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
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.
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|
|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.
Regardless 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.