Hey, let's give Chelsea a swift kicking while they are down

Hey, let's give Chelsea a swift kicking while they are down

Far be it from me to kick Chelsea while they’re down after a 4-1 fustigation at the hands of Liverpool . . . wait, that’s precisely what I’d do! So let’s get to it! It’ll be fun!

Before any study of Chelsea gets to tactics or formations or promise, it’s worth starting with the degree to which Chelsea were simply out-fought yesterday. Most everything Liverpool did well, and it was a groin-grabbingly impressive amount of stuff, stemmed from Liverpool wanting to do it more than Chelsea wanted to do whatever it is they were planning on.

Here’s Diogo Jota simply walking through Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile. And remember Jota is maybe 5-8.

Liverpool v. Chelsea | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 1/31/2024 | NBC Sports

For Liverpool’s second, Conor Bradley simply runs past Raheem Sterling.

Liverpool v. Chelsea | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 1/31/2024 | NBC Sports

That move starts when Luis Diaz is able to simply horse Enzo Fernandez in midfield.

Badiashile had a second half from hell, one we Liverpool supporters would call “Lovren-esque.” He was shifted out to left-back, which he doesn’t play, but that doesn’t excuse a level of effort. The simplest job of anyone playing fullback is to prevent crosses from coming in. Here’s his “attempt” to stop Bradley from serving up Liverpool’s third:

Liverpool v. Chelsea | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 1/31/2024 | NBC Sports

And then he and Silva combined to get shoved off the ball by Darwin Nunez (Silva) while Baldiashile plays him onside and loafs back to his penalty area while Diaz sprints:

Liverpool v. Chelsea | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 1/31/2024 | NBC Sports

But this isn’t just about Chelsea’s defense. Alexis Mac Allister, who is not a natural No. 6, made six successful tackles while Liverpool had most of the ball, at least in the game’s first 70 minutes or so. Moises Caicedo, one of the best ball-winners in the Premier League last season and purchased as one of the most expensive midfielders in the world to remain so, didn’t even attempt one. Enzo Fernandez made one tackle. Same for Conor Gallagher. So, that’s the midfield.

Caicedo really seems to have fallen off a cliff, with all of his stats like key passes or progressive passes or tackles and interceptions dropping significantly from his season at Brighton last year. But at least he has some Premier League pedigree. Fernandez is a much bigger worry. He was made one of the world’s most expensive midfielders last January off the back of just 25 games over two seasons at River Plate and 17 at Benfica. Oh, and the World Cup, but everyone knows a team should never purchase a player off a World Cup (as El Hadji-Diouf nightmares dance through my head). It’s a handful of games in unique circumstances with much simpler tactics. It amounts to a hot couple weeks when all of a player’s contact is falling in for doubles, figuratively. Does anyone really know what Fernandez is for sure?

At least he’s more than Mykhaylo Mudryk, who every week looks set to prove he set the world record for transfer fee for a player who hadn’t actually played soccer before.

It’s one thing for Silva or Sterling to be found wanting. They’re not long-term pieces for what Mauricio Pochettino wants to build. But Caicedo, Fernandez and Baldiashile are supposed to be the bedrock of whatever comes next. It’s easy to point out that Pochettino is actually averaging more points per game in his first season at The Bridge than Jurgen Klopp did at Anfield (1.4 to 1.3), but Klopp had more of a blank slate and more in place when he arrived. Milner, Coutinho, Henderson, Firmino and one or two others were already in place. What’s for sure in place for Chelsea? Cole Palmer, probably, yes? Christopher Nkunku, probably, yes? Levi Colwill, maybe? Reece James can’t stay on the field.

And Pochettino is going to find it harder to clear out the deadwood and remain on the good side of FFP, no matter how many eight-year deals they’ve handed out. The first thing that Poch should have been able to install was fight, especially from young players he wants to build around. They’re still waiting on that.

What else went down in the midweek?

4. Newcastle seem to have Villa figured out

Aggregate over their two league games: 8-2

By this point in the season, Aston Villa’s methods aren’t a huge secret. They play in a 4-2-2-2, they play a ridiculously high line, they try to squeeze everything into a very small portion of the field.

Newcastle played around this by shifting out of their normal 4-3-3 into more of a 4-2-3-1, with Sean Longstaff dropping as deep as Bruno Guimaraes with the ball, forcing Villa into some tough choices. Newcastle fullbacks Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn didn’t push all that high, but Newcastle’s wide forwards stayed wide, which meant they had space behind Villa’s wide midfielders or those wide midfielders had to drop back and leave Trippier, especially, and Burn all the time in the world to hit passes behind that high Villa line. Or Villa’s forwards had to shift wide to cover that, which left direct alleys for Newcastle to get the ball into Guimaraes and Longstaff to do the same. Or the Villa forwards had to drop off, which let Fabian Scharr hit all the long balls he wanted (nine passes into the final third for a central defender).

Aston Villa v. Newcastle United | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 1/30/2024 | NBC Sports

And yet Villa’s undoing was on two set-pieces, where they clearly missed Pau Torres. Clement Lenglet gets caught under the ball for the first and abandoning the zone he was supposed to police. For the second, Alex Moreno and Matty Cash crash into each other forcing Moreno to clear the ball right down the middle of the field, which is a no-no.

The loss leaves Villa out of the Champions League places for the first time in a while (unless fifth becomes one, which it might) because . . .

3. Spurs remain the biggest entertainers

Went to the Tottenham stadium and watched an NHL Playoff game break out, with all the requisite pettiness and trash-talking!

To quickly sum up, Neal Maupay – soccer’s version of Brad Marchand if Marchand had no actual talent – miracled a ball between the posts to open the scoring and mimicked James Maddison’s usual celebration. So Spurs spent the rest of the match mocking Maupay. Which isn’t hard to do:

Maupay has actually scored four goals for Brentford since returning there, which is probably the biggest argument Thomas Frank will have when interviewing for the Liverpool job at the end of the season.

2. How has Crystal Palace been so boring when they have these guys?

One of those “Bangers Only” nights for the Eagles:

Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS | 1/30/2024 | NBC Sports

1. Assist of the week

This Gabriel Jesus pass goes through like three sets of legs to get to Saka.

Bukayo Saka powers Arsenal to 2-0 lead over Nottingham Forest | Premier League | NBC Sports

Good warm-up for Arsenal, who on Sunday can save their title chase by beating Liverpool at home. Forest made it difficult for a half, but this Arsenal usually finds a way in these situations.

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.