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Drogba inflicts pain on Liverpool

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Phil McNulty | 21:28 UK time, Sunday, 4 October 2009

Didier Drogba - if Rafael Benitez's agitated and animated body language is an accurate guide - was a massive source of irritation to Liverpool. And that was just when he was lying motionless on the Stamford Bridge turf.

Drogba, a bizarre mixture of toe-curling amateur dramatics and fearsome attacking threat, was even more of a nuisance when upright, on his feet and punching holes in Liverpool's Premier League title credentials.

The Ivorian's contest with Fernando Torres was billed as a heavyweight confrontation wrapped within Chelsea and Liverpool's battle to make an early statement of intent to challenge Manchester United's domestic domination.

There was only one winner. Drogba may spend more time on the deck than any glass-jawed boxer, but he delivered crucial blows while the subdued Torres barely laid a glove on Chelsea.

Chelsea v LiverpoolLiverpool struggled to cope with Drogba's physical presence

Benitez navigated his way around any inquisition about Drogba's antics. He has more to worry about than Drogba after a third defeat in eight league games raised fresh doubts about Liverpool's capacity to end a 20-year wait to win the title.

Drogba showed all sides on his nature in a game settled by fine margins, but one deservedly decided in Chelsea's favour. Call him an old ham. Call him a drama queen - but never call him anything less than a world-class striker.

On one occasion, Chelsea captain John Terry even appeared to suggest to Drogba that he might be better served getting up and getting on with it rather than making another appointment with the Stamford Bridge physio.

This was one of many priceless interventions from Terry, because Drogba's main talent is playing with the sort of power, drive and ruthless pursuit of opposing defenders that set up goals for Nicolas Anelka and substitute Florent Malouda.

Torres, in contrast, had a laboured and fruitless afternoon. He started a physical confrontation with Terry that he was never going to win with a nasty early challenge, an ill-judged move that only appeared to inspire Chelsea's captain in his efforts to snuff out Torres, a personal battle he won long before the final whistle.

If there is a minor flaw in this great striker's make up, it is a tendency to became side-tracked by pointless bickering instead of inflicting damage with his ability. He has been bogged down by side issues on three occasions this season, when Liverpool have played Spurs, Aston Villa and now Chelsea.

Liverpool fans, and perhaps Torres, can work out for themselves what is the common denominator in those three results.

If Drogba provided the muscle in Chelsea's win, Terry was the heart and soul. He was withering in his assessment of Chelsea's performance in defeat at Wigan - and he led by example here.

When Anelka put Chelsea ahead on the hour, Terry cut short his celebrations to gather his team-mates around him and order total concentration. When Malouda settled affairs deep into injury time, Terry's release of emotion was an illustration of the importance of this victory.

It was fitting that the final act of the game was Terry rising imperiously to clear a corner before leading a communal huddle of elated colleagues. He was an immense figure for Chelsea.

And for coach Carlo Ancelotti, it was a win that put another layer of gloss on his reputation. Luiz Felipe Scolari's early successes were exposed as a false dawn when Liverpool won at Chelsea last season - no such problems for Ancelotti.

Ancelotti has made the partnership of Drogba and Anelka work, while he showed his willingness to be flexible by withdrawing Frank Lampard from the point of Chelsea's midfield diamond formation.

It was a not a move that brought immediate success, but it was Lampard who won the ball from Javier Mascherano to start the move that led to Chelsea's first goal. The record shows he is more effective arriving late in the area and Ancelotti's switch appears to be a recognition of this.

Chelsea were also well-served by stand-in keeper Hilario, in for suspended Petr Cech. After questioning his ability in the build-up, it is only right his faultless contribution is acknowledged here.

If it was a game that will have given Chelsea fresh confidence for battles ahead, it was an experience that will have left Liverpool nursing renewed doubts.

ln Benitez's words they were "not bad." He was right because Liverpool were not bad, but not bad never wins Premier League titles and they were found wanting in crucial areas.

Liverpool, while lacking serious ambition, were coping until Anelka ended the stalemate, but the dash and verve that illuminated their final three months of last season has not been present against a better class of opposition this term.

