The Race For Top Four - Mo Salah v Chelsea

A Point Gained Or Two Points Lost?

It could have been better, it could have been worse. Ultimately a point each seemed to be fair all round really. So was it a point gained or two points lost? At about 10 minutes before half time, my mate and I in The Kop agreed that we would be happy to get to half-time all square. I wouldn’t say that Chelsea were turning the screw, but they were looking extremely dangerous each time they attacked. As the half wore on, those attacks were becoming more and more frequent. It was particularly clear that the link up between Morata and Hazard was causing us problems. Two really good, quality players. Especially Hazard. He seems to love playing at Anfield. I seem to recall seeing him about four times or so. On every occasion he has stood out for me.

A Point Gained Or Two Points Lost?

Mo Salah-A Point Gained Or Two Points Lost
Mo Salah-A Point Gained Or Two Points Lost

Although at half-time some would have taken a point, a draw in some respects was disappointing. After all, we had again taken the lead. So, from that perspective, a draw was a disappointment. The now all too familiar criticism of being unable to keep a lead surfaced again. Our inability to see a game out is clearly a problem isn’t it. Five draws in the League this season. In three of them we have been ahead. Watford, Newcastle and Chelsea. The effect of those extra six points is self explanatory really.

And of course, don’t forget leading against Sevilla on two occasions and failing to see the game out.

No Surprise

However flukey or well intentioned Willian’s equaliser was, the fact it came was no surprise. Talking to someone coming out of the ground confirmed what most fans already think. We have on so many occasions not got what we have deserved out of a game. The number of times we have dominated teams and only end up with a draw. Or worse, a narrow defeat.

We couldn’t recall a game where we have been dominated, or really should have shared the spoils but we have sneaked a squeaky 1-0 against the odds. Don’t get me wrong, Chelsea didn’t necessarily dominate us, but they did deserve a point. And a point is what they got. How many times have we said we deserved to win, or get a point but failed to achieve that. The old cliche of course is being able to win ugly. We very rarely seem to manage to do that. When we win, we win in style. Nothing wrong with that of course. It would be nice though now and then to see our opponents on the receiving end of an ‘undeserved’ defeat.

Game Management

Much has been said about game management. Not for the first time question marks exist over game management. As already mentioned we have been ahead in 3 of our 5 drawn games this season but have failed to see the game out. In fairness, credit has to be given to the opposition on occasions. Having said that though we do often play into the other team’s hands. The game against Chelsea a case in point. At 1-0 up we went very deep and decided to hold onto what we had. And why not? We’ve seen other teams do it against us. But our 8 or 9 back behind the ball wasn’t as controlled as we’ve seen other teams employ.

It seemed at times that our defensive strategy was to launch the ball clear even when we had time. Quite a few of the clearances were ‘panicky’ even when they didn’t need to be. I am sure that the plan was to sit deep and hit them on the counter. Why on earth then Mane wasn’t brought on much sooner? But how could we hit them on the break when the ball was unnecessarily humped into “Row Z”?

Cesc Fabregas is a quality player. And it was somewhat of a relief not to see him start. No surprise that he had a big impact on the game when he came on. But did we have to let him see so much of the ball? He got plenty of praise for his contribution to Chelsea’s cause. But, we didn’t really make it difficult for him did we? The room he was given was incredible. Quality player given plenty of room, added to ‘panicky’ clearances equals, dangerous situations to contend with.

Newcastle Equaliser

No doubt we can all remember Newcastle’s equaliser against us earlier this season. There was a catalogue of things that was wrong about that goal. One of which was the lack of pressure put on Jonjo Shelvey when he was on the ball. Fast forward to Saturday just gone and the lack of pressure on Fabregas was incredible. Fans can criticise the back four all day long and say that they are not good enough.

They are right in that certain players in our back four are simply not good enough. But when you add to that a midfield that has no defensive shape or discipline then the inevitable is going to happen. We may have had 8 or 9 back in numbers, but how many were bypassed or were just mere passengers?

I thought Kante was also particularly good for Chelsea on Saturday. He has the defensive discipline without a doubt. But isn’t he really good on the ball as well though. He goes past players with ease at times. He is so effective. The ability to win a ball and then in a matter of seconds get your team moving forward. A quality players. And the type of player we will get in Naby Keita.

Seeing A Game Out

Our inability in seeing a game out is well documented. On Saturday we tried to do so by sitting deep with numbers behind the ball. A dangerous game to play if you have a midfield that offers very little protection to the back four. You can of course see a game out by keeping possession. Our ‘panicky’ clearances were just being recycled back to Fabregas standing in oceans of space in a matter of seconds. Rinse and repeat.

Hopefully, Keita will give us that extra bit of control and poise required. The ability to nick the ball and retain possession as well. I still think we need a specialist defensive midfielder as well though.

Also, we hopefully get Van Dijk (or someone similar). Someone who will provide a calming influence at the back and some leadership – both verbally and with their ability. Ominously though Manchester City are reportedly interested in Van Dijk now. If it isn’t to be with Van Dijk, hopefully we do have a Plan B, C. D etc…

In Conclusion

A draw against Chelsea is no disaster. But it would have been nice to see the game and see Chelsea end up with nothing even though they deserved something from the game. A point gained or two points lost? Make your own minds up. I think, as we took the lead, it was ultimately two points lost.

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