Chelsea came up well short in their attempt to lay down an early warning shot in this season’s title race as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool machine ruthlessly rolled them over. Yes, there are caveats to that. The Blues played 45 minutes with 10 men and were missing some of the new recruits Frank Lampard has brought in to try and bridge the gap to the very top.
A better barometer of what this new Chelsea are capable of might be gauged when the sides meet again at Anfield in March next year, though that will probably be far too late for this league campaign.
The stark truth is that there is greater expectation at the Bridge and bigger objectives have been set following more than a £200m summer outlay. As a result, the Chelsea boss would have rued the timing of this fixture, a truly acid test against one of the best teams in the world on matchday two. Lampard knows he needs a number of weeks to fully integrate new recruits into his side, and then a little more to work with them as a unit.
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But given the pace set by the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City in recent seasons, they could be out of sight by then. And are the recruits actually going to make such a significant difference? Defence was clearly the area identified for strengthening following last season, but Thiago Silva is 35, has never played in the Premier League and his best years are surely behind him. Ben Chilwell has quality but is more of an attacking full back too. The jury will definitely still be out on that area of the team.
Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech add depth to their attacking talent, but didn’t they already have some strong options in their ranks with the likes of Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic to name but two?
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Timo Werner is a top-class striker but he still has to prove himself in the English top-flight. He again showed glimpses of what he could offer at the Bridge with some lively first half runs and by winning the second half penalty.
That was, of course, saved by Alisson, a stopper Klopp brought in to finally lead Liverpool over that goalkeeping hump that had seen them come unstuck with the likes of Loris Karius in the 2018 Champions League final. There’s no doubt Alisson was vital to Liverpool landing that sixth Champions League crown and ending a 30-year wait to lift the title.
That brings us to the elephant in the room. Chelsea have needed another new goalkeeper for quite some time. Lampard has known that, but had to make do with what was at his disposal. The error-prone and clearly out of his depth Kepa Arrizabalaga may well have played his last Premier League game after another howler against Liverpool. The Blues are reportedly signing Rennes keeper, Edouard Mendy and it could be a key addition that will provide a marked improvement, but all transfers come with some element of risk that they may not work out.
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Liverpool are already years ahead in their process under Klopp. Their victory at the Bridge was built upon the familiar brilliance of their well-honed philosophy and style.
Sadio Mane took on the mantle as this week’s star of the much-vaunted front three, following on from Mo Salah’s match-winning heroics v Leeds to show just why the champions are so hard to stop. Even the supposed weakness of fielding Fabinho at centre back turned out to be a false dawn for the hosts.
Chelsea have a number of jigsaw pieces right now, but Lampard isn’t completely sure how they will all come together and which ones won’t quite fit. In contrast, Klopp knows exactly how his big picture looks and has gone about recruiting to complement that further.
Last week’s big money additions of Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota will not only add quality and options, but will also lift the rest of an already trophy-laden squad. It just keeps everyone on their toes and stops anything from starting to go stale.
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It is oft said that champions should not stand still and must bring new blood in when they are in a position of strength. Liverpool have clearly done that. They have identified areas they need to improve such as with young Greek, Kostas Tsimikas, who provides back up for Andy Robertson. He is one they have earmarked with potential, that Klopp wants to work with and give time to acclimatise.
A creative force in their midfield was highlighted as a possible area they could improve, hence the arrival of Thiago. And Jota provides Premier League experience at a relatively young age and a versatility to play along those front three positions to back up the established front three.
This shows Liverpool have a clear plan and look even stronger following their business this week. Chelsea’s still needs some work with question marks over where so many players will fit in and whether they will actually raise the team's overall standard. Lampard needs time, but in the modern, cutthroat world of the Premier League, that is a rare commodity.
Heavy spending and big names make it easy to suggest Chelsea are all set to be stronger this season and there is a long road ahead, but whether they can actually come close to applying any pressure to Liverpool is another matter.
After a quiet start, the Merseysiders have arguably had the better window at present and this victory in one of their toughest away fixtures on paper once again shows they remain the team to beat.