Chelsea took on a struggling Liverpool side on Thursday night at Anfield knowing full well that a win here would see them back into the top four, a mere four points off second placed Manchester United and only three behind third placed Leicester City. What followed was Chelsea’s most complete performance under Thomas Tuchel thus far as the Blues dominated the first half and ground out the second to secure a first league win at Anfield since 2014. With excellent performances all over the pitch and interesting narratives to breakdown, here are the lessons learnt from Liverpool 0, Chelsea 1.
1. Keep calm and Andreas Christensen on
At 24 and having last had a decent run of games when Antonio Conte was in his second season with the club, it has been a long time since Andreas Christensen was viewed as the John Terry successor at the heart of Chelsea’s defense. Poor displays, sometimes attributed to the lack of a proper physique and at times simply due to a lack of confidence, have littered the young Dane’s career since and performances this season during Lampard’s tenure have not been up to scratch either. The reverse fixture against Liverpool which saw the Dane get himself sent off just before half time is a case in point and with his contract running out in 2022, rumors have already begun to surface regarding a potential departure from Chelsea.
On and along comes Thomas Tuchel in place of Frank Lampard and it may have taken four years but Christensen may have finally found another manager willing to put his complete faith in the 24-year-old’s abilities as a centerback. Operating in the center of a back three, Christensen’s introduction into the team at half time in place of the injured Thiago Silva has now seen just one goal conceded in over 550 minutes of football across all competitions. Against Liverpool, Christensen was once again immaculate at the heart of Chelsea’s backline. Confident in his passing as he is when it comes to his reading of the game, the 24-year-old completed 91.5% of all his attempted passes whilst making a game high nine clearances. While it is true that his passes may not be the most penetrative, Christensen’s composure, especially in the second half of the game in face of relentless Liverpool pressure was crucial in allowing Chelsea to see out the match completely unscathed.
It was a performance that Thiago Silva would have been proud of and with the Brazilian on a cusp of a first team return, perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to Christensen’s recent displays would be the fact that Chelsea’s best center half is no longer a nailed on starter in the middle of Tuchel’s back three. A truly impressive few weeks it has been for Andreas Christensen.
2. Thomas Tuchel’s perfect start to life at Chelsea Football Club
The past few weeks must have been a strange one for Thomas Tuchel. Rarely, if ever, has a manager posted a record that looks something like this: Played 10, won seven, drawn three, lost zero and had his successes attributed to every other factor in the world apart from the good work that has clearly been done on and off the training pitches since his appointment on the 26th of January. In this respect, Thursday night’s comprehensive victory over Liverpool could finally be the result that sees Tuchel get the respect he deserves for the job he has done thus far.
While there is certainly a case to be made as to whether Chelsea’s results are merely part of a morale boost that often accompanies a new managerial appointment or simply down to the quality of opposition faced, what is undeniable is Chelsea’s improvements in defense since the appointment of Tuchel. In his 10 games in charge thus far, Takashi Minamino of Southampton remains the only opposition player to have found a way past Chelsea’s new look backline, with the Blues keeping eight clean sheets in the process.
Under Tuchel, Chelsea’s defense has not just gotten better. It is unquestionably, from a statistical point of view at least, the best defense in the Premier League by quite the distance. This is despite the team having suffered the loss of Thiago Silva early on in this run of games following an injury sustained against Tottenham in the earlier part of February. This is not something that happens because of a “new managerial bounce”. This is something that happens because of the tactical work done behind the scenes and it is about time that fans and pundits alike begin respecting the work that has to be done to come away with victories away to Spurs, Atletico Madrid and now Liverpool.
It is still early days, however, and in the words of Thomas Tuchel himself, it is important not to get carried away with the results thus far. However, 10 games into his tenure as Chelsea boss and Tuchel is showing all the signs of the potential that can be harvested from this team with him at the helm. It remains to be seen if he is indeed given the time and resources needed to fulfil his promises made to the Chelsea board.
3. Mason Mount, the creative, goal scoring workhorse
Much has already been said when it comes to breaking down Mason Mount’s performances this season but Tuesday’s performance from the Englishman seems to be the game that finally has the football community around the world sit up and take notice. Incredibly hard working and extremely talented when on the ball, Mount’s goal against Liverpool along with his performance on the day was quite simply outstanding. The ability to recognize the space available on the right side of Liverpool’s defense was followed by the technical ability to bring the ball under control without breaking pace which was in turn followed by the quick turn of pace near the edge of the box to create the half space required to get his shot away and past the despairing dive of Alisson Becker.
This was a moment of world class brilliance from a player just 22 years of age and in a game where the likes of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane are expected to be the ones providing these moments of magic, it was Mount who would take the center stage in Chelsea’s biggest game of the season thus far. Moreover, whereas the likes of Salah and Mane could be said to be heavily reliant on direct offensive output to have any tangible impact on games, Mount’s work rate off the ball would mean that he always has something to offer the team, especially in a game where Chelsea found themselves increasingly pinned back as the game progressed.
With six goals and five assists to his name already, Mount is just two goals short of equaling his offensive output last campaign with a third of the season still yet to be played and while he may or may not ultimately surpass said offensive contributions, what is clear is that the 22-year-old has most certainly grown past the claims of simply being “Lampard’s son” or “Southgate’s pet student”. This is an incredible player with immense potential to match and most importantly of all, he is Chelsea through and through.