Finally, Jurgen Klopp has a meaningful victory as Liverpool manager, his first in the league, thanks to Philippe Coutinho scoring his first brace for the club and Christian Benteke showing what a force to be reckoned with he is. Even better, mostly for the fans, was the opponent and the venue: Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, while Jose Mourinho looks more and more lost in his paranoia and failures to reignite a fire beneath his players.
This marks the sixth loss in 11 league matches by Chelsea this season. They’re 15th in the Premier League with 11 points, four points from the relegation zone, 14 points from the top spot and 11 points from a place that leads to the Champions League. Yes, it’s been that bad, and although they led against Liverpool on the lunchtime kick off match, it was another performance that made Mourinho scratch his head and try to find where his players ability has disappeared to.
While Mourinho is showing his players that he’s anything but confident, Klopp is doing the exact opposite. One of the first things he said after arriving at Anfield is how it seems the players have lost their belief in their ability to win. Obviously, personnel changes and tactical makeovers were necessary and Liverpool have looked better since the switch and the sacking of Brendan Rodgers, but wins were difficult to come by: Only one in four matches before the Chelsea trip, and that victory came in the League Cup.
Klopp, unlike Rodgers, isn’t lost in his own inability to find out what this team is capable for. He doesn’t mind risking control of the midfield, or playing without a striker. Despite not being the one who was part of building this squad (and the argument over how much Rodgers had a say in player signings doesn’t really matter), Klopp seems to realize and understand a lot better which formations have the most impact with which players. Yes, he got some fantastic finishing from a until-now dormant Coutinho, better form from Roberto Firmino and Benteke bulldozing his way to goals, but the right changes and trusting his players went a long way in a venue Liverpool rarely taste success in. And it’s been two years since Liverpool won a match after conceding the first goal.
Liverpool have a lot of reasons to feel optimistic, although this is still a very unbalanced, weird looking squad put together very expensively with the wrong kind of thought behind some of the signings. Klopp might have pulled off a very big win that could turn into something greater, but Liverpool aren’t as good in terms of player quality as the other top 4 clubs, and it’s going to be a while before they get there; maybe even longer than the January signing period.
As for Chelsea and Mourinho? Not everything is going against them. For every Lucas borderline yellow card their fans are complaining about there’s a John Terry handball in the box and Diego Costa once again trying to injure someone. Any match he isn’t sent off shows how terrible it is that technology hasn’t been inserted into the most popular spot in the world. It works so wonderfully for Rugby Union. Why not soccer as well, with the transparency of referee decisions and talks with players?
There might be still something Mourinho can do to save this season for Chelsea and who knows, maybe his job. But if the players aren’t responding to him any more and in some way playing so poorly because they’ve run out of motivation to play for him, it’s down to a big choice for Roman Abramovich: Fire the manager, something he tends to do once a year unless Mourinho is the manager, or slowly replace the entire line of key players, which means a long, expensive process that might not lead to immediate success, always the goal for Chelsea.