Last night was a bit of a reality check at Anfield, the gulf in quality between Chelsea and the top of the Premier League table laid bare once again. While Maurizio Sarri may be looking at it with hopeful spectacles, the gap between the Blues and the Reds is 19 points and it could get worse in the four games remaining.
But as disheartening as the defeat may have been, especially after a four-match winning run in all competitions, we mustn’t dwell on it too much. Chelsea may need some help, but we’re still in the top-four hunt and there’s of course still the Europa League.
Young Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who received as much of a reality check as any Chelsea player after dominating opposition like Brighton and West Ham in the last couple weeks, knows the importance of keeping spirits and confidence high. There are games to be won and targets to hit yet!
“It’s a really tough result to take.”
“When you have a game like this — and with the negative press — it’s a skill to be able to deal with it and move on very quickly and take the positives out of it. I think that’s what we have to do as a team and as individuals, to keep a positive mind-frame. We can’t dwell on this, we’ve got games coming that are really important. So we have to move on.”
That doesn’t mean everything should just be discarded. There are lessons to be learned, including for Loftus-Cheek who’s excellent with the ball and in attack, but is still a work in progress when it comes to the defensive phase. In fact, Sarri possibly should’ve started Mateo Kovačić instead since the gameplan was so defensive from the outset, and then maybe bring on Loftus-Cheek for the final 20 minutes for the planned counters against an increasing desperate and open home side, but what’s done is done. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right?
“[The midfield battle] was really difficult. The way they play is really difficult to defend — a lot of running! — and a lot of talking needs to go on because there’s a lot of movement, which was a challenge for us.”
On the plus side, this was Chelsea’s toughest remaining game of the season. Trouble is, there are only four left in the league and at most another four in the Europa League. They may not be as hard as this one was, but that just mean that the expectations to win them all will only increase.
Let’s hope some positives can be carried forward; we’re going to need them!
“They were really good, credit to them, but I thought we defended well in some patches and did well going forward in some spells as well — Eden had chances, Willi had a chance. We had chances ... and if we get one back, or both of them, then it’s a completely different game. We held them there, until a really good strike from Salah.
“But anyway, we move on from this. I don’t think we can be too disappointed with the performance. I think we stick to the positives, go home, analyze it, and put it behind us quickly. There’s games coming thick and fast.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: Chelsea TV