Soccer  

Liverpool and Chelsea’s current mid-table reality exposed in Anfield stalemate

Thiago Silva (left) and Darwin Nunez (right)
Liverpool and Chelsea have struggled to hit the heights of previous campaigns this season

Liverpool and Chelsea have produced a long history of dramatic occasions and classic matches at Anfield. This was not one of them.

When referee Michael Oliver sounded his final whistle, Anfield’s near-silence was a brutal reflection of the fact this match was nowhere near as entertaining as the 0-0 scoreline might suggest.

Indeed, Anfield was subdued throughout as two of the Premier League giants – currently going through a period of mutual struggle – delivered graphic evidence of why their respective campaigns are those of underachievement.

Liverpool and Chelsea, in their defence, can offer up mitigating circumstances in the shape of injuries and – in the visitors’ case – a remarkable spree in the transfer market that has seen a near coachload of new arrivals pitch up at Stamford Bridge requiring integration.

There was still, however, enough quality on the pitch to produce better than the monument to mediocrity erected by Liverpool and Chelsea over these 90 minutes.

The Premier League table tells the tale of how the two sides, locked in relentless pursuit of big prizes in recent years, have currently fallen from their former standards.

At the final whistle, Liverpool stood in eighth position and Chelsea two behind them, nine points off the top four and those precious Champions League places after a dismal encounter with only five shots on target.

It was certainly no way for Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp to celebrate his 1,000th game in management.

This is why the pervading feeling after this game, apart from grim anticlimax, was that if you offered both Klopp and Chelsea counterpart Graham Potter a place in that top four at season’s end they would shake you vigorously by the hand.

Klopp and Potter will both be searching for bright spots and signs for optimism in any game and Chelsea can at least look to one of their many new acquisitions as a huge positive to take from this stalemate.

Mykhailo Mudryk was coveted by both Arsenal and Chelsea once it became clear Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk would do a deal for the exciting 22-year-old forward.

Arsenal were hopeful they had their man but Chelsea stole in, and if the indications of his 35-minute cameo are anything to go by you can see why.

Mudryk induced panic in Liverpool veteran James Milner, not surprising when Chelsea’s £89m forward was giving his opponent 15 years and several yards of pace playing in an unfamiliar right-back position.

James Milner (centre-left) and Mykhailo Mudryk (centre-right)
New £89m signing Mykhailo Mudryk (right) was lively after coming off the Chelsea bench to make his debut

Milner was forced to take a yellow card for hauling down Mudryk as he raced past him and it was no surprise when Klopp swiftly replaced him with Trent Alexander-Arnold.

One lively run ended with a shot into the side-netting and a couple of ghosting runs that left him unmarked at the far post did not quite bring him a reward. Very early days but the signs were promising.

Chelsea’s other new boy, defender Benoit Badiashile, was also solid although he was guilty of wasting his side’s best chance when he allowed Liverpool keeper Alisson to save a header in front of The Kop when he should have scored.

Klopp could reflect on a clean sheet without defensive lynchpin Virgil van Dijk, but there is no doubt the side that chased four trophies last season – winning the League Cup and FA Cup by beating Chelsea on penalties after goalless draws – are well away from their best when measured in quality and intensity.

To some extent this is understandable as Liverpool are currently managing without the injured Van Dijk plus attacking trio Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino, but there simply is not the same energy in the team in any guise currently.

Klopp added to his squad with £45m signing Cody Gakpo and he is in a settling-in period, adjusting to the demands of the Premier League. He struggled to make any impact, apart from one shot on the turn that was saved by Chelsea keeper Kepa in the second half, but Klopp will manage his introduction carefully and this will be easier after he was able to re-introduce Darwin Nunez as a second-half substitute after injury.

In reality, however, Liverpool and Chelsea are enduring a rare struggle.

Liverpool have failed to win in their last three Premier League games and it is the first time they have to score in consecutive games in the league since March 2021.

Chelsea, in turn, are without an away win in the Premier League in their last six games, their worst run since September to December 2015.

Anfield’s indifference at the final whistle was a natural reaction to what the capacity crowd had witnessed, with little to warm them in Merseyside’s sub-zero temperatures.

This looked like a mid-table match. It sounded like a mid-table match. And this is because it currently is, more or less, a mid-table match.

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