The majority of the first half felt like it was a reflection of a life watching Liverpool over the past 18 months: a mental switch off followed by a defensive error; plenty of sterile domination but no decisiveness in the final third; industry without accomplishment. Chelsea were meant to be like a wounded animal, ready to strike at an old foe in a very modern rivalry. After a good opening 10 or so from the home side, though, they looked to be there for the taking but Liverpool didn’t know how to deliver any kind of killer blow.
On the stroke of half time, though, it seemed as if the winds of change decided to blow through Stamford Bridge. Chelsea’s previously reliable defence crumbled; Phil Coutinho’s often wayward shooting found more definition with glorious accuracy; Liverpool overcame adversity for the first time in what felt like forever.
Here we’ll be looking back at the Reds’ win over Chelsea and analysing the main talking points from the match. As always if you disagree with something we’ve said or think we’ve missed something huge then do let us know. We love it when our readers get involved and you can do so either via the comments section or else by tweeting us. For now, though, shall we revel in what could turn out to be a very important win?
Maybe Coutinho Just Needed A Goal
Let’s be honest, Phil hasn’t been great lately. His performances have been mediocre at best, really quite poor at worst. He’s been inconsistent, lacking in movement and had nowhere near the attacking prowess we’ve come to know and love him for. He has been, to be polite, out of sorts. How many of us wouldn’t have been overly disappointed if he hadn’t been in the starting line up at Stamford Bridge? And, once he was, were you one of those people thinking he should get the hook at half time? We all were in the And Could He Play office.
Benteke for Coutinho half time
— mikejgirling (@mikejgirling) October 31, 2015
Then he went and scored THAT equalising goal. Sufficed to say we decided to give him the benefit of the doubt after that.
In the second half the old, dominating Philippe Coutinho that we remember lighting up Anfield in 2013-2014 was back. He began strutting around the pitch again, finding nice little through balls and enjoying his silky smooth touch once more. It was a remarkable transformation for a player that seemed to be lacking in confidence and intelligence just moments before striking a beautiful left footed shot past Asmir Begovic on the stroke of half time.
In recent games Coutinho has looked like a player who has forgotten what made him such an exciting talent in seasons gone by. It’s fair to say that he hasn’t had the same attacking options in front of him over the past 18 months as he did in the 18 months that came before them, but he’s also seemed to have been stuck in a rut of shooting from 30 yards every time he fancies it, regardless of who’s in front of him on the pitch.
Coutinho can score brilliant goals, we all know that. But in recent times he seems to have forgotten how to do that and has instead figured that if he just has a go from anywhere the ball will fly into the net. Meanwhile the only time he’s scored – or even looked like scoring – was in the opening day of the season versus Stoke. Fantasy Football managers everywhere thought he was likely to be the perfect attacking option of a Liverpool player, only to sit there pulling their hair out with us every time he smashed a ball into the back of an opposition defender or each time he ran over to take a corner only to hit it straight into the first man.
Maybe, just maybe, what he needed was a goal to get him out of his current malaise. What was so wonderful to watch about his first goal at the weekend wasn’t so much the net ruffling as the ball struck the back of it, but rather the composure with which the magical Brazilian went about getting himself into the right position for the goal. No more rushing, no more smashing it as soon as he had half an inch worth of space; just intelligent and opportunism combining with skill to do something audacious.
That he went on and scored a second later on in the game didn’t cause such a surprise after the performance he’d put in during the second half. He went from being a player who seemed to want to run everywhere and do everything but with little useful outcome to someone who could pause, wait and find the perfect moment to deliver a killer blow. Whatever Jurgen Klopp’s been asking him to do he should tell him to keep doing it. If we see more of the calm and composed Brazilian maestro moving forward then Liverpool Football Club will be much the better for it.
James Milner Needs A Rest
Bless Jimmy Milner, but he’s not playing well. He was, to coin a phrase, stinking the place out at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. He gave the sort of performance that was reminiscent of the kid at school who tries really hard but just doesn’t know how to play football. In contrast to Lucas Leiva, who seems to be a man revived under the new manager, Milner seems to be an ageing warrior who would love to relive past glories but whose legs aren’t doing what they’re told.
