Chelsea big hitters stifled by Kenny Dalglish's defensive masterplan
Playing three centre-backs, Liverpool sat deep and gave Chelsea no space to attack from wide
This game was a poor advert for the highest-paid performers in the Premier League but Liverpool will not mind. Often a new system, positional changes or tactical tweaking can make a major difference to a non-performing group and, with his three centre backs system, Kenny Dalglish has certainly given his men fresh optimism.
The left-footed Daniel Agger, the right-footed Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher as the covering defender have bedded quickly into the new formation and are ably supported by the full backs Martin Kelly and Glen Johnson. Crucially Johnson has become much more defensively aware now that he is positioned on the left of Liverpool's rearguard.
It is also noticeable how Dirk Kuyt has been released from his non-creative, wide-right attacking role to a position through the middle where he is not only more of an attacking threat but operates as a Trojan defensively.
Overall Chelsea toiled. Their first-half build-up play was slow and later in the game they lacked any craft whatsoever. Kelly and Johnson were crucial to this, keeping their ground throughout on the outside of their centre-backs. The hosts found no space to attack from wide and became increasingly wayward. Johnson and Kelly also made sure Liverpool had a four-man defence in place whenever the ball was delivered from the opposite flank.
Chelsea looked at sea trying to accommodate their big hitters up front. It is never easy combining three forwards of similar styles as different characteristics are required to create effective unity. Nicolas Anelka, positioned deeper than Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, found pockets of space but was stifled by the excellent Lucas Leiva. And when you cannot influence or command the ball centrally or deep you have to drift wide and drag markers around the pitch. Liverpool's defence, however, refused to budge.
Liverpool clearly made it a priority that Torres got no chances to hurt them. The Spaniard likes to run off the shoulder of the last defender but Dalglish kept his trio of centre-backs close together, meaning his former player had little or no space to work in. When Torres did find space in the first half, Carragher was alert to the danger and covered superbly well.
Chelsea will have to get Torres into goal-scoring positions more often and ensure he is supplied with plenty of crosses. The player will not go looking for chances; his work rate compared with Kuyt's is embarrassing and his technical skills average.
Dalglish should take the plaudits for how little Chelsea as a whole threatened his team. They sat deep, stifled the opposition and took their chance when it came. It was an excellent display.
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