Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool: Reds dynamic in attack and other talking points


Stamford Bridge played witness to Antonio Conte’s first defeat as Chelsea manager as Liverpool secured another impressive win on the road. Dejan Lovren and Jordan Henderson gave the Reds a 2-0 first half lead but Diego Costa’s 60th minute strike was not enough to inspire a Chelsea comeback.

Passive Chelsea

It was a surprise to see Chelsea start the game off with none of their usual energy and impetus on display. Their midfield lacked the dynamism that Liverpool’s front four displayed and were often forced into turning over possession.

David Luiz's Chelsea return ended on a losing note.

David Luiz’s Chelsea return ended on a losing note.

Their 1-2 midfield had N’Golo Kante at the base and the Frenchman often dropped between the centre-backs to recycle possession following his team-mates’ inability to move the ball through the flanks. Chelsea’s first half shape resembled a 4-1-4-1, but their lack of dynamism can be attributed to Oscar and Nemanja Matic’s failure to connect the midfield to the attack.

Even the first goal was a result of Chelsea’s lax defending at a set-piece when Lovren and three other Liverpool players were left unattended at the back post as the Blues had four men defending the area in front of the front post.

The moment before Liverpool's first goal.

The moment before Liverpool’s first goal.

Liverpool’s selective pressing

Jurgen Klopp’s side are known for their high tempo football but against Chelsea they had a far more measured approach. Deploying a high press immediately after kickoff for a few minutes, the Reds gradually dropped off given the considerable 1-v-1 prowess of Chelsea’s wide men, Eden Hazard and Willian and pressed selectively and situationally.

Their pressing had a few obvious triggers—like when the ball was with the centre backs or when an attack broke down in the final third—but their 4-3-3 was often a 4-5-1 when defending with both Sadio Mane and Coutinho tracking back to help the full-backs.


Klopp explained his team’s less intense performance had more to do with finding winning solutions than a matter of style. “It’s about finding solutions to the opposition. We weren’t that intense. It’s about the most simple way of playing football,” said the German post-match.

Fluidity in Liverpool’s front line

The Reds were often seen playing Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum at the base of midfield when Adam Lallana pushed up to create a 4-2-4 in possession phases. The fluidity of movement and dynamism of the front four stretched the Chelsea rear line at times, although the Blues made sure their back four remained compact with the five in front dealing with Liverpool’s front men.


Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner offered support from the wide areas, while Henderson and Wijnaldum helped recycle the ball and change the point of attack. As the following pass map shows, Liverpool interchanged well in advanced areas of the pitch which was a brave move in a big game.

Chelsea’s energetic second half approach

Down two goals and staring at their first loss of the season, Chelsea started the second half with greater energy and purpose as Liverpool retreated and kept things tight at the back. Hazard, Willian, Oscar and Costa closed down well and tried to make things happen which wasn’t the case in the first half.

But chances were at a premium as Liverpool defended well, and the away side even had the clearest chance in the second half. Costa’s goal pumped the crowd but it was a case of Chelsea playing basic connections from midfield to the flanks but never really penetrated the centre.

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