Nerdy by Nature – Living Rent Free in Frank’s Head
Y’all, I’m going to be honest: I think I am really going to enjoy this rivalry with Chelsea with Frankie Lampard over on the bench. Mostly because Klopp has a new home, living rent free in Lampard’s head. It has been so great watching Klopp basically puppet another man. Frankie is so worried about Liverpool, and Klopp just strolls in, beats him soundly, and moves on. So easy and nice. Anyway, shall we get to the game?
Let’s start with the 1st half. Frankie and a lot of twitter folks maintained that the game was even before the red card. Well, shall we analyze that? Yes, the game was 0-0 when the red card on Andreas Christensen happened (by the way, what a freaking pass by the cap). Using understat.com’s xG map for the game, we see that Chelsea was really strong. They had <checks notes> an xG of 0.03. Yeah, that’s 3/100 of a goal. So yeah, basically, Chelsea had nothing in the first half. Remember Timo Werner’s run down the wing where he cut in and Fabinho completely shut him down? Yeah, that was the 0.03. If we look at Liverpool’s xG, we’ll see it was miniscule also right? Umm, nope. At the time of the red, LFC’s xG was at 0.5. Is that awesome? No. But it does imply that the game was not nearly as close as some are saying.
Of course once the red card happened, it was all Liverpool’s game to win. And that’s what transpired in the second half. First, a Sadio Mane goal due to excellent ball movement started by new boy Thiago. The second, a standard Kepa giveaway. Beautiful to witness. That being said, let’s see who played well this match….
If you know me, you would be crazy to think I would start with anyone other than Thiago. If you want to know why I was so excited, check out my earlier article on him. This beautiful man only played 45 minutes, but in that time, he did the job of two halves. First off, my goodness he is silky smooth. He is so good – he is the complete midfielder. In a game like this, his main job was to unlock the Chelsea defense, and that he did. In 45 minutes, he completed 90% of his passes (75/84) and really progressed the ball up the field. This is a burden typically carried by our fullbacks, but the fact that we can depend on Thiago to share that load is excellent. Progressive passes, for those of you who are new here, are defined yards that the ball has been moved toward the opponent’s goal. Georginio Wijnaldum, Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson combined to pass the ball forward 380 yards in 198 minutes. Comparatively, Thiago passed it forward 405 yards in 45 minutes.
Admittedly, Chelsea were already down a player. However, we must acknowledge that Keita and Wijnaldum also played during the second half, and still Thiago was the star. He controlled the game from the second he came on the pitch, which should not surprise us since due to his excellent pedigree. The only downside of his performance was the clumsy challenge on Werner… which led to Alisson just looking even better. I am so excited about this new player – he may be the best and most complete player Liverpool have bought in years, and he showed it immediately.
Most people would put Sadio Mane as the MOTM (and I might as well if pushed) but we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about Salah here. While he did not get on the score sheet (0 goals and 0 assists in the game) but he was everywhere. He had 17 pressing actions and was successful in 9 of them. Those are low raw numbers but remember, Chelsea barely had the ball in the second half. Still, being over 50% successful is admirable. He also added 3 tackles.
Going forward, Salah was impeccable. In addition to completing 54/65 passes, he added five key passes (passes that lead directly to a shot) and had seven shot-creating actions (one of the two offensive actions leading to a shot – think the second assist in hockey – where the player enables someone to potentially get an assist or a goal). He also progressed the ball forward more than anyone other than Andy Robertson (who usually starts with the ball at his feet further back).
At around 70’, it looked like Salah moved into a Number 10-type role. In those 20 minutes, I would say that as he ages and loses some of his speed, we have our playmaker already, because he was excellent in this role. He completed 27/29 passes after 70,’ and you can see they are from more varied positions than usual, when he does most of his passing from the right wing.
When the lineups came out and Fabinho was listed as the CB, I figured this was a move by Klopp to send a message to FSG saying “hey, this guy will be fine, but we really need another CB”. If that was his intention, it failed. Fabinho was impervious in this game. He pressed 16 times winning 10, had two interceptions, three blocked shots and achieved 96.5% passing success. In addition, he completely corralled Werner down his side, limiting him to that one chance. Do we need a fourth-choice CB? As I teach my kids, there is a difference between wants and needs. We definitely want one so he can be our holding midfielder. But do we need one? Fabinho made a good case for the answer “No.”
What did you think? Not many bad performers since the game was given at half with the bad red card. Comment below and let me know what you think.