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Liverpool exposed by revitalised Chelsea with jaded Reds out of energy

Miguel Delaney
·4 min read
Sadio Mane battles for possession with Antonio Rudiger (Getty)
Sadio Mane battles for possession with Antonio Rudiger (Getty)

It was a mere yard of space, in a split second, but may represent far bigger gaps to come. It already allowed Mason Mount to get clear, and power the ball into the corner of Alisson’s net with a force that currently seems beyond Liverpool. That 1-0 in turn saw Chelsea leap into the top four again, while subjecting Liverpool to a fifth successive home defeat in the league for the first time in their history.

More relevantly, this was the first time where it really felt that getting back into the top four could be a real struggle for Jurgen Klopp's side, that they may not just level out. This is where the manner of the goal was so meaningful.

It was not just about Mount’s brilliance. It was also that there was barely anything stopping it. Gini Wijnaldum struggled to get back, Trent Alexander-Arnold couldn’t turn back inside, and Fabinho couldn’t get close.

Add such images to the jadedness of some of their attacking, the failure to muster the sharpness for anything resembling a serious effort on goal, and the bigger picture is of a team that is just out of energy.

READ MORE: Liverpool vs Chelsea: Five things we learned as Mason Mount sends Blues into top four

That has become one of the themes of this abnormal campaign, that has probably been specifically amplified by a wider sense of jadedness that has come in from the levels of Liverpool’s previous three seasons.

Chelsea, by contrast, look well prepared. They may well be the best bet to finish second - and perhaps put a good run together for the Champions League trophy itself.

This where the real benefit of that supremely bolstered squad may come in. It may well be crucial this season.

Mason Mount of Chelsea celebrates after scoringGetty
Mason Mount of Chelsea celebrates after scoringGetty

You only have to look at the figures.

While Manchester United have four players that have played over 3,100 minutes this season, and Liverpool two, Chelsea only have one who has played more than 2,800. That is Mount, who currently looks irrepressible.

Beyond the midfielder who has probably been their player of the season so far, Chelsea players are relatively well rested. The most used outfield squad-members thereafter are Timo Werner on 2,652, Kurt Zouma on 2,179 and N’Golo Kante on 2,161. They just have so much quality to come in beyond that, who haven’t played that much football. They have so many options in every position.

READ MORE: Liverpool won’t be last club to stop players going on international duty

The effects of that could be seen in this game.

Above anything, there were the frequent passages of passing, that just allowed Chelsea to so often play their way out of trouble with no trouble at all. It was so calculated, and sophisticated.

There were then the individual battles. Antonio Rudiger - 1,596 minutes - completely dominated Sadio Mane, 2,697 minutes. Werner, his finishing aside, was able to constantly puncture holes in Liverpool’s backline on the break. It wasn’t even that long into the second half that Kante, normally celebrated for winning the ball, was spraying it around in raking 40-yard passes.

Timo Werner taps the ball past AlissonGetty
Timo Werner taps the ball past AlissonGetty

Chelsea just looked fresh, revitalised.

There is of course much more to this than minutes on the pitch or the schedule. Thomas Tuchel has had such an impressive effect on the squad, and - really - is showing how it should have been used. The brutal reality is that Chelsea wasted unnecessary time with a much inferior rookie in Frank Lampard.

The German has added a top-class canniness to this team. Compare how Jorginho was so regularly exposed in this fixture last summer. Here, he was just solid, setting the tempo and marking his territory.

Klopp is on the other side of such a cycle. That is now most visible in the front three.

READ MORE: Thomas Tuchel ready to step out of Jurgen Klopp’s shadow and finally silence the noise

Given their age, with all of them either 29 or about to turn 29 in the next few months, the feeling around the club had been that they actually would have wanted to move one on by now; that one would have been sold to bring in a younger model like Jadon Sancho.

The pandemic disrupted that, and especially the finances of the big Spanish two - which is where Mohamed Salah most wanted to go.

Mohamed Salah appears dejected after being substituted against ChelseaGetty
Mohamed Salah appears dejected after being substituted against ChelseaGetty

That option might be unavailable to him.

Here, there felt so few options available to Klopp that he just went for what seemed a wild-card decision and took the Egyptian off.

It didn’t work. They didn’t create anything else.

The best opportunity they had was Mane being put through, only to hit fresh air.

That is what Liverpool are running on right now. Chelsea, meanwhile, have a gust behind them.