Liverpool manager Rafa BenitezLiverpool boss Benitez needs to find the right balance in midfield

Benitez's team selection also begs questions. The exclusion of Yossi Benayoun for Albert Riera was mystifying. He drifted around the edge of affairs, looking more the player he was on loan at Manchester City than the Spanish international Benitez splashed out on.

And while it is understandable that the temptation to tuck Steven Gerrard just behind Torres is almost irresistible, surely on this occasion the captain would have provided a better midfield contrast to Mascherano than Lucas.

Mascherano and Lucas is a creative vacuum as a central partnership and Liverpool needed more, and will need more. Did the fact Benitez chose not to move Gerrard demonstrate not just his unswerving loyalty to Lucas, but also a lack of faith in Liverpool's attacking undercard?

Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel gave cause for hope with an improvement on performances in recent weeks, but they could not deal with Drogba and Anelka when it counted.

Xabi Alonso gets better with every game he doesn't play for Liverpool, while the pressure on Alberto Aquilani to deliver grows with every day he edges towards eventual fitness.

After tipping Liverpool as title winners this season, I asked Benitez whether he felt Liverpool had enough improvement in them to claim the Premier League this season.

He responded: "Our target is just the next game. We have had three defeats this season, which everybody keeps telling us, but I think it is important to keep calm, keep improving and keep doing well. We have to focus on the next game."

Benitez sought some solace in defeat by suggesting Liverpool are now winning more games this season while they were guilty of drawing too many last term. In other words the points might even themselves out this time around even if Liverpool lose more matches - risky logic this.

Six points off the top hardly represents crisis time for Liverpool, but they lack momentum and Benitez cannot rely on what he sees as a more unpredictable Premier League throwing up results like Wigan beating Chelsea or Burnley beating Manchester United.

It's early days still and, as Benitez says, no time for panic. There is no shame in losing to Chelsea but Liverpool have lost to the four best teams they have met this season at home and abroad - there is no shield against this reality.

For Chelsea coach Ancelotti, it was a satisfactory end to a week that brought ludicrous suggestions that he was under pressure after his first league defeat and a scratchy Champions League victory.

The Italian was at his deadpan best as he dismissed the scare theories and delivered the line: "Football is the same the world over."

Not quite Carlo. Not every team has a Didier Drogba. And for all his faults Chelsea were grateful they had him to see off Liverpool and return Ancelotti's side to the top of the table.

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  • Comment number 1.


  • Comment number 2.

    Phil do you still think Liverpool can win the title??

  • Comment number 3.

    Excellent article Phil, I agree with all your points. The trio of Hilario, Terry and Drogba were excellent.

    I think this also puts to bed the debate about who is better out of Terry and Carragher. Torres could not get a sniff against Terry where as Carragher would of gone to bed reliving the moments when Drogba dominated him.

  • Comment number 4.

    As a Chelsea fan, I do agree Drogba goes down too easily but boy oh boy what a performance by the man himself. Two moments of brilliance that decided this war of attrition.

  • Comment number 5.

    What, no mid-week CL blog Phil? Surely not because liverpool lost and you didn't want the agro? Guess you couldn't get away from it this time though?

    You mention you asked Benitez about their PL chances, and his anwser, but not if you still stick with your Predo? Do you? or are you finally realising what most realised before the season, the Liverpool had their chance last season and blew it! It doesn't matter how good Aquilani turns out to be, Benitez has shown his poor grasp of management, and his arrogance to think he could loose a key player and get by for the first 3 months of the season without a replacement, Liverpool are vaunerable, not just from the others of the "Big 4" but already some of the hopefuls to that group have beat them this season, all that leaves is City beating them and they'll have lost to all 3.

    On one other point I'll disagree with you, Ancellotti, like with Big Phil the press talked him up, and like Big Phil I feel the media are waiting for an excuse to rip him to shreds and proclaim to the world that yet another "top" foreign manager has failed in the PL. Win or Loose the PL it'll not be about him anyway, most Chelsea fans would pick the teams he does, and his tactics, all last season they were screaming for Drogba and Anelka to be together up front (at least those I work with were) and what players has he bought? he has inherited a Squad, when Avram was in that position before the CL final I asked the Chelsea fans at work if they finally thought Grant was good, they said "no, this is inspite of him, not because of him" now as they were only one slip away from the CL what can Ancellotti do to top that?

  • Comment number 6.

