After a torrid January and only one win in the month, the reds found themselves coming up against, what I believe, are the future Premier League champions. I also dreamt that Leicester will both get relegated and win the Champions League, so don’t believe all my predictions.
Chelsea are the team in form and during the first half my admiration for Conte grew. His style is to win matches and play whichever way will get them there. They defended well and in numbers which aggravated Liverpool’s forward play, settling in as the game went on. They were nowhere near their best, but neither were we.
At the back Matip was disappointing and couldn’t handle the might of Diego Costa, although only one real chance came from their battle, the penalty where Mignolet helped out and actually did something worth while. I have to say Matip wasn’t helped by any of his defensive counterparts, so in comparison he wasn’t the one to stick out, they were all pretty bad.
With Chelsea’s goal it was Mignolet’s fault alone, so he’ll have to take full responsibility. I still don’t know what was going through his mind when the ref blew the whistle and he hops back to the centre and then wanders off, imitating a gold fish. This is something where my mind is completely made up now, in the fact that he has to go in the summer. We cannot have these lapses, period. Never mind that it happens multiple times a season. I said in my Winter transfer piece that it was a make or break season for Simon and now he’s made the decision for me.
Going forward we miss our full backs pushing on to the opposition back line, which in turn provides much needed width. The problem here is that when moving forward I don’t believe we have the player to drop from defensive midfielder into a third centre back, providing the cover when the full backs push on. Either Klopp knows this and doesn’t let them push on because we are so weak at the back, or it’s just not his style, but I’m sure Piszczek and Schmelzer were vital for his BVB team in attacking areas.
Our attacking play was overshadowed by the number of blue shirts that tracked back to create an impenetrable wall. At one point I counted 7 compared to our 3 in the blue’s box. So it was down to our resolve, solidarity and determination to break through (with the help of a full back finally in the opposition box). Gini Wijnaldum is showing more of his late runs that are a vital feature of his game, so it finally looks like he’s settling in, and Emre Can played much better than he has recently, even showing glimpses of his strengths.
I have to say that the player who showed the greatest improvement was our captain. Henderson’s passing was more accurate than previous games and he showed where his strengths lie, in a more attacking and penetrating role. His key passes (like for the goal) would provide far more clear cut chances if there was somebody on the diagonal to pick them up, this is where we have a problem.
All of our centre midfielders have an attacking flair that will benefit the team and they can all play centrally with one-another, but it is when we play to their strengths that our team is damaged. One of the midfield three has to give, as I believe we need the defensive midfielder to become the third centre back. This would allow the width from the full backs and therefore provide the catalyst for our centre midfielders to flourish. Maybe we already have him (as long as he plays the way we need), according to Andy Carroll’s chat with Jamie Redknapp, he’s one of the best:
REDKNAPP: Who is your toughest opponent?
CARROLL: Gary Cahill. Timing, reading, good leap, very good. And Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva. Oh my God. He played centre half against us. I don’t know what it was. Every time I went for the ball he gave me a little nudge, the referee was never going to give a foul and I never wanted a foul, but he did me every time. Just judging me so well and knocking me off balance. I couldn’t play against him.
This game was a hard fought result and a fair one at that. We are still in a good position for the top 4 and this is still what is needed, but we have to keep it up. We cannot drop back into the ‘January’ rut against Hull.