We thought it was all over – it is now! As good as a manager that Ancelotti is, I do wonder whether he could do with a lesson is psychology. I know it’s very easy to talk about what should have happened in hindsight, but, I would have thought that if you have in your possession the subject of the country’s biggest ever transfer deal you do not bring him off after just over an hour. You either play him for the full 90 or you don’t start him and bring him on at suitable time.
Taking him off, goalless – immediately gave Liverpool a lift – you could almost see their players and supporters exhale and get down to the job in hand. The nerves had all been about not wanting Torres to score against them – as soon as that was no longer a threat, they were able to relax and it was no surprise to me that they scored soon after.
I then expected an injection of desire and effort from the team – that sadly did not come either. It was all so predictable; Monday’s signing had seemingly been like a shot in the arm for the team & especially the strikers up at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday and whether Sunday was the come down, or a cat caught in headlights moment I don’t know – but either way, the team let us all down.
The midfield especially were totally anonymous. Mikel being booked in the first 30 seconds effectively negated any contribution he could have made to the game – I’d have taken off him pretty soon after, especially with his reputation. It’s hard to decide who was the most ineffective, Lampard or Essien and who would have thought that a combined strike-force of Torres, Drogba and Anelka could look so unthreatening?
Ancelotti too did little to convince me that he is anything but very one dimensional when it comes to substitutions. I’d have had McEachran on – as much as I have talked about exercising caution when it comes to heaping pressure on this lad, we needed someone who was prepared to take the ball forward and to take on players, instead we saw little change in attitude or tactics even after all three substitutions.
The importance of this game cannot be over-estimated – it was huge. With Tottenham and City both having won the day before, and Arsenal and United having dropped points, we had to win if we wanted to start cementing our place in the Champions League for next season. Instead we have demonstrated our weaknesses once again giving hope to anyone that is left to play us. A game is won (or lost) as much in the mind as it is on the pitch.
The really annoying thing, is that Liverpool didn’t even look that threatening; I think they came with the remit of just not to lose. But it became very evident very quickly that we were having “one of those days” and as mentioned earlier, the Torres substitution gave them that added impetuous.
A few very small slivers of light; Torres got into some good positions despite any real service – I think he’ll do the business soon. Luiz (or Sideshow Bob as he has already been christened) looked very accomplished as soon as he came on. Calm and disciplined with good awareness – all things considered, a good start.
I do wonder how the game would have gone had Steve Clarke not been Dalglish’s assistant. Obviously, he would have been more aware than most of our foibles and I bet he was instrumental in plotting our downfall. That said it wouldn’t have taken a tactical genius to tell him not to give us time on the ball in the final third and crowd out our strikers.
Now, I do not think that Dalglish is the second coming, but there is no denying that he has turned Liverpool’s season around. What he has created is what we are lacking currently – belief. It counts for more than people give it credit for and I’m not sure Ancelotti imparts that on the players. We are led to believe that it was something Mourinho used every day – the belief that his players were the best in the country, Europe, the planet. No one could beat them he told them because Chelsea were the best – end of. These players do not believe that they are the best anymore; added to that, I am not sure they believe in some of the tactics. Put those two together and you have a serious problem.
Procuring the services of players like Torres may paper over the cracks – but even that is not a given. The fundamental issues need to be addressed and quickly. The likes of Torres came to play Champions League football – our qualification as it stands is in jeopardy. Time to sort it out – come on Chelsea
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