What has changed for Chelsea and Liverpool since 'the slip'?
One of the greatest tragedies of the 2013/2014 season was when Steven Gerrard “slipped” and lost the ball to Chelsea’s Demba Ba to go through on goal and score, which he duly obliged. Liverpool dropped valuable points and lost their chance of winning the league, gifting it to Manchester City.
But finishing second in the league that season was not something to be scorned at, and the expectation among the fans was that it will be used as a springboard to challenge for the title again the following season.
As we can now confirm, things happened so much more differently than what was expected. Chelsea went from finishing 3rd to winning the league title, while Liverpool “slipped” to 5th place from a runners-up finish, and could yet drop down to 7th if things don’t go their way in the last game of the season.
Throughout last season, the one thing Jose Mourinho kept harping on about was how it was not his team and he should not be expected to win a title with it. And true to form, he spent in the summer on positions he thought his team needed reinforcements, and that has made all the difference.
Chelsea have been relentless at the top of the league table and have stayed there until the end of the season, being crowned worthy champions. Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa have been two of the most important signings this season, and they have slotted in perfectly into the team, showing that Mourinho knew exactly what he was talking about.
In contrast, Liverpool had to sell their star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona, and while they received quite a lot of money with which they could rebuild their squad, the way Brendan Rodgers went about it was perhaps the problem.
He brought in Adam Lallana, which was definitely a good buy, but what he needed to do was replace Suarez. The signing of Rickie Lambert was perhaps more sentimental than of any real value to the team. And Mario Balotelli was signed as a last ditch attempt to have a fit striker and as the season has witnessed, was never really going to offer much to the team.
Injuries take a toll on all teams that play in multiple competitions, and this is especially true of the teams that take part in the Champions League and Europa League. Chelsea have had their share of injuries, but Mourinho made sure that he had a squad that would be able to cope with the injuries, especially when Diego Costa was out during a crucial time.
He had Loic Remy and Didier Drogba, but both players also got injured simultaneously. However, whether it was Mourinho’s game plan or Chelsea’s superior squad strength, the team did not suffer, especially in the league.
For Liverpool, they lost probably their second most important player from last season in Daniel Sturridge. After Suarez’s departure, it was expected that Sturridge would take over the mantle and become the main man, but unfortunately, an injury while on international duty saw him ruled out until January, with recurring problems to the thigh.
Liverpool had no proper replacement that could do the job in his absence, and the team suffered as a result.
One of the hallmarks of any Mourinho team is that they are drilled extensively on what their job is and the players do it to near perfection on the pitch. The number of mistakes you see a Chelsea player make is far less than that of other teams.
In fact, when a player makes a mistake that costs the team some valuable points, he quickly loses Mourinho’s trust and until he proves he can be trusted again, he either is dropped to the bench or shipped out on loan or even a transfer. And Mourinho is also ruthless with players that don’t fit in with his gameplan, as was seen in the case of Juan Mata’s transfer, who was Chelsea’s player of the season for the previous two years.
For Liverpool, mistakes have proven costly this season, especially in defence. The travails of Sakho and Toure have not worked out well for the team, dropping crucial points when they needed them at their best.
Up top, they have had to play with Balotelli, a player that shows no interest nor puts any effort in training or on the pitch. As a result, the team has suffered and there has been no one who could take up the mantle and lead the team
Liverpool now have a huge task on their hands if they want to get back into top 4, let alone challenge for the title. Every team above them is going to spend in the summer, and they will need to make the right signings if they are going to have any hope next season. They should probably take a leaf out of Mourinho’s book.