Miguel Delaney: Liverpool have raised a bar - this could be a very special season
Published 16/09/2016 | 22:51
Under Jurgen Klopp so far, Liverpool have always been capable of special results, but this supreme 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge further suggested they could be well capable of a special league season.
It was not just that they made Antonio Conte endure his first defeat as Chelsea manager, or that they so overpowered and outran one of the fittest teams in the league. It was also what all that added up to by the end.
In their first five games, Liverpool have had their three most difficult trips to London - Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea - and come away with seven points. Add to that a victory over defending champions Leicester City and that is a seriously impressive start. The wonder is not about how they finish the season, though, and where. The wonder is about dealing with the more mundane games in between. Because, sitting in the middle of all those magnificent results is one very conspicuous defeat: that 2-0 to Burnley.
It almost sums up the contradictions with this Klopp team that this exceptional performance actually highlighted issues as to why that inconsistency exists. They were even a team that played in waves in this game.
Liverpool went from frenetically overwhelming in the first half to under-cooked fragility in the second. It was genuinely as if the consequence of using so much energy for that sensational first half was that they didn’t have enough to commit to defending in the last half-hour, once Diego Costa finally pulled one back.
Chelsea were really just lucky to have it so close by then. They couldn’t get near Liverpool in the first half.
It sums it up that Klopp’s side were 2-0 up before Chelsea even had a shot on target. They were just sharper than the home team in every way, to the point that Dejan Lovren was left alone in the box - along with two other Liverpool players - to slot home from a set-piece, before Jordan Henderson responded to a limp Gary Cahill clearance by sending it straight back to the top corner with force.
Chelsea just couldn’t move at that point, and it meant their momentum was most definitely disrupted.
After watching his relentless Juventus and then Italy in Euro 2016, it was actually odd to see a Conte team so forced back, made look so ineffective.
By the end, he was reduced to trying to gamble on Liverpool’s level of fatigue, as he made the curious decision of bringing on three players - Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Victor Moses - after 80 minutes. It didn’t work.
Chelsea had actually scored five goals after the 80-minute mark in their four games prior to this, illustrating their own energy and fitness. This time, though, they were up against a side who work just as hard. A fatigued Liverpool had pushed themselves to the limit, as shown by the way three of their players fell to the ground for Costa’s goal, but Chelsea still couldn’t get over the line.
Liverpool have raised a bar.