Liverpool's 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge upped Chelsea's 2010-11 defeat total to 7, through just 25 games, putting them on pace for 11.
In 2009-10, the Blues were undefeated in big-four matches. This season, they are 1-3, with two matches against Manchester United to come.
Now, Chelsea sits in fourth, 10 points off the title pace and just goal differential ahead of Spurs for the final Champions League spots. They've even let Liverpool creep back into the picture, as the Reds are now just six points out of the top four.
The numbers speak for themselves, but if you watched Chelsea's performance on Sunday, you'd need no statistical evidence to know that Chelsea just isn't that good.
Let's not take too much credit away from Liverpool. Jamie Carragher came back from injury to have his best match of the season. Martin Skrtel was nearly as solid, and Daniel Agger was strong as well. Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly stretched Chelsea's defense with their width.
Lucas, though he pretty clearly handed the ball in the Liverpool area, bottled up the midfield and tackled fiercely in what was — all things considered — one of his best matches of the year as well. Steven Gerrard, though he acquired an odd habit of sending through balls too far for goal kicks, was brutally effective as a tackler. He also created a goal — except that Maxi Rodriguez unbelievably didn't finish it off.
Otherwise, though, Maxi even had a better game than usual. He tracked back well, and disappeared far less going forward than he often does. In fact, it was Raul Meireles who was anonymous going forward for the majority of the game. His one moment in the spotlight, a clinical finish after a Kelly cross intended for Dirk Kuyt that caught Petr Cech and the Chelsea defense out of position fell to him at the far post, made up for his previous play entirely — giving him his fourth goal in five games. Finally, while Kuyt was not as superb as he was against Stoke earlier this week, he still did well as a center forward, even against Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry.
Much of the credit for the victory, though, should go to Kenny Dalglish, for again employing the odd 3-2-4-1 formation that has emerged to great effect in the post-Fernando Torres era, but Dalglish and the Liverpool side certainly don't deserve all of the credit for the win. Chelsea, in large part, let them take the three points.
Over and over again, Chelsea would bring the ball through midfield to the edge of the Liverpool final third, and then find themselves completely without ideas for how to proceed thereafter. Liverpool's midfield line was surely disciplined in preventing counters, but Chelsea had no creativity and no pace.
Occasionally, Nicolas Anelka and Michael Essien would find space down the middle on counterattacks, but there was no final ball — nor threat of a final ball. In fact, Chelsea didn't even seem to be looking for one. Whenever Frank Lampard, Essien or Anelka did have a pocket of space, they simply launched shots from distance. As a result, the Blues' 20 shots found the target only once, and Pepe Reina was never challenged. When Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa made runs down the flanks, they sent long crosses in from above the area — because there was nobody to combine with to penetrate deeper towards the touch-line. The off-ball runs weren't there. The creative vision wasn't there.
This Chelsea squad, though featuring most of the usual suspects of the past half-decade — with the not-quite-up-to-par John Obi Mikel and Bosingwa as the newcomers — had many of the same problems that afflicted Liverpool early in the season — width only from the back, poor movement off the ball, lack of creativity, players no longer playing where they play best. Though still defensively sound — Terry did particularly well — Chelsea isn't even a shadow of its former self going forward. Their forward players have reached the age when decline becomes sharp, and, as you'd expect, none of them seems to be enjoying themselves too much in the process. The chemistry is gone, and if you discount the drubbings they handed out at the very beginning of the season, the goals have been gone as well.
Speaking of goals, what came of Torres' big debut? Nothing. He was anonymous except for a couple moments that were thwarted by Liverpool's defense. He was exactly who he had been for the past 18 months — except for he wasn't sulking and he was in a different colored shirt. In truth, Roman Abramovich spent 50 million pounds on a player who fits perfectly into his side's identity — a 2007 All-Star team.
Now, Abramovich is stuck with his ridiculously expensive side until season's end, with the massive revenue stream that is the Champions League firmly hanging in the balance. Chelsea is in need of a drastic makeover, which may not even be possible in the summer — despite Abramovich's infinite pockets.
In the January window, Liverpool changed it's identity, shedding an expensive, underachieving star and putting in place a formation that maximizes the skills of each player on the pitch. The results that have followed have firmly justified the dramatic shift.
Chelsea, on the other hand, doubled down, bringing in another underachieving, past-his-prime star for a ridiculous sum of money. In a home match that couldn't have been more meaningful, the Blues proved to be exactly what we have all suspected that they are comprised of — a collective star faded.
Now, in a nearly unimaginable reversal, it is the Blues, not the Reds, who are on the brink of a true disaster.
Liverpool began the day at 14-1 odds to finish in the top four. Now, they're just six points out, looking up at a team with a paper thin defense and no goals from its strikers and Chelsea, a team that just isn't that good.
I hope you called your bookies. You'd certainly be getting your money's worth.
Could Liverpool finish in the top four? Is Chelsea in serious danger of missing out? Leave your thoughts below.
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