getting easy counters past our back line. I think Matip played well and Salah continued stretching his side of the field whenever he came near the ball (often through the usual brilliant bombs from VVD) but we gave away a lot of balls. UEFA’s stats say our passing accuracy was 83%, which seems generous.
Despite that, we kept the chances about even and were far more accurate in our attempts (11 of 15 to Chelsea’s 6 of 15), forcing a great game out of Kepa, who is looking more worth the excessive price that they paid for him last season. Interestingly, we stayed in the 4-3-3 even when out of possession for most of the game. I’m not sure if that was a reflection of the lineup or something Klopp has in mind for general strategy these days. Likewise, I’m not sure if that’s what’s contributing to our problems on the defensive end, but I’m assuming the boss will solve it, forthwith. Oh, and as for other stats:
‘Enhancement’ is right.
And for those of you who like watching keepers be made fools of for eight minutes:
Next up are Liverpool Juniors at St. Mary’s. If Clyney was fit, we might have five players we could put on the field that they could boo.