• Sports - Football
  • Updated: January 10, 2023

Liverpool, Chelsea Premier League Conundrum

Liverpool, Chelsea Premier League Conundrum

The 2022/23 Premier League campaign still hasn't gone as expected for club sides Liverpool and Chelsea. 

The two behemoth teams have been having a pretty bad run of games and are short of the mark.

It is needless to say that they are out of rhythm and have performed far below par considering their high standards.

While Liverpool are sixth on the log with 28 points from 17 games played, Chelsea languish in 10th position with 25 points from 17 games, though they are 10 points adrift of the relegation zone.

The scale of troubles for Liverpool has apparently set alarm bells ringing.

The Reds no longer have that aura that propelled them to nearly pull off an unprecedented clean sweep and go toe-to-toe with Manchester City in the English Premier League last season.

In this current campaign, they have had to struggle for consistency and are annoyingly sloppy in the way they play.

The back-to-back league defeats they suffered to struggling Nottingham Forest and Leeds United is truly a reflection of their season.

One can't confidently say again that teams are afraid to lock horns with Liverpool.

Whether at Anfield or away from home, the fear factor is nonexistent.

Opposing teams take the game to them and condemn them to defeat before they are able to scream jack! 

Against Brentford, their first Premier League game in 2023, they were stung by the ruthless Bees at the Brentford Community Stadium.

No one had imagined that Brentford would end Liverpool's four-game Premier League winning run with a 3-1 victory

Thomas Frank's men caused Liverpool issues at every possible chance and capitalized on the Reds' defensive vulnerabilities to bag three massive points.

The defeat meant that the visitors' top four ambition was dealt a heavy blow.

There are a plethora of reasons for the downturn in the performances of Jurgen Klopp's men.

Injuries have been partially to blame for the Reds' miserable start.

There were certain key players in Liverpool's midfield who sustained injuries and were ruled out at the start of the club's title challenge.

This left them too exposed in the middle of the park due to a lack of quality midfielders.

Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin and Curtis Jones were all injured. Hence, Klopp was spurred to place trust in his new signing and promising youngster Fabio Carvalho, while experimenting with other existing players. Still, these injuries cost them a great deal.

While injuries made Liverpool's midfield porous, their defence crisis exacerbated their conundrum.

Rival teams found the chink in their armour and ruthlessly carved them open like a piñata. This is where Alexander Arnold takes the flak.

His deficiency in defending doesn't complement his attacking brilliance.

There are quite a number of times that the right-back has been caught out of position for playing high up the pitch.

Of course, that has always been the way he plays given Klopp's Gegenpressing formation, but opposition players have got the better of him thus far this season

It would however be wrong to totally blame Arnold for the Merseysiders' shambolic defending.

Other members of the defence are equally culpable.

Virgil Van Djik, Joe Gomez, and Ibrahim Konate have all committed defensive blunders that have cost the team the most points.

The record states that Liverpool have already lost twice as many league matches as in the whole 2021/22 season, simply because of their horrendous defending.

Kloop had acknowledged his players' defensive struggles after the 3-3 draw against Brighton, saying: "I don't know how many times today I saw their offensive players just turning between the lines. It was horrendous, really horrible to watch."

Importantly, the psychological scars of the team put a negative spin on their season.

Missing out on the Premier League title by one point and losing another Champions League Final to Real Madrid after they fought so hard, did break Liverpool mentally.

You can tell that since the opening weekend, the hangover from the previous season has made Kloop's "mentality monsters" lack bite and look brittle.

This explains why Liverpool were slow in getting out of the blocks to challenge Manchester City again for the title as they failed to win their first three league games against Fulham, Crystal Palace and Manchester United.

Chelsea equally have their season falling apart. The Blues are in a mess, to put it mildly. Their season hasn't gone according to script having spent extravagantly to sign players like Raheem Sterling, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kalidou Koulibaly, Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella and others.

