When Liverpool beat Chelsea 5-3, on July 22nd 2020, it was a reiteration of how far behind Chelsea were from their opponents both in terms of quality on the pitch and developments backstage.
While Liverpool had been bringing in new players and developing their own youth products, Chelsea were coming off a transfer ban for failing to adhere to the Financial Fair play Rules (FFP) laid down by UEFA. The following events, whether forced or planned, did however give a glimpse of how things would move forward from there on in at the London club.
In the beginning of 2019/20 seasons, Frank Lampard was hired. A club legend with his on pitch exploits still remembered fondly amongst the Chelsea fans. A man who does not have a significant coaching experience apart from managing Derby County in the Championship.
His focus on youth system graduates has been forced due to the transfer ban but the result has been exemplary. The players have shown desire and commitment as well as the skill and technique to make it to the top. Notable names such as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham have been praised for their performances.Apart from Azpilicueta however, there was a distinct lack of on the pitch experience in the Chelsea ranks which resulted in porous defensive displays. The constant injuries to Kante proved critical in this regard as Chelsea looked a more robust side when he featured. Nevertheless Chelsea looked exciting and had 20 wins and a total of 69 goals scored.
With Roman back in love with the beautiful game...Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Thiago Silva, Kai Havertz have all joined and it leaves Lampard with a headache (albeit a pleasant one). However as we have witnessed in their first match, it will take time for the whole squad to gel and move forward.
Despite a rather disjointed opening display, Werner looked hungry for goals. His movement in behind opposition center backs will be key throughout the season and as we saw against Leeds, a potential weakness for Liverpool at the moment.
Chelsea have a wealth of ball players in the midfield. The support system to the striker will be interesting to see especially with the likes of Pulisic, Mount, Havertz and Ziyech all fighting for a place in the starting lineup
When Jurgen Klopp criticized Lampard for Chelsea’s spending spree, he was accused by many of hypocrisy. At £297m Pounds Liverpool squad overall costs more than Chelsea’s. Furthermore Chelsea’s recent spending spree (mounting to £230m Pounds) in one transfer market was arguably a necessity due to them being prevented from regular transfer activity after being on the receiving end of an enforced (for once) transfer ban.
Lampard’s outburst in his club’s defeat last season was another indication that both the managers do not seem to appreciate one another’s company. It all makes for an interesting encounter both on and off the pitch.
To many, Liverpool’s home game against Leeds United was a wakeup call. Their defense looked shaky, their midfield exhausted. Klopp needed to freshen up his first team lineup and the signing of Thiago will achieve just that (though probably not in time for this game).
The biggest concern was the performance of Firmino. Playing as a false 9 Firmino has been a key cog in the Liverpool tactical machine. Despite not having a favorable turnout for goals, Firmino has always been very good at finding space and playing key passes. But against Leeds United, none of these attributes were apparent. The player looked overrun by the rampant opposition with his favored space being closed and inoperable.
The back 4 also did not cover themselves in glory and Klopp will be expecting more from his wing backs - both Alexander Trent and Andy Robertson were too cautious in their previous match at home. Klopp’s key changes might still be in the midfield with Henderson not being fully fit. Fabinho might get a call up in the starting lineup.
Midfield dominance will be key but as both teams do not focus too much in keeping possession, expect a fast paced game with plenty of transitions and lightning counters. Klopp will try to sure things up with a more conservative midfield lineup including a start for Fabinho.
Lampard’s biggest drawback is his inability to counter his opponents tactically once his team goes a goal or two down. And he might have to come up with ploy to stop both of Liverpool’s full backs who will be trying to prove a point after their poor showing against Leeds United.
Chelsea: Kepa A., A. Christensen,K. Zouma, C. Azpilicueta, M. Alonso, R. Barkley, Kante, Jorginho, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner.
Liverpool FC: Alison, J. Matip, Virgil Van Dyke, Alexander Trent, Andy Robertson, G. Winaldum, Fabinho, J. Henderson, R. Firmino, M. Salah, Sadio Mane
Predicted Outcome: 1-2 Liverpool win .