I generally like to sit on these when they follow a game that I’m particularly irked about, since it gives me time to calm down and consider things in a more reasonable fashion. But I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about this one, apparently, so I might as well take the opportunity to get my thoughts down now, even if I don’t end up finishing it and publishing it until Sunday. Put simply, we should’ve taken all three points today. An entire half up a man against even as talented a squad as Chelsea should get us at least one more goal, which would’ve given us the win. The fact that we still can’t seem to break through regularly against even 10-man packed-in defenses is a concern. Again, most opponents that do that against us won’t be as talented as Chelsea, but visions of Atletico Madrid are currently swirling in my head so… yeah. It’s fair to point out the depth they have, as well, since N’Golo Kanté, often considered the best #6 in the world (those of us who watch Fabinho on the regular would argue that, even with his somewhat subpar game today) went off at the half and they brought Thiago Silva on. The latter proceeded to have more blocked shots (3) than the rest of Chelsea combined (1.) That’s a hell of a lockdown option that Tuchel has at anytime and one he may have considered bringing on in the second half if Reece James hadn’t gifted us a penalty shot and we were still 1-0 down. That’s real depth which Liverpool also has in all areas of the squad, minus the magical-goal-maker-on-the-front-line-when-everyone-else-isn’t-feeling-it that we didn’t have today.
Speaking of the penalty, that’s about as nailed-on as you can get. It’s a handball not just in the box but on the goal line and one where he visibly moves his hand forward to deflect the ball. It may be an instinctive reaction. It may have been a really close shot. But it’s also clear denial of a goal scoring opportunity (without that arm, the ball goes in the back of the net) which is an instant red card anywhere on the pitch, to say nothing of the mouth of the goal. So, it’s unfortunate for James in the same way it was unfortunate for Ayoze Perez to be sent off for Leicester last week for stamping on Pablo Fornals’ ankle while trying to keep his balance after being fouled. But it’s also the clearest application of both the handball rule (e.g. made his body bigger) and the denial of a scoring opportunity rule that I’ve seen in a long time. That meant that Chelsea, already playing on the counter while we totally overmatched them in the first half, was reduced to playing like typical Burnley in the second half; focusing solely on preserving the draw, which they eventually got. It was the typical Liverpool vs Lower Half Side training exercise which is always awful to watch, but it still should’ve produced the point total that we expected, given that we took 23 shots, 8 on target, and the vast majority of those in the second half where Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk were almost playing up to the 18-yard box in the nearly complete absence of a Chelsea threat for 45 minutes.
Now, the one thing we were really missing in the second half was Roberto Firmino’s creativity. I was in a crowded Magee’s and answering the questions of two new fans of the game, so I missed seeing him showing the hamstring injury that Jürgen Klopp pulled him for, so I initially assumed it was only the third or fourth first half sub that Klopp had made in his entire tenure here that wasn’t the result of an injury. It was an injury, of course, and now we have to hope that it’s not too serious. But it also demonstrated the 5-year running issue that, when Bob isn’t present, the offense often becomes neutered. I think Jürgen tried to adjust for that absence later in the half by bringing on Thiago Alcãntara for Jordan Henderson but, despite the accolades pouring in for Harvey Elliott’s performance which I largely agree with, I would’ve vastly preferred to see Thiago on the left and Hendo on the right, replacing Harvey, since the mental connection that Hendo and Trent Alexander-Arnold have on that side is exceptional, offensively, and we would’ve been without the usual concern for Hendo having to cover Trent’s ventures forward as he always does. I think Harvey did play really well, but a lot of people are talking up his chips forward and passes into windows that might’ve been there and I would’ve been much happier to see more control and passes to windows that actually were there. I’m all about making him a serious part of the first team. I think he’s ready for that. But I would’ve preferred to see someone with a lot more experience breaking down parked buses who might’ve been able to get us the two more points that we should’ve gotten. If this sounds like me still complaining about Jürgen’s substitution policy, guilty as charged. At least I’m not one of those idiots on Twitter squealing about how we haven’t bought anyone (Ibhrahima Konaté) or that we haven’t flooded our roster with attackers (only one non-homegrown slot left; won’t find an English replacement without paying twice their actual value.) Does that mean some gripes are legit and some are fantasies from people who don’t understand either the business or the game? Yes. Yes, it does.
