by Victor Opone
If there ever was a time, if there ever was a weekend that illustrated how and why Manchester City strolled to this season’s title so easily, it would be this weekend!
Manchester United (the perennial second placed team) lost to Brighton away to own the unenviable record of being defeated by all three promoted teams in the league for the first time. Tottenham went “Spursy” against Darren Moore’s West Brom.
And then, the mother of all, third placed Liverpool, despite being favorites to overwhelm their opponents, lost and gave Chelsea renewed confidence in their push for a top-four finish. And all these happened on a weekend that Man City played out a goalless draw at the Etihad against Huddersfield!
It’s been an intriguing season, with almost half of the teams in the Premier League finding it difficult to win 10 games at least. There’s been an intriguing battle for relegation, a battle like we’ve never seen before.
Back to the #CheLiv game, Liverpool had only managed one win from their previous four matches in all competitions before the game. Their 3 wins out of 11 games just Champions League fixtures was another stat against them.
But expectations were still high based on Liverpool’s big game attitude, based on that attack, based on the gegen press, but,alas, it wasn’t to be!
Before Sunday’s clash, the last four teams to take points off Liverpool in the EPL only held an average of 34% of ball possession between them – this seemed like good news for Chelsea. Any team hoping to ripple the Gegen press knew the importance of having a packed midfield especially having three in the center. There was also the need to utilize the spaces behind Liverpool’s midfield.
Antonio Conte displayed some of that managerial astuteness that we saw last season. Picking Fabregas alongside Kante and Bakayoko really helped their cause. Fabregas would have been a weaker accomplice if he had been paired alone with Kante, giving the later an overload against a team that love penetrating at will.
If the supply lines to the front trio of Liverpool were to be cut off, another strong, pacy physical presence was needed.
Step in, Bakayoko.
He might not be the most loved but he provided that needed ability to stop the overflow of attack from Liverpool.
Hazard had an amazing game disturbing the Liverpool defense all day and exploiting all that space on the counter. His partner up front, Olivier Giroud showed why he should be preferred ahead of misfiring Alvaro Morata in games like this at least.
If the midfield was solid, the width factor was very important for the equilibrium. Moses and Marcos Alonso were rampant, especially in the second half. This, was in a way, helped by Klopp’s decision to play Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield and Nathaniel Clyne (just regaining full fitness) at right back.
Hey, let’s applaud Chelsea’s defense. They deserve some accolades!
From disturbing Firmino to pushing Mane out, Rudiger might be finding out he forgot Salah in his pockets when trying to get his car keys at the car lot! Third game in a row and Salah has not found the back of the net in all competitions. He had to dive to try to win something – of course, Anthony Taylor was having none of that!
For all the analysis I have made above, there are still some unanswered questions like,
- Liverpool’s backup. Do they feel they have no need for backup? Does Klopp think these guys won’t be exhausted? This was very much evident in the second half.
- Does Klopp ever think of a plan B? In-game tactics and ideas?
- Was it that Antonio Conte really needed to have put in more faith in his players the whole time he was whining about the board and transfers?
Think you’ve got answers to my questions? Or you’ve some questions of your own? Leave me a comment (or two) and share your thoughts with me.
Author: For The Goal
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