I will be honest in saying that I have never been one of those “play by play” recap writers. As beautiful and compelling as football can be, that is not currently my skill set, nor one that I really enjoy using. There is emotion and heart in these games, behind these players, and that has always what has endeared me to them, to Liverpool especially. That is what has always wrapped around me when a big match like Chelsea vs Liverpool is happening - the drama in the history and the narrative of it all, how these teams prepare, what will help or hurt them in their objectives. What do these personalities and combinations of skills bring to the pitch? Then it all comes down to one day, 90ish minutes, and then it's over. Done and dusted for another week, give or take a few days.
Sunday was a lovely trip to Stamford Bridge -- a place that could very well have been not very lovely.
After the drama of last weekend’s visit by Leeds, the seven goal stunner at Anfield, anything could’ve happened on Sunday in London. Chelsea, who have shown that they are no longer there to simply fight for top four but they are attempting to be title challengers by dropping their saved cash on anyone with name recognition.
And then half of those new signings end up injured and unable to play against the current title holders.
Liverpool, on the other hand, go in with no fresh injury concerns (at least until a few hours before kick off when we are forced into the nuclear option of Brazilian defensive midfielder Fabinho at center half) and two new signings - one of which is already ready to go and on the bench because he’s just that good.
Thiago Alcantara is exciting. Even as a football fan that is not fully aware of just how good he is, the excitement about his arrival in Liverpool is infectious. I will fully admit I was not sold on the saga, did not know or see his worth — I don’t watch other European leagues, have only been watching football for 10 years give or take. He has always been a phantom to me, a name without knowledge attached, and now an older one at that. As my former colleague wrote for the Offside’s scouting report following his announcement, “At 29, Thiago also falls outside the age profile typically preferred by the Reds’ laptop gurus. There will be little, if any, resale value over the course of the contract, and while there have been no genuine signs of a drop-off yet, the former Bayern man is nearing the end of his prime and is likely to see a decline during his time in Red.”
I haven’t even been the fan that has watched highlights videos relentlessly to catch up on the midfielder’s skills, but simply seeing a player so excited to make such a colossal move in his career that he is happily introducing himself to the opposition players during the warm ups? Three days after arriving in Liverpool and saying goodbye to the team he had been with for seven years? Infectious, delightful. So many of these players are often too serious, take their jobs too seriously despite the playful nature of it -- thankfully Liverpool doesn't have too much of that problem and Thiago seems to fit right in.
The game itself turned into a somewhat wild affair. Chelsea went down to ten men within the first half, as Andreas Christensen decided that giving Sadio Mane a running hug from behind was the best way to stop him from taking advantage of a clear goalscoring opportunity. As much as I, too, would like to hug Sadio Mane, maybe in the first half of that home match against the current Premier League Champions was not the best idea.
Chelsea, for all their money and their talent, were unable to do much more than flop around when up against a midfielder playing as a defender - in Timo Werner’s case - or find the actual goal. I think they ended up with only three shots actually on goal and one of them was the penalty saved by Alisson.
That second half. Chelsea had another 45 minutes ahead of them playing at ten men, and then Thiago got added into the mix. Jordan Henderson, fresh off his knee injury from three months ago, came off at halftime with potentially a thigh injury, opening space for the new kid. Thiago then went on to break the record for the most passes completed by a player in his debut match in 45 minutes. He also gave up a penalty, a soft one at that, but a consolation penalty for the Blues that were getting strung along at home. A penalty that turned into the first penalty saved by Alisson in his Liverpool career - funny, that.
From a Liverpool perspective, it was unpredictable enough to make it enjoyable. Even with Fabinho in the back, making that job his own and impressing those of us who would’ve rather spent a little more coin on a fourth choice center half. Even with Jordan Henderson coming off injured, Bobby Firmino missing another goal. Even with everything, there was very little to dislike about this game.
A return to normal, Atko called it. A return to the normal that we had grown accustomed to last season — winning.
Announcing to the country, the league, and the world that this talented and relentless Liverpool squad are here for all your trophies, and they will be as long as possible.