1. Preamble

As it happens I somehow contrived to miss the Wolves game and lo and behold, our unbeaten run was broken and I was unable to cover it in blog form, so to make amends I decided to cover the Chelsea v Liverpool game and give my objective take on it and write about what we can take from the game as United fans, and hopefully its also just an enjoyable insightful piece for fans of the teams in question.

Just to mention briefly the context of the game in question, Fernando Torres left the Merseyside club on the last day of the transfer window for their rivals down South for a fee of £50 million and I’m sure Liverpool fans would agree with me on this, he hasn’t shut up about it since.. making constant digs about how he was joining a team on the up. Anyway he was further joined by the Brazilian defensive recruit named David Luiz (from Benfica for £21.3 million) in a bid to freshen up the Chelsea defence and provide the silk to their back line that Carvalho was responsible for. As for Liverpool, they used up most of the money from selling their prize asset and invested in 2 relatively untested strikers who have shown a great deal of potential in their very short careers thus far.. in the hope they’ve found the new Rush and Dalglish. Unfortunately we were denied a look at them today, but the match still threw up its fair share of talking points and some of particular interest to United fans.

2. Torres Watch

Torres Statistics: (9/13 successful passes, 0 Shots on target (1 blocked, 1 off target))

  • 07-08: 24 Goals/4 Assists
  • 08-09: 14 goals/5 assists
  • 09-10: 18 goals/3 assists
  • 10-11: 9 goals/5 assists (so far)

So I bet you’re looking at Torres’ form for this season in particular and thinking, wait a minute.. he’s been pretty awful this year, yet he’s still comfortably ahead of Rooney in the goalscoring stakes. Well yeah, I guess Wayne really has been that bad this season, but then you have to take into account we have other strikers who are still doing the business even if our supposed talisman isn’t up to it which is what you need when you’re going for trophies.

As for his performance today, as you can tell from his stats on today’s game – he was pretty non-existent despite playing up front for a team which is reknowned for keeping the ball well especially at home. We know he is not a ‘get involved’ sort of striker, his passing stats in games are notoriously pretty low but even by his standards, today was just a no-show especially for a guy you’d think would bust a gut on his debut.

Memorable moments today included a massively mishit shot which sailed over the bar and being clotheslined by former team mate Daniel Agger. On a positive note for Blues fans he managed to get in a one v one situation with countryman Pepe Reina before his shot was blocked by the effervescent indefatigable Jamie Carragher. For me he just didn’t look in the right frame of mind today and he appeared rather glum, as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders or perhaps that massive transfer fee.

Tactically how Torres fits in with the likes of Drogba and Anelka, will be of concern to Ancellotti but what an enviable concern to have, three of the Leagues greatest forwards competing to make the starting lineup. Problem is they were already struggling with keeping one striker out in their preferred 4-3-3 set up, how they intend on keeping them all sweet and playing to the sides natural strengths I really don’t know. I personally think its too early to tell whether Torres can be a success at Chelsea, he was just about refinding his form at Anfield and now this major move has happened(of his own doing of course) and it’ll take a while to readjust. The issue I do feel confident on addressing is whether Torres is the player to bring the glory days (in terms of steam rollering opponents like the Jose era) back to Chelsea, I don’t think  he alone is capable of doing that.. there are deeper fundamental flaws in this side which still need to be addressed…

3. The Midfield Battle

Liverpool Midfield Stats:  Lucas (40/45 successful passes, 5 interceptions, 7/13 tackles made, 1 clearance, 1 block), Meireles (1 goal, 31/37 passes, 2 interceptions, 2/3 tackles made, 1 block) Maxi (32/36 passes, 4 interceptions, 2 tackles, Gerrard (36/54 passes, 3 interceptions, 4/9 tackles made)

Chelsea Midfield Stats: Mikel (52/55 successful passes, 1 interception, 1 tackle, 3 clearances), Essien (86/100 passes, 1 interception, 6/9 tackles, 1 block), Lampard (44/56 passes, 4 interceptions, 1 clearance) Anelka (36/47 passes, 2/4 tackles made)

For those who have regularly read my stuff on United, these stats should be abit of an eye opener considering the calibre of opponents both sides were up against and the heated nature of the game. The passing stats are pretty remarkable from both sides considering it wasn’t a very attractive spectacle for the neutral. Essien and Obi Mikel, not to mention Lucas ( excellent today) kept the ball exceptionally well and in comparison to the dearth of midfield talent we have at United, its pretty striking when you consider these are not even teams in form and they seem to keep the ball pretty effortlessly, like its second nature. If you’re asking why are these teams below us in the table etc well the crux of the matter is this, we have a superior manager/defence/wide players/forward line/golden oldie factor and so it should hit home, that we have all these strengths that disguise our relative midfield weaknesses, whereas these two sides have no real issues in midfield (compared to us) and instead have various flaws across the pitch.

Whilst that may be true, lets just have a deeper look at both their midfields and see where their strengths lie and what areas are in need of some work. Starting with Liverpool, I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of Lucas… I’ve always considered him technically pretty gifted, great engine but I’ve questioned his drive and his personality, did he have the cajones.. to take charge of a game and be positive with his passing. Already under Dalglish, I sense a change in this lads approach to the game, he’s more likely to advance the game with a long range pass or spread the play (imposing himself) rather than play the percentage pass. His defensive game is also becoming more robust with increasing physical maturity, 5 interceptions and 7 tackles… very impressive.  As for Meireles, I think he’s an underrated talent, he rarely gives the ball away, is capable of making match-winning contributions as evidenced by his 4 goals/3 assists thus far this season and like Maxi, not afraid now to stick his foot in. Gerrard for me was sloppy today, but his mere presence still energises Liverpool and he still remains Liverpools creative heartbeat, the one who will try to pull something out the locker. I think he’s fading though as a player and if Liverpool still have any cash remaining for the summer and beyond, it’ll be signing a true creative midfielder to replace him which will truely test Kenny’s ability to bring Liverpool up to the level they were once accustomed to.

In many ways Chelsea’s midfield problems are similar to Liverpool yet altogether quite different in equal measure, Mikel for me is an enigma… clearly this lads got some talent, he keeps the ball effortlessly on a consistent basis, but he seems totally unwilling to break out and be more aggressive with his passing despite having the bucketloads of talent to do so, furthermore even as a purely defensive mid, he lacks a certain amount of dynamism and this is particularly prevelant in games in which Chelsea are struggling, how often do you see Jon Obi Mikel take it to the opposition and win the ball with crunching tackles or numerous interceptions, the answer is pretty rarely, the problem is his job must be made easy due to his partner being Micheal Essien. Now this guy is what you call a quality midfielder, almost twice as many passes as any other player and if thats not enough he even rivals Lucas in terms of defensive stats today, a true midfield dynamo and how United would love a player of his calibre, driving the side box to box. Where Chelsea falter though in my opinion is Frank Lampard.

Like Gerrard he is a fading force but the problem is whilst Gerrard has always been a ‘magic’ player, Lampard pretty much epitomises Chelsea in that he has always been a efficient player, grinding out goals and assists, rather than stamping his style on a game and running Chelsea with flair, as expected by a top european attacking midfielder. I think for Chelsea to progress as an outfit, I’d either utilse Malouda as this creative sort of attacking mid, as witnessed in his display against England for France in an international friendly or look to sign someone like Luka Modric in the summer.

Click here for the final part of our analysis