Liverpool were forced to play without Roberto Firmino on Friday evening at Stamford Bridge, but still managed to prevail 2-1. The Brazilian has been key to the side since Jurgen Klopp took over and his tactical adaptability means that he can play a number of positions in the forward line. Many have thought that Liverpool are better with him playing as a false nine. However on Friday, Daniel Sturridge did a lot better in terms of defensive contribution. He didn’t look as threatening as he normally does, but there was room for optimism in terms of how he is adjusting to Klopp’s system.
It was billed as a tough test for the Reds against a side that had conceded very few good chances during the opening four matches. Antonio Conte had done a good job of improving the back four, but he was forced to bring in David Luiz for John Terry and that disrupted the understanding in the Chelsea defence. They struggled to deal with the movement in the Liverpool defence and were unsettled by the relentless pressing. Liverpool’s main strength in their attack is the defence that they cover and their ability to win the ball back in dangerous areas. It is crucial that the personnel are comfortable with the system that Klopp is married to and with the German now approaching a year in charge of Liverpool, it looks like the squad have adjusted to the extreme demands.
Adam Lallana is a great example of how the Liverpool players have been adapted their games under Klopp. Before the German took over at the club, many supporters were sceptical about his ability to play for Liverpool, but his incredible work rate has been honed and he is now one of the most important players in the starting eleven. He lacks the dynamism that both Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. However, he presses better than any other player in the side. Across the matches against Tottenham, Leicester and Chelsea, the England international covered 23.8 miles, an astonishing stat and he deserves all the plaudits that are coming his way.
There are still faults with the Liverpool side, especially when they are playing against weaker opposition as was evident against Burnley. However, they have outperformed Arsenal, Tottenham and now Chelsea this season. This shows there is more to just work rate in this side and they have the talent to challenge at the top of the league. Chelsea had conceded few clear-cut chances during their opening four matches, but Liverpool had few difficulties creating chances and that is an encouraging sign for supporters.
The loss of Firmino was talked about a lot before kick-off and many thought it gave Chelsea the advantage, as the Brazilian is seen as central to the Liverpool side. Klopp’s adaptability came to the fore and he still managed to put out a winning side. He has had to manage his squad this season and his fringe players have stepped up. Mamadou Sakho, Emre Can and now Firmino have missed out for different reasons. All three are in Liverpool’s best eleven purely on talent and it is positive that the Reds managed to beat a potential title challenger without all three in the side.
Although it is too early to see Liverpool as title challengers, they have had a very good start considering they have played three of their rivals for the top four away from home. Liverpool have only played one league match at Anfield, but their style suits playing away from home. The other sides in the league have yet to convincingly deal with the relentless pressing and the more that the players adapt to Klopp’s system, the harder it will be. Liverpool have had to deal with a few problems at the start of the new season, including injuries and playing four of their five matches away from home, but they have sent out a real statement to the rest of the league. This Liverpool team are one to watch.