In the summer most of the ACHP team honestly thought that Milner might prove to be the signing of the season. He is an intelligent, hard working and honest football who can not only put a shift in but also has the experience of winning the league with Manchester City. He arrived on Merseyside not only with the pedigree of a champion, but also with the reputation of someone who had changed the game a number of times for his former club when they faced his new one.
There are rumours aplenty that one of the chief reasons Milny decided to move to Merseyside was that Brendan Rodgers promised him he could play in the middle – his favourite position. When Jurgen Klopp came in and realised that he was going to be better off with an engine room that consists of a revitalised Lucas Leiva and the ever running, Duracell Bunny that is Emre Can it was inevitable that promises made to Milner under the old regime would have to be broken.
Perhaps, then, this shift from where he wanted to play out to where Klopp needs him to play is the cause of his recent poor form. Maybe it’s because he was running further, harder and faster than any other Liverpool player even before the new manager arrived with his talk of geggenpressing. Or it could just be that he’s not sure what’s being asked of him. Whatever the cause of his current displays there can be no question that he’s not playing well enough.
In the absence of Jordan Henderson the stand in captain is having to do too many jobs at once. Talk everyone else through the matches, for example. Lead by example, talk to the referee, check how the younger players are doing and be the link between the manager and some of the players also being things that he’s having to do. It’s also fair to say that, regardless of how much Lucas has improved under Klopp, Milner’s midfield partners don’t seem to have the same drive and running ability as he does. It will inevitably lead him to do more work than is ideal, leaving him tired when it comes to doing basic things like controlling and kicking the football.
The Chelsea game was, arguably, his worst performance yet in a red shirt. His touch was dreadful, his passing was all over the place and his tackling was just abysmal. If he knew how to tackle properly then it is unlikely that Cesar Azpilicueta would have scored the opening goal for Chelsea. It was Milner’s bizarre and useless lunge that allowed the Spaniard to escape down the home team’s left flank before putting a dangerous ball in across Liverpool’s box.
With games coming up against Rubin Kazan and Crystal Palace there’s a small window of opportunity for Klopp to rest the try-hard midfielder before more important and tricky games come up over the horizon. It would be great to say that he can play himself back in to form, but his performances have been getting gradually worse since he first played for the Reds and made such a good initial impression. Milner could still be a great signing for Liverpool and an incredibly influential player, especially if the Reds can get themselves involved in things at the top end of the table before they’re cast too far adrift. For now, though, he’s not fun to watch and rather than being reliable is more like a liability – not something anyone wants to see.
Going in to the game the stats weren’t good: The Reds had only found the net in 6 of their last 18 Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge. In the last 20 league visits to Chelsea they had only scored more than once once before. Whilst the Blues have been in poor form of late, they conceded just nine goals at home in the whole of last season. Liverpool’s last eleven games had finished 1-1, 1-1, 1-1. 3-2, 1-1, 1-1, 0-0, 1-1, 1-1 and 1-0. The Reds hadn’t won at Stamford Bridge for 4 years. In short, it wasn’t likely to be a high scoring game before a ball was even kicked, and it was even less likely to be a positive result for Liverpool if history was anything to go by.
When Chelsea scored their opening goal after just 3 minutes the odds slipped even further away from Liverpool. The last time they had come from behind to win any game in any competition was on Valentine’s Day this year – almost nine months previous. Liverpool have only once beaten Chelsea in the Premier League if they’ve gone behind, and that was in November of 1994 and the game was at Anfield. Since the start of last season Liverpool have conceded first in a match 13 times, winning just one of those games, drawing one and losing eleven of them. Sufficed to say the smart money was on Chelsea winning comfortably after they went ahead.
