MIKE CUMMINGS: Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 on Sunday to pull themselves one point head of … well, Sunderland, for fifth place. With the loss, Chelsea stayed level on points with … well, Tottenham Hotspur, on 44 points, with the Blues taking fourth spot thanks to a better goal differential. Apologies to fans of Sunderland and Tottenham, but that doesn’t really have the same ring as pulling ahead of Arsenal or level with Manchester United, does it?
So what does it all mean? Well, it means that, despite all the headlines and dollar signs, Sunday’s match was a match of two also-rans.
Hard to believe, but it’s true. With all the hype surrounding the game, you’d think it was a title-decider, not a match between teams fighting Sunderland, Bolton and Stoke, tooth and nail, for their spot in the top half. Okay, that’s a bit much, but it has been a rough season for both Chelsea and Liverpool.
Back in the fall, Chelsea was in a familiar place, leading the Premier League thanks to its stable of high-priced stars. A few months later, they’re in a grudge match with Spurs for England’s final Champions League spot. And then there’s Liverpool, a club that must have thought a new era was dawning along with Roy Hodgson’s tenure last August. Not yet seven months later, Hodgson is gone, so is Fernando Torres, and Liverpool is back to where it’s been for the past two decades.
Nowhere near the title.
Maybe they’ll turn it around soon with their new £35 million striker Andy Carroll, but for now it’s another lost year for one of England’s most famous clubs. As for Chelsea, they’ll almost surely be back, with £50 million man Fernando Torres or with some other, equally high-priced talent.
Just not this year.
KAREN PATEL: There was indeed a lot of hype surrounding this fixture, and that is largely due to Fernando Torres. Yet it was Liverpool who shone and displayed the grit and determination that had been missing during Roy Hodgson’s tenure. Torres was isolated and only had one good chance at goal, and Anelka and Drogba laboured to provide support.
Liverpool were often criticized for being a ‘two-man team’ – those two men being Torres and Gerrard. That is now firmly in the past and the team effort by Dalglish’s men was outstanding. Raul Meireles is proving to be the buy of the season, Lucas is coming into his own, the defence is learning to be mean, and Kuyt has found his touch again. Add to that Suarez and Carroll and all looks good for the Merseysiders coming into the second half of the season.
Chelsea, on the other hand, will find the defeat particularly galling given that they had three strikers on the pitch with a combined value of over £80 million. Yet, the team were lacking in creativity and reduced to long-range attempts at goal most of the time. Fans are already starting to turn on their new striker, Torres, and they probably wouldn’t be as angry if Roman Abramovich hadn’t spent so much money on him.
The Blues seem to be firmly on the periphery of the title race now and it is obvious that the squad needs overhauling. Purchasing Torres was a strong statement of intent, but even he hasn’t got the ability to turn Chelsea’s season around by himself. They need the guile and spirit that Liverpool displayed on Sunday, but unfortunately for Abramovich, that cannot be bought.