As the full time whistle was blown by Andre Marriner, the scoreboard read Liverpool 5, Chelsea 3. While those in red couldn’t wait to get their hands on the trophy, the ones in blue faced a feeling they weren’t very unfamiliar with. The words “same old, same old” surely rung in the minds of all the Chelsea coaching staff alike. In a game where both sets of defences simply did not want to defend, Liverpool, with their attacking prowess, portrayed to the rest of the league why they sit 18 points ahead of their closest competitor. The Reds hadn’t been in the best of form heading into the game, but enforced their superiority; determined to lift the Premier League trophy after a convincing performance.
However, while we can take nothing away from the Champions of England, we can take pride in the fact that we outperformed them in the expected statistics – Liverpool had an xG of 1.45 while Chelsea boasted an xG of 2.38 (source: Understat) – and this sums up our season. The sheer number of times Chelsea have thrown the game away after dominating it, or, on this occasion, not taking the chances which fall our way, has cost us a staggering amount of points, avoiding which we would have comfortably qualified for the Champions League by now. And the worst part is that most of the games we’ve thrown away are due to a combination of individual errors, which could have been easily prevented had any single one of the player not committed the error.
No player, or human for that matter, is flawless; but improvement from mistakes is one lesson that is embedded in all our minds right from birth, which does not seem to be the mantra of this current crop of players at Chelsea Football Club, as they continue to make those silly errors time and again. In a period where Lampard has the full backing of the board, the players who want to stay at the club beyond this season must showcase their desire, which we have not seen from the usual suspects.
As soon as line-ups were announced, the decision by Lampard to bench Pulisic did raise some eyebrows, but the manager clarified in the post-match conference that the American was carrying a minor knock that would have prevented him from playing the full 90 minutes. The 3-4-3 formation that we deployed worked well in my opinion, which is solidified further with the xG scores. In fact, we started the game on the front foot, until Naby Keita pulled one out of his hat. The second goal was a controversial one, as the free-kick probably should not have stood. We can simply sit back and appreciate Trent’s free-kick, which would have seemed better had Kepa at least made an effort to reach the ball. The third goal from Wijnaldum was once again a combination of errors, with our inability to clear the ball from the corner ending a game of pinball until the Dutch midfielder smashed the ball into the back of the net.
Being 3-0 down before half-time was really deflating, but a glimmer of hope was provided by Giroud as he tapped the ball into the net after Alisson made an excellent save from Willian’s shot. This glimmer was short lived, however, as less than 10 minutes after the break Firmino scored his first goal at Anfield this season with a good header from an outstanding cross by Trent Alexander-Arnold. Pulisic’s introduction completely changed the game, as he set up a chance on a silver platter for Tammy, who tucked it in. His run before the assist is underrated massively, and I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I cannot name ten other players in world football who can do that to the Liverpool defence. His influence on the game was further strengthened when he scored from fellow substitute Hudson-Odoi’s cross. With the Ajax game from earlier in the season playing in the back of our head, we continued to watch in anticipation of the Reece James screamer that gave us so many iconic photos this season.
However, the famous phrase, “it’s the hope that kills” was personified as Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the eighth goal of the game, and the fifth for Liverpool. This goal was, once again, a combination of errors from a list of players coupled with the Merseyside club’s excellence on the break. The game finally ended with no further goals, leaving us fans with a feeling of déjà vu.
This feeling of “what could have been” is one that continues to haunt us, and will quite likely do so for the next two games as well. While it is no secret that the Chelsea squad is not on par with the elite, some of these individual errors are recurring in nature, and are showing no sign of eradication. To add to this, there is a list of players who show that they simply do not play for the badge anymore. And this rightfully calls for criticism, but not abuse. Some of the abuse directed at the players, which includes death threats and racial abuse, is disgusting to say the least. While it is abundantly clear that a host of the names that started the last game will not be at Stamford Bridge next season, it is our job as fans to back the players as long as the don the kit of the Pride of London.
Looking ahead, we have two crucial games against Wolves and Arsenal, and victory in both could see us finish 3rd in the League and end the season with a trophy, as we’ve become accustomed to in recent years. Here’s to hoping the same old mistakes don’t cost us in these two games!