Liverpool

Liverpool Have No Excuses for Falling for Chelsea's Astute, Unattractive Tactics

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 27:  Manager Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool and Jose Mourinho manager of Chelsea look on from the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 27, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Max MuntonLiverpool CorrespondentApril 28, 2014

Brendan Rodgers' comments about Chelsea's tactics during their 2-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday afternoon were quite out of character from the Northern Irishman, who simply rolled his dice and lost.

The 41-year-old was frustrated by Jose Mourinho's ultra defensive game plan, which kept Liverpool's usually relentless attack out of game, as per Chris Bevan of BBC Sport:

They parked two buses, rather than one. From the first minute they had 10 men behind the ball.

We were the team trying to win but we just couldn't make the breakthrough.

Mourinho had obviously been learning from the school of Sam Allardyce, whose West Ham side frustrated Chelsea to a goalless draw earlier in the season, with the Portuguese manager saying at the time, as per Miguel Delaney of ESPN FC:

It's very difficult to play a football match when only one team wants to play. A football match is about two teams playing.

I told Big Sam [Allardyce], they need points. To come here the way they did, is that acceptable? Maybe it is, they need points.

This is not Premier League, this is not the best league in the world. This is football from the 19th century.

The only thing I can bring more to win was a Black and Decker. A Black and Decker to destroy the wall.

His tactics may well have been hypocritical, nonprogressive to football as a sport and aesthetically unappealing, but if the objective is to win, which it is, Mourinho and his team comfortably achieved this.

Chelsea's game plan was perfectly executed throughout. They had at least nine players behind the ball in any given Liverpool attack, and they didn't concede any free-kicks in dangerous positions.

They took advantage of the two simple opportunities at the end of each half and took the points. It was a simple case of Liverpool being tactically outplayed.

Tactically, Rodgers cannot really have any complaints about how Chelsea pulled off the victory. In the week's buildup to the game, which included the Blues doing exactly the same thing at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, it was no secret that Chelsea would come to Anfield and park the bus.

The Blues' time-wasting was again not pretty, but it was executed perfectly so as to skate on thin ice with referee Martin Atkinson and frustrate Liverpool's players.

Andy Hunter of The Guardian best described how Chelsea broke down Liverpool's usual game plan:

Unfortunately for the purist, or anyone who wants entertainment from one of the wealthiest clubs and finest managers in the game, it succeeded from a Chelsea perspective. The visitors were under instruction to waste time from the first whistle and took an age over goal-kicks, free-kicks and throw-ins.

[...]

Liverpool's customary early onslaught was stifled, their players visibly irritated and, with painful irony for the Anfield crowd, Ba's goal arrived in time added on for Chelsea's delaying tactics.

It wasn't until two minutes into injury time at the end of the contest that Atkinson showed Ashley Cole a yellow card for time-wasting. Had the referee been brave enough to book for time-wasting early on, it would have set a precedent for the rest of the game and deterred the visitors.

But how do you break down a team who has come and put nine or 10 players behind the ball? A team must adapt its game plan in preparation for such a spectacle.

The introduction of Daniel Sturridge after 58 minutes did little to break down Chelsea's attack, and Iago Aspas may well have kicked his last ball for Liverpool when he delivered a late corner kick straight to Willian with every Red shirt piled into the box.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 27:  Willian of Chelsea and Joe Allen of Liverpool compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 27, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Perhaps it is a showing sign of the need of high-quality options from the bench, and Willian's impact for the Blues in the final few moments will not have gone unnoticed by Rodgers. He had Willian targeted as a potential signing last summer, as per John Percy of The Telegraph.

Rodgers' Liverpool were simply outclassed on the day—from the tactics, to the personel, and there cannot be any excuses.

Rodgers' post-mortem of the defeat to Chelsea will analyse how Liverpool can move that bus next time, with attentions turning to next Monday's trip to Crystal Palace and the Premier League title still a realistic possibility.

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