Talking Points: Liverpool 1 Chelsea 2

Late goals from Emerson and Eden Hazard saw Chelsea come from behind to knock Liverpool out of the Carabao Cup at Anfield on Wednesday night. Jürgen Klopp’s side had taken the lead through Daniel Sturridge, but Hazard’s brilliant solo effort turned the tie around and saw Liverpool suffer their first defeat of the season.

Reds finally made to pay for wasteful finishing…

It was going to happen eventually, and with many tipping the Reds to eventually be punished for not taking their chances when they faced better opposition, that was exactly what happened. Liverpool started the game poorly, allowing Chelsea’s midfield and Cesc Fabregas in particular too much time on the ball and not defending the spaces well enough. Luckily this eventually improved and the hosts went on to dominate the rest of the match. However, this season’s main issue has been poor finishing and not scoring chances, and Liverpool should have been two or three goals up by the time Chelsea equalised from their first chance of the second half. Sturridge had two great chances from which he only scored with the harder one, Sadio Mane had two great chances but couldn’t score, Naby Keita had two good strikes but both were saved – although one did lead to Sturridge’s goal, and Xherdan Shaqiri had two long-range efforts of which neither even hit the target. This combined with other occasions where Liverpool got into good areas but couldn’t create a meaningful chance meant it was another poor display in front of goal, and one the Reds were finally made to be punished for. Hopefully, this issue will be sorted out and we can be thankful we were punished in the League Cup and not the Premier League or Champions League, but the Liverpool players need to find their shooting boots, and fast.

Back-up defence shows why it will remain so…

Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Nathaniel Clyne was Klopp’s first-choice back five in the 16/17 season, and while it has since been replaced by a new and improved defence, it was clear to see why none of those mentioned are in the best XI. Mignolet and Clyne did little wrong in fairness, the latter fairing well in keeping Willian and Hazard quiet, but Lovren and Matip didn’t ooze the quality that Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk do, and as for Moreno, it was a bit of a disaster. Some slack must be cut as some of them have barely featured all season, but they did themselves no favours in terms of playing themselves into a first-team spot. The exit from the Cup may be seen as a disappointment for those who want to see squad players get chances, but are we really that disappointed if we don’t see much of Moreno and Mignolet this season? Clyne and, on their good days, Matip and Lovren, can be trusted if the defence needs to be rotated, but the likes of Andy Robertson just possess so much more quality then their positional counterparts.

Positive signs from new signings…

Fabinho was finally handed his first Liverpool start and played alongside fellow summer signings Naby Keita and Shaqiri. The mixed reaction on social media as to how Fabinho played was probably a fair reflection on how his night went. As stated earlier, for the first 20 minutes Chelsea’s midfield was given too much space and time and the likes of Fabinho and Keita weren’t effective enough and closing them down and blocking passing lanes. This did soon change and Fabinho showed an excellent reading of the match at times, as well as being comfortable in possession and playing direct forward passes. The Premier League is the hardest league to adapt to, and defensive midfield the hardest position, so Fabinho will look rusty and off the pace at times, but there is undoubtedly quality there. Keita got better as the game went on and controlled proceeding in the second half. His pressing was superb and his dribbling and creativity a big help. Shaqiri was arguably the best of the lot and Liverpool’s best player on the night. He is so at ease on the ball and can act as both a creator and as a direct winger. He had more than enough pace and power to cause the Chelsea defence problems. Starting him as well as the ‘Fab Three’ in games against weaker sides would be a sensible idea this season.

Lessons to be learnt ahead of Saturday…

Close down Jorginho, don’t give him time on the ball and block his passing lanes. Klopp cannot emphasise this enough to his players ahead of Saturday’s encounter. We saw how much of Chelsea’s play went through Fabregas, and it will be exactly the same with Jorginho. The press from Liverpool’s midfield needs to be as efficient and effective as it has been all season. Dealing with Hazard will be another important factor, and we saw what he is capable of in the defeat. However, for the 30 minutes or so before he scored, the Belgian barely touched the ball, so it is possible to keep him quiet with the correct defending. Hazard will be involved with the intriguing match-up between Chelsea’s left-side and Liverpool’s right. With Mo Salah not one to always track back, Trent Alexander-Arnold may be left isolated against Hazard and the man who has no regard for defensive awareness – Marcus Alonso. Even if James Milner shifts across to help out Trent, that leaves Chelsea with a three versus two advantage in the midfield. Hence a tweak Klopp could make is playing Mane on the right-wing as he will happily track back and still be able to exploit the space left by Alonso, while playing Salah on the left as him not tracking back won’t make too much difference against a more defensive- focused full-back in Azpilecueta. Whatever happens, hopefully Klopp’s players learn their lessons and get the much-needed victory at Stamford Bridge.

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