Earlier, Liverpool lost 0-1 to Chelsea at home. The defeat, I must say, is entirely on the case Thomas Tuchel in a particular fight was stronger than Jurgen Klopp. However, many teams from the Premier League are stronger than Klopp's team now; this is also true. For Liverpool, this defeat was the fifth home defeat in a row the club's new anti-record, which soon managed to "surpass." Liverpool scored more goals in one match in Budapest than in all games at Anfield in 2021 that says a lot.
For Chelsea, despite the minimal victory, this match was easy. In the sense that the likely scenario of the coaching staff of the "blue" quite turned out to be implemented in the match itself. Usually, when journalists ask coaches before a game about their tactics, managers shy away from answering. Here Tuhelj was utterly open:
"Speed. Speed. Speed. Speed against the opponent's high defensive line," he said.
"Timo Werner can give us that Speed, and that's why he's in the starting lineup. If their defenses are deeper and we have more shots and set pieces, we have Olivier Giroud."
It's pretty simple by design, isn't it? One might even say elementary. But it is not always possible to implement even seemingly simple plans. Here everything worked out perfectly.
We know Liverpool has been hit hard by injuries to defensive players: Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, and Jordan Henderson are currently unavailable. But, with the exception of Henderson, Klopp's team is already used to playing without these performers this season. And if at the end of 2020 the absence of the Van Dijk-Gomez-Matip troika influenced even the structure of the team's build-up more than defense, now, in the last month, it is obvious that the "red" have incredible problems in defense.
In part, this is proved by the defensive performance of Liverpool, which in fact until February was quite good. After a derby with Everton in mid-October when Van Dijk was eliminated due to injury, Liverpool has played 17 league games without conceding more than one goal. In fact, in these 17 games, the team conceded only 12 goals even though in the opening five games of the Premier League season, including the fight with Everton (when there were both Gomez and Van Dyck), the Reds conceded as many as 13 goals.
Now Liverpool's defense looks sorted out: 10 goals conceded in the last five Premier League games, the only clean sheet against underdog Sheffield United. One reason: an unfamiliar partnership in the central defense zone. Ozan Kabak, signed urgently in January, was thrown into a cauldron, in which it was initially quite tricky not to cook.
Thus, the high line of defense has become Liverpool's main weakness. Including due to the noticeably sagging pressure of the team. In the past season, a strategy with a high defensive line was sometimes considered risky, but Klopp has always defended it based on his team's cohesion in the line of defense, their Speed in key positions, and their good defensive performance. However, Jurgen did not always play like that. Previously, Liverpool had a much deeper starting position, and it was only with the arrival of Van Dyck, Gomez, and Alisson that the team began to play with a higher line. But now Van Dijk and Gomez are absent. And Alisson is obviously far from being in his best psychological state (several goal mistakes, plus personal problems).
One of the striking examples of the complete lack of mutual understanding in the center of defense, which we talked about above, plus the suboptimal Alisson, happened in the match with Leicester (1: 3). Yes, here, a large share of the blame lies precisely with the Kabaka, but Alisson also turned out to be in the episode, one way or another. Last season, Liverpool simply did not have such nightmarish episodes.
Liverpool now regularly misses their opponents' attack group. The first goal in the recent Merseyside derby (0-2) came after the defenders missed a well-timed opening behind Richarlison's back. The second goal in that match came from a penalty kick, which was organized as a result of a successful counterattack, a won race, and, specifically, the opening behind the same defenders by Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Chelsea'sAs we have already found out, intentions in the recent match were clear from the first minute. Rhys James had about 20 meters of free space and calmly performed a throw behind Liverpool defenders' back to open Werner.
Chelsea had such a plan for the whole game. Here Jorginho is looking for Werner again with a pass in the same right half. Fabinho, as we can see, deliberately cannot withstand the formation in the line (the creation of a potential artificial outside the game is no longer possible) to cope with the Speed of the German. Again, there is no consistency of actions. Disorganization.
From the left flank, there were also regular throws behind the backs of the defenders on Werner. Timo clung well to such balls and regularly found himself in a shock position.
Werner's goal, which was not counted because of an offside position, was perhaps the best example of Liverpool's problems - not only because of the high defensive line but also because of the player's lack of pressure in possession, Jorginho. And also frankly bad insurance of defenders from Alisson, who took too long to decide whether to go outside the box or not.
Another characteristic episode. This time the pass to Werner was performed by the master of such passes - Hakim Ziyech.
Just as Tuchel explained the tactical situation before the game, the author of the only goal in that game, Mason Mount, analyzed it well after:
"Most of the time, their defensive line was relatively high, we tried to use that, and that's where the goal came from. The merit of our midfielders and defenders is great. Every time they won the ball, they looked for space behind the opposing defenders, and I, Hakim, and Timo were already providing a threat. And it worked constantly. "
All of this should prompt Klopp to rethink his defensive strategy and emphasis on the high lane, the success of which was primarily determined by the presence and reliability of specific players who are not present now. It is also worth remembering that Liverpool's key attacking players are naturally suited to play on a team that sits deeper and then starts counterattacks at the expense of Speed.
Throughout his great successes with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, Klopp has generally found the right balance between a certain philosophy and adapting his approach to the players at his disposal. At the moment, the German specialist seems to be leaning towards becoming a pure philosopher. But it doesn't work.