Liverpool 1 – 1 Chelsea
I really detest Chelsea. There’s a lot of history in the past 17 years that encourages that perspective. It can probably best be summed up in the recent exchange I had with a Chelsea fan who was crowing about something or other, when I said: “If an oil billionaire hadn’t decided that he wanted a new toy, your club would be the equivalent of Millwall. And just as racist.” It’s even worse now that the American Wünderkind plays for them, since that was the signal to many USMNT fans to rush out and buy Pulisic Chelsea jerseys and pretend they’d been lifelong fans for the last two years. Yay. There is, however, no doubt that Thomas Tuchel is an excellent manager and he made the most of the aforementioned Chelsea depth to stymie LFC’s attempt to get all three points. There’s also no doubt about the talent they’ve assembled, between Kanté, Jorginho, Mason Mount, and half a dozen others; most prominent among them in both stature and game effect is, of course, Romelu Lukaku. Thankfully, at least, Lukaku didn’t have a huge impact on this game thanks to the player NBC Sports was only too eager to make into an opposite number to him, Virg, and his cohort, Joel:
Granted, Chelsea was only too happy to play on the counter, which they willingly did for most of the first half and were forced to do for the second, so Joel wasn’t really tested. But, when he was, concerns were minimal. I saw someone suggesting that he wasn’t having a good game and really had to wonder which game it was that they were watching. Similarly, Virg won 100% of his aerial duels, 100% of his ground duels, and had as many shots on target as Lukaku did.
I keep seeing references on Twitter by (mostly ManU) fans, claiming that Virg isn’t the same, post-injury. Again, just as in life, there are far more idiots about football on Twitter (especially about defense) than there are intelligent people. Feel free to try being an intelligent person there, if you have the time and inclination (but don’t get into a debate with them; just descending to their level, etc.)
Why am I talking mostly about defense on a day when we were on offense for 80 minutes of a 90 minute game? Good question! Maybe because the offensive displays weren’t especially impressive? But lets talk some offense:
No shade here. For an 18-year-old kid starting only this third PL game against a top 4 side, that’s a great performance. I have no problem with Harvey being in the regular rotation and it’s not just a matter of keeping faith with the boss. He’s looked good enough at Kirkby to be out there and he’s looked good enough in the games to stay out there. That said, I’m still not sure this was the best moment to replace our captain who’s a natural #8 and continue to try to rely on the kid who’s being shaped into one after spending several years playing on the wing.
In addition to Harvey, Trent created more chances than anyone else on the pitch (5) and Edouard Mendy made more saves than anyone else in the PL so far this season (6), which is also the most saves he’s made in any single match since he joined Chelsea. Plus, Mo scored his 17th penalty in a row, which leaves him 1 behind the club record 18 set by Jan Molby twice from 1986 to 1994, and 7 behind the PL record of Matt LeTissier between 1994 and 2000. So, no, it wasn’t an offensive disaster on the order of losing 1-0 to Fulham or something like that and due credit to Kai Havertz for the brilliant header that we had to equalize in the first place. But it’s still aggravating to be stuttering for entire halves of games while machines like Man City show exactly what should happen when you’re given the man advantage (albeit against a squad that can’t even approach Chelsea’s level of talent.) In that vein, it’s fair to question Sadio’s continued troubles that have apparently carried over from last year. He’s still stalling in the final third where he wouldn’t have before and it still seems like he’s trying too hard to change things himself, instead of enlisting his teammates to help out. I mean, strikers are like that, so it’s not a crisis (yet) but it is starting to become a question.
Alright, I’m through ranting (although I am still gritting my teeth at some points.) The world’s most useless international break, three games into the season, is upon us and a lot of the squad isn’t going anywhere. Always a good time for practice, I guess. We’re back against the White Guys at Elland Road two weeks from tomorrow. Transfer window ends Tuesday (thankfully.)