(Also posted on TalkChelsea.net)
Chelsea suffered a miserable defeat during this week’s Friday Night Football game to Liverpool at the Bridge. Sadly, it was one of those games where only we were to blame: no solid claims for bad refereeing or dirty play from the opposition. So why did we fail?
It seemed as though Chelsea had already hit a slump as they walked out of the tunnel at 8pm. Right from kick-off, we were no threat and Liverpool were given ample opportunity to settle into the game and run it at their own pace. The tactic of allowing the opposition possession has worked before, but it wasn’t suited to the style that Liverpool has shown so far under Klopp. Chelsea gave them exactly what they wanted, and were punished because of it. Even then, our attitude was a bizarre mix of panic and complacency. In desperate attempts to regain some control, players kept making mistakes. The whole game was a constant misplacing of passes and losing the ball due to the unnecessary panic that was slowly flooding them. Of course it’s not ideal to be 0-2 down in 36 minutes but that doesn’t justify a complete abandonment of tactics.
Our defence was continuously called into question last season, and this match was reminiscent of that. The first goal conceded was thanks to clear defensive errors, with Lovren given all the space he could ever want to neatly tuck away Liverpool’s first goal (and he wasn’t the only one unmarked there). There was a complete breakdown in focus and our back four were asleep when the cross was made.
Our defensive issues from last season were never going to be solved with our buys (or lack of) this summer, but for our first few games this season things had gotten better… so what happened this time? My only answer is John Terry. He has had control of our defensive strategy during games so far this season and provided the communication needed to keep the back more focused. The worrying thing is just how lost they looked without him. I am not one of those people who believe Terry is “too old” but our whole defence should not be so reliant on one player, no matter how much of a great player he is. Cahill, Azpilicueta and Ivanovic all have heaps of experience playing in front of Courtois, but you wouldn’t know it from some of the mistakes that were made between them.
The last thing that really didn’t help us was the lack of substitutions made. The 82nd minute is barely enough time for one substitute to make a sufficient impact, let alone three. As it turned out, the changes he did make were probably the best options, but I think Moses and definitely Fabregas would have had much more to offer if they had more game time. In the last 20 minutes or so we had the pace and flow of the game, but a lack of chances was our problem. Who better to create said chances than Fabregas, arguably one of our most creative players? This isn’t the first time that his lack of involvement in the team has been questionable, either.
All in all, it was a bad performance. However, there are many lessons to take from Friday night that can help the team improve. All is not lost yet, and if anything this should be a wake up call for the team, management, and fans that we still have a long way to go to shake off the skeletons of last season.