In a game that panned out as predicted, it is fair to say Liverpool were robbed of what should’ve been a hard fought three points. However the ‘never say die’ attitude of Conte & his side saw Chelsea snatch a goal with 5 minutes to go. Liverpool’s age old problem of defending plagued them again as Willian came off the bench to score a goal that once more put Simon Mignolet’s ability into the spotlight. Despite Salah’s amazing performance against his former club, his previous employers managed to do enough for a point. The draw left Conte the happier manager out of the two.
Drinkwater’s first start
In what was a surprise to most, Danny Drinkwater started his first league for his new club, replacing Cesc Fabregas in the starting line up. Although he’s technically inferior to his Spanish counterpart, he excels in defensive contribution & has a better engine. He was deployed on the right side of central midfield where he was tasked with man marking Philippe Coutinho. He had to stop the Brazilian picking up the ball within the left half space which forced Coutinho to drop deeper to receive the ball. This was effective for Chelsea as it caused Liverpool’s midfield to become over-crowded & essentially useless due to the amount of space available not being enough for the number of players occupying it.
Chelsea’s low block rarely disturbed
In order to fully utilise Morata & Hazard as a pairing, Chelsea have used a 5-3-2 shape off the ball this season whilst Liverpool maintained their asymmetric 4-3-3 in attack. Chelsea’s settled in their shape relatively early as Liverpool’s poor spacing made it hard for the hosts to get in front of the visitors’ midfield 3 for prolonged periods of the game. Coutinho being marked aggressively by Drinkwater caused him to leave his preferred space empty whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain occasionally engaged with play when he was ball-near. Combine this with the fact that James Milner & Jordan Henderson were mediocre with breaking the lines, Liverpool were lucky to create the goal they did. Salah’s quick interchanges on the edge of the box were key in advancing Liverpool’s attacking moves, especially when you realise he was the one who scored for them. Bakayoko’s lack of concentration in a crucial area of the pitch saw Liverpool score the opener & this wasn’t the first time the Frenchman was caught napping. If this continues, Antonio Conte will sooner or later drop him from the line up.
Use of both wingbacks in attack
Davide Zappacosta & Marcos Alonso started the game as Chelsea’s wingbacks. Both are tall & athletic which helps them when defending in Chelsea’s 5-3-2 shape. Furthermore they excel at defending 1v1 in wide areas which makes them more reliable at stopping counter attacks on their sides. When Chelsea get into the final third, both wingbacks push high & wide to widen the scope of the attack, they also often contribute to crossing the ball. Due to them going so high up their opposing wingers are usually forced to follow them into their own box. As Alonso had made his way into the box awaiting a cross from Zappacosta, Oxlade-Chamberlain was obliged to track his run. This is an advantage to their attacking play as Liverpool’s wingers are so deep in the own half any counter attacks would be nullified early on.
Chelsea have no time to rest on their laurels as this is the part of the season where the fixtures come thick & fast. They have the home games in a row against Swansea City (Wednesday), Newcastle United (Saturday) & then Atletico Madrid in the Champions League (next Tuesday). Although no game should be taken lightly the next game Chelsea play against a top 6 side is Arsenal on January 3rd. That should be enough time to make up their gap on City & not fall further behind. Between now & the new year the West London club will have the chance to progress in 3 different competitions, something the Stamford Bridge faithful will be baying for.