Chelsea’s 1-0 victory at Anfield on Thursday night provided plenty of answers for the Blues. Yes, homegrown talents like Mason Mount, who netted the winner, and Reece James are at home at this level. Yes, N’Golo Kante is still a machine in the Premier League and vital in breaking up play and getting Chelsea going again. And yes, Cesar Azpilicueta is needed as skipper to rally the troops and marshal the backline.
For Liverpool though, defeat only presented more questions as to why the defending champions are so badly stuck in a rut this season. This was a fifth straight home defeat for the Reds and they show no signs of arresting the slide during such a deep malaise. The press no longer has any urgency and Jurgen Klopp’s team are playing laboriously. It is too slow and the once-clinical attack is toothless.
Liverpool registered their first shot on target with 80 minutes already on the clock, while Chelsea - playing away from home, remember, at the Reds’ former fortress - had already managed five shots at Alisson with Mount’s Frank Lampard-like strike finding the bottom corner, out of reach of the sprawling Brazilian.
These are two clubs at very different stages. Under the management of Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea look to be making the most of the German’s organisation, a new structure and purpose getting the best out of Lampard’s recruits. The Blues are on an upward trajectory, and one guesses that the more they work, the more they will improve. The Chelsea boss still has to work his way through a hefty in-tray but progress is being made.
“Where the season is at the moment it is very tight in the top four, we are in and around and we want to keep pushing,” goalscorer Mount told Sky Sports after the game. “We have been on a good run recently, we have been keeping clean sheets but not scoring enough. It was very good to score tonight.
“Massive win. Every game now is a big win, we need to get as many three points as we can. We have the team to do it, we want to keep going.”
However, for Liverpool, it still leaves you scratching your head that they have managed just one goal at home during these five losses. And, looking ahead, you realise that this squad, this team that romped home to lift the title in 2020, may need some work this summer. In fact, it most certainly will.
The more Liverpool falter, the more chatter and speculation will surround Mohamed Salah, who will be 29 in the summer, potentially moving on. Then you take into account that a key utility player like James Milner turned 35 in January and isn’t getting any younger. The defence too; Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will provide a massive boost to the side when they return from long-term injuries but the backline will still need to be bolstered.
When you’re winning games of football, these details don’t matter. They are for another day. However, when you are losing more often than you taste victory, the questions need addressing and plans have to be made.
Where do Liverpool go from here? Who knows but Thursday’s victors Chelsea are certainly on a clear path and taking steps forward.