A Bus Wrapped In A Blanket

Liverpool’s title hopes were dashed a (hopefully not fatal) blow with a 2-0 home defeat to Chelsea. I predicted in the preview that the Blues would defend deeply, but they exceeded my expectations on Sunday afternoon. Could Rodgers and the Reds have done much more to overcome the massed defence?

In case you didn’t see the match, allow me to use a few statistics to try to illustrate how Chelsea played.

There were forty-one pass combinations of six passes-or-more in total in the match. Chelsea had two of them; Schwarzer to Ba (fourteen passes) and Azpilicueta to Ba (twelve passes). The visitors parked their bus and, to use a Rafa Benitez analogy, wrapped their blanket around it leaving very little at the attacking end

20140428-134151.jpg

The Blues defended very deeply (as you’ll see below), and simply looked for the out ball wherever possible. 21.2% of their passes were long at Anfield; for a little context, West Ham, the top flight team who have been most reliant on long-balls this season, average 19.5% of their passes long.

As another illustration of Chelsea’s parked bus, take a look at where on the pitch Liverpool’s key passes occurred in the second half. Close your eyes, and you can picture in your mind the blue wall between the Reds’ attack and the goal.

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Could Liverpool have done any more to breach the Chelsea rearguard? I thought I’d take a look at how they created their twenty-six shots, to see if any creative stone had been left unturned.

Source/Build Up Shot Location Player Outcome
Corner Outside Box, Central Johnson Blocked
Dispossessed Chelsea, Dribble, Pass Wide Box Coutinho Miss
Corner (and pass) Central Box Sakho Miss
Throw in, pass Outside Box, Central Gerrard Blocked
Loose ball Outside Box, Wide Coutinho Miss
Corner, Clearance, Shot Outside Box, Central Flanagan Miss
Ball from byline Central Box Suárez Blocked
Two passes (midfield) Outside Box, Central Suárez Miss
Corner Central Box Lucas Miss
Cross, Clearance, Shot Outside Box, Central Gerrard Miss
From Mignolet, 13 passes Outside Box, Central Gerrard Saved
Corner, Clearance, Shot Outside Box, Central Allen Saved
Corner, clearance, 2 passes, shot Outside Box, Wide Suárez Saved
From Mignolet, 11 passes Outside Box, Central Gerrard Blocked
Clearance Outside Box, Wide Coutinho Miss
Clearance, Pass Outside Box, Central Allen Saved
From defensive third, 8 passes Outside Box, Central Gerrard Saved
5 passes Outside Box, Wide Coutinho Blocked
Throw in, 5 passes Outside Box, Central Suárez Blocked
Corner, clearance, 5 passes, clearance Outside Box, Wide Johnson Blocked
6 passes Outside Box, Central Gerrard Saved
Throw in, 7 passes Outside Box, Central Gerrard Miss
From Mignolet 18 passes Central Box Gerrard Saved
Corner, Clearance, Shot Outside Box, Central Coutinho Miss
9 passes Outside Box, Central Gerrard Miss
Corner, pass, punch, shot Central Box Suárez Saved

We had corners. We stole the ball from Chelsea. We struck from a loose ball. We built from the back. We passed from the byline. We seized upon poor clearances. We had short build ups. We had long build ups. We attempted thirty-nine crosses and four through balls; whilst not season highs, no team in the Premier League this season averages more of either of those methods of trying to create opportunities.

What else could Rodgers have tried? When you’ve lost the game, it’s inevitable to think that you could’ve found another way to break through, and that thought certainly lingers here.

But when a parked bus gets a lucky goal (considering that Gerrard will have received around 2,000 passes this season, what are the chances of what happened occurring when and where it did?), and you’ve tried all of the above, it’s hard for me (albeit as a self-confessed tactical ignoramus) to think of what else Liverpool might have tried.

For the record, I have no issue with Mourinho employing the tactics that he did, but I absolutely despise the gamesmanship (was it three players down with cramp in the 55th minute, or something?!) and the referee should’ve booked Schwarzer for timewasting in the first half. As a piece in The Mirror noted:

In the first 10 minutes of the game, the Blues kept the ball off the pitch for more than four minutes. The referee didn’t warn a single player over the misconduct, and added only three minutes at the end of the first half. So he allowed Chelsea to cheat, and they did so magnificently.

That said, Omar Chaudhuri of Prozone has today confirmed that the ball was actually in play for longer than the average this season.

20140428-134903.jpgRegardless of time wasting, it would be churlish of me not to credit Chelsea with a determined and disciplined defensive performance, but their antics otherwise left a foul taste in the mouth.

My main thought after the final whistle was “If I knew in August how disappointed I’d be today, I’d have been delighted”.

Which makes no sense and complete sense. But the same is true of the 2013/14 season, so let’s see how it pans out from here.

Please check out my other articles, and follow me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Scroll down to see the related posts for this article. Thanks.

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3 thoughts on “A Bus Wrapped In A Blanket

  1. As we only needed a point, surely the tactic to employ once their game plan was evident was to ALSO go to a defensive structure. This would have canceled out their plan and we would have been more effective if a ‘break’ materialized.
    It would have been the worst game of the season to watch, but the vital minimum of one point would probably have been ours.

    • Yeah, you’re right there.

      Rodgers’ commitment to attacking and entertaining football is laudable, and I suspect we wouldn’t be as high up the league without it, but perhaps a greater level of pragmatism should’ve been the order of the day.

      All easy in hindsight though. Chelsea didn’t look like scoring, and one goal for us would surely have earned at least a point. That’s football management though, always a game of stick or twist!

      Cheers for reading.

  2. I have to agree with this article. The last match WAS the MOST BORING match to watch by the Chelsea team.Credit to them though . They really tried their best to slow down Liverpool’s lightning attacks and employed time wasting tactics. The Blues knows that Anfield had been a fortress for the Reds this season and are bent on spoiling Liverpool’s record. JM & Chelsea came to get a result and they did just that.

    Sadly BR needs to come up with a plan B when the plan A doesn’t seemed to be working. The defense surely need a lot of work to do . Mignolet doesn’t help with Liverpool’s cause either.

    Overall a disappointing game for the Reds but they have to pick themselves up and move on.
    Still hoping the Reds can win the title this season.

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