The winds of change we mentioned before aren’t just taking place in the dugout, though. Jurgen Klopp’s first job when he arrived at Anfield was to make Liverpool harder to beat. His second was to make the Reds more mentality resilient. He said in the aftermath of the game against Southampton at Anfield that it seemed as though the players thought the world had ended when the Saints scored an equaliser. At Stamford Bridge it certainly looked as though the players were slightly shell shocked from their old foe taking the lead. For the first ten minutes of the match Liverpool really struggled to get themselves into the game. What would they do about being behind? Were they going to lose? Or would they be able to once again stumble to a 1-1 draw?
Slowly but surely the players rallied themselves. They knew that Chelsea were a wounded animal but they also discovered that they hadn’t come out swinging like a cornered beast tends to do. Rumours of a senior player in the Stamford Bridge dressing room admitting that he’d rather ‘lose than win’ for Mourinho seemed to have some substance. Liverpool controlled the game well after their initial setback, pushing and probing and asking questions of Mourinho’s men that they weren’t all that keen to answer.
If the Portuguese maestro is currently a portent of disaster and doom, his German counterpart is enjoying life and relishing the challenge that lies in front of him. Chelsea’s players are looking to their manager and seeing a man consumed by anger and hatred, whilst Liverpool’s lads can see a man who has a spring in his step and belief in his charges. If anyone on the pitch was going to feel as if they could come back from a setback and roar on forwards it was only ever going to be Liverpool’s players. The defence is a little more solid, the mentality suggests they know they can comeback from a bad situation. Now we just need the attack to click regularly and we could yet see Liverpool making a decent go of things before the season runs out of steam.
Lies, Damn Lies And Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho is an arrogant, over-hyped and disrespectful nitwit. He’s rude, he’s hypocritical and he gets far more respect than he’s ever shown anyone else in the football world. Anyone who talks of Mourinho as the greatest manager in the game without also mentioning how much money he’s spent over the years at his numerous different clubs is being disingenuous to say the least.
Of course he knows how to win trophies, his CV says as much. But does he know how to build an empire? The evidence would suggest otherwise. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ spent the aftermath of the defeat to Liverpool making out as if there was an horrendous conspiracy against him. ‘The equaliser was scored after the allotted two minutes!’ he cried. ‘Lucas Leiva should have been sent off!’ he moaned. Never will he admit that anything is his fault; never will he agree that his team has its fair share of luck from the officials.
Should Lucas Leiva have been sent off? It wouldn’t have been overly harsh had Mark Clattenburg decided the answer to that question was yes. Yet it also seemed as if Ramires was going to ground before the Brazilian stuck his leg out, so you can see why he remained on the pitch. Should the referee have blown his whistle before Liverpool equalised? Maybe, but they were in an attacking phase of play, it was only 30 seconds over the two minute count, Mourinho wouldn’t have been moaning if his team had scored, it does say ‘a minimum of two minutes’ and even five year olds are taught to play to the whistle!
If Liverpool were fortunate, though, what of Chelsea? John Terry escaped one of the most blatant handballs you’ll ever see, for example. Diego Costa got away with a very late and very naughty tackle on James Milner, too. Oh, and did we mention Diego Costa? His attempt to stamp on Martin Skrtel was beyond disgraceful. The Football Association have decided that no further action needs to be taken regarding that issue. The logic appears to be that Mark Clattenburg was looking at the incident so there’s nothing they can do. He evidently didn’t SEE the stamp, though, or else Costa would have walked.
Jose Mourinho is entitled to think he’s hard done by – virtually every Premier League manager would in the same situation, after all. But his wilful ignorance of the fortune his team benefits from week in week out makes him look churlish at best, pathetic at worst. That the press let him get away with such nonsense also remains a bizarre fact of life. Ever since he declared Luis Garcia’s goal in the 2005 Champion’s League semi-final to be a ’ghost goal’ that shouldn’t have stood and no one decided to ask him whether he’d have preferred a penalty against his team and for Petr Cech to be sent off he’s got away with murder. The sooner Abramovich pulls the trigger on his reign the better it will be for English football. Talented, no question, but just not a very nice man.