There was speculation before today that if Chelsea lost at home here to Liverpool, the once unspeakable could happen – Jose Mourinho could be sacked. While it seems unlikely he will lose his job before the next game, the pressure has piled on considerably and it was evident from the interviews after the game. His interview directly after the game with BT Sport was so straight-batted, it could pass self-parody. Pressed repeatedly on different aspects of the game, Mourinho said “I have nothing to say” nine times (about double that if you include all iterations of “no”, “can’t say” and so on). He opened up slightly in the press conference after, where he claimed of his players: “You could feel the attitude, the desire, the game was maximum. It was 50/50.” And he went on to point out that the goal was scored 35 seconds after the two minutes of first-half injury time was up and everything else was a “consequence” of that and other specific things. On those specifics, he was unusually reluctant with his opinions, repeatedly mentioning that he would punished by the FA for voicing his opinion. Also, notably absent was any acknowledgement of the quality of Liverpool’s performance. Granted, it’s Jose Mourinho, hardly the most gracious loser. But in fact recognising their performance would not only show some humility, it could also work in his team’s favour.. It’s very unlikely the press will buy his assessment of his players’ performance. He said: “I have no doubt [in my players]. If you saw some individual performance below normal, there were not many. There were, maximum, a couple.”
…In reality, there were problems all over the park, with nearly all the team looking like mere shadows of the players they were in the last, title-winning season. Asmir Begovic could not really have been faulted for any of the goals, but there was a notable lack of understanding between him and the centre backs in front of him. John Terry and Gary Cahill are a yard of the space, as seen in Liverpool’s third goal, where Christian Benteke had an alarming amount of space and time in the box. Having defied his age (34) with a fantastic season last campaign, time seems to be catching up a little bit with John Terry this season – the Chelsea defence having conceded 22 from 11 games already, compared to just 32 all last season. The two mainstays in defensive midfield last season, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic, did not start here, such has been their poor form. John Obi Mikel and Ramires, his goal aside, did not make particularly strong claims to replace them. And going forward there’s been none of the creativity and genius so often shown from Oscar and especially Eden Hazard. The disappearance of the Belgian’s form has been a particular mystery, given that he’s been injury-free and so reliably brilliant in recent years. Also, Costa seems to have forgotten that to be effective he needs to score goals as well as just bully and irritate his opposing centre half.
Chelsea were poor, but a lot of credit should go to Liverpool for the way they played. They were combative and played with a high-tempo – signs that Jurgen Klopp is beginning to imprint his trademark gegenpress tactic on the Liverpool team. Starting with Firmino as the main striker was far from the ideal option – a move forced by Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Danny Ings’ injuries and Benteke’s lack of match fitness. But there was intelligence and cohesion to the attacks, if not too much sign of an end-product until some magic from Philippe Coutinho. When Benteke came on (he probably should have started in truth), he provided the big threat they needed. He won two vital headers in the lead up to the two goals – balls that probably would not have been played up to Firmino – and showed good composure to work a shot and finish the second. Jordon Ibe also provided another option when he came off the bench, showing pace and skill to beat players on the right. And on top of this, Daniel Sturridge should – finally – be fit again next week. Perhaps the a-Klopp-alypse is coming…
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