The cracks at the West London Club had begun to show long before the unceremonious departure of Thomas Tuchel.

It proved difficult for Tuchel to retain squad harmony after winning the Champions League within his first six months.

The reason was that his relationship with a number of Chelsea players - who felt they were unfairly left out or played out of position - deteriorated. 

This resorted to rumblings of discontent among the playing squad and made Chelsea's performances to be insipid at the start of the campaign.

It appeared to be evident after Chelsea fell to defeat against Southampton. Tuchel fumed at his men's disjointed performance, saying, "We are not tough enough to win these matches away... it is too easy to push us off the track, it is too easy to bully us.

"It is too easy to put us off balance, to beat us, to confuse us. It is too easy. It happened against Leeds.

"We need to understand why and find solutions. It is too easy to beat us."

The outburst was uncharacteristic from the German Coach but wasn't the first that was heard from the then-Chelsea manager.

He had slammed his players for "huge individual errors" after Leeds hammered his side 3-0 to make them suffer their first humiliating defeat of the season.

To add salt to their wound, the behind-the-scenes drama after the complete takeover of the club rubbed off negatively on the squad.

There was a breakdown in the relationship between the new owner Todd Bohely and Tuchel.

It was claimed that their rift developed because of differences over the signing of players.

Tuchel didn't fancy the possibility of signing Cristiano Ronaldo, in contrast to interim sporting director Boehly, who wanted to bring the Portuguese to Stamford Bridge from Manchester United. 

Renowned sports journalist Fabrizio Romano reported, “Thomas Tuchel wants different kinds of players and projects, this is why he decided against the Cristiano Ronaldo deal.”

As a result of the fracture and fray in their relationship, Boehly made the decision to swing the axe on Tuchel's future at the Bridge, hence allowing uncertainty over the future to hold sway. 

The flipside here is that rebuilding the squad is trickier and more challenging under successor Graham Potter, as he got no time to work with the motley crew assembled at the behest of Tuchel who was sacked in the first week of September.

Chelsea's underwhelming display in their 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest tells you that Potter is facing a hard situation and will need more time to work on a squad overloaded with defenders and desperately short of attackers to change the fortunes of the club.

Again, the Blues are brutally affected by questionable signings following the departure of key players like Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Marcos Alonso, etc.

The majority of the signings Boehly have overpaid for are only good on paper as none of them has yet done enough to justify their move to the club. 

In Aubameyang, for instance, Chelsea are realizing that they have spent £10m on a drought of goals.

The former Arsenal and Barcelona forward is no longer the prolific goalscorer known by football enthusiasts.

Embarrassingly, the 33-year-old - signed as the answer to Chelsea's palpable failings in front of goal - was subbed on and then subbed off again in the 1-0 defeat to Man City at Stamford Bridge.

Additionally, injuries have turned Chelsea's poor season into a nightmare.

It is a worrisome situation that has depleted the team and created a frenzied atmosphere in the dressing room.

The absence of Edouard Mendy, Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell, N'Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Raheem Sterling, Armando Broja and Christian Pulisic has left Potter badly short on depth.

As Potter summarised, "I've never experienced anything like it." Hence, the hands of the manager have been forced to grasp for short-term solutions in order to muddle through the campaign. 

With these crises bedevilling the season of Liverpool and Chelsea, the fear is that one out of the two top teams (if not both) may miss out on securing a top-four slot to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League.

The season obviously is far from over, but the stark reality is that any slip-ups made at this point would be damaging.

Already, the league is heated up as Arsenal, Man City, Newcastle and Man United are not showing signs of relenting.  They are relishing the title race and putting bodies on the line in the challenge. 

It is no fluke to get into the top four. One must work for it and fight to the finish.

There must be rhythm, swagger, doggedness and consistency in a team's performance.

If a club can't step up to the challenge week in, week out, their season is as good as gone and will have to try again in the following season.

Let's remember, it is the Premier League and excuses don't get you desired results.

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