    I see the main problem with liverpool is a lack of heart. Liverpool had the best chance to win the PL last year but when the time came just lacked the courage that you need to actually get past the final furlong. (as demonstrated by Man U and chelsea, and why i think my team Arsenal wont win the league for a while) it also shows when they come up against the stronger sides both in the league and in europe.

    is this a fault of benitez, does he put too much pressure on his team, or is it th opposite where he doesn't put enough pressure on them?

    either way they seem to falter when it counts...

  • Comment number 7.

    Well i didn't watch the match but for once,i'm really disappointed in liverpool,i was hoping we'd remain top of the league till next league game,but i guess that's it for liverpool this season

  • Comment number 8.

    Hope this is the beginning of our long awaited Glory, domestically & in Europe. C'mon You Blues!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm a United fan and I would give an arm and a leg to have Drogba spearhead our attack. Just imagine a Drogba-Rooney combo! I don't care if he is a bigger draman queen than Ronaldo, he always delivers teh goods. The guys is immense!

  • Comment number 10.

    Nice to read this Mr. Phil... all thoughts put up very nicely...

    So do you still think

    Can Liverpool win?? (Think logically)

    And would like to know your comments about arsenal win...

  • Comment number 11.

    Referees should be booking Drogba for his antics. Everybody else, even the Chelsea fans can see what's happening. Isn't simulation supposed to be a bookable offense?

    Good player, but talking about him always leave a bad taste in the mouth.

  • Comment number 12.

    You could have saved everyone else a few minutes by simply saying 'Drogba scored, Torres didn't and overall Liverpool weren't very good', rather than dressing that up as an article of any substance with the usual overblown rhetoric

  • Comment number 13.

    I fell asleep during the game. Who deserved the win???

  • Comment number 14.

    "KWCFC09 wrote:

    I think this also puts to bed the debate about who is better out of Terry and Carragher. Torres could not get a sniff against Terry where as Carragher would of gone to bed reliving the moments when Drogba dominated him."

    Completely agree, shows what England managers have been saying all along but what the Liverpool fans would never believe, Terry and Rio at the back any day! No one else is even close, even when Rio is having one of his "forgetful" moments!

  • Comment number 15.

    Well, I can't say I thought the article cut the mustard, the same old arguments about how Benetiz lines up his team and how Drogba & Terry got up for this game.

    Benetiz cannot get away from staying defensively minded in these games. The exception was at OT last year but he had nothing to lose and Liverpool's title chances had gone. He hopes that his two star players will do something magic. He seems not to trust Yossi Benayoun, who constantly out performs most Liverpool players.

    Liverpool will do no better than previous years and will look to European glory for their silverware

    Chelsea will win the league, defensively there are the best team around. When the go ahead nigh imposdssible to get level let alone in front. Any stats guys out there know howmany games Chelsea have lost when in front in the last couple of years?

    Less than five I reckon

  • Comment number 16.

    Ribbish & poppy cock, he's an out & out cheat. And, it's saying things like this that excuse it & make it OK for people right down to the grass roots of the game to the kids that play on the parks pitches.

    Having said that, I'm a Liverpool fan and we all know what Drogba is &, what he's gonna do but, that is not why we lost the game. Benitez needs a reality check in my opinion.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    It was a tight game and it could just have easily ended up 1-1 as it did 2-0.

    It is very easy to state the obvious that Drogba was the difference between the two teams, but I actually think the Chelsea defense was so much stronger than Liverpool's.

    Even though I am a Chelsea fan, I would argue that Liverpool at times exerted more pressure on our defense than we did on their's, but for most of the time we looked much more solid in defense, and there were a couple of brilliant last ditch efforts by Terry and Cole that snuffed out real danger.

    Carragher and Skrtel on the other hand look average, and although the zonal marking held out yesterday, it still looks a very vulnerable system to me.

    One last note on Drogba and his theatrics.

    When you look at the replays, there were definitely times when he was clearly caught with painful blows, and I admit other times when you just wonder what on earth he is doing on the ground.

    But his worst sin seems to be to get play stopped.

    There were two incidents yesterday, one with Maschereno and the other with Gerrard,where replays showed both players blatently tried to con the referre to earn free kicks on the edge of the Chelsea penalty area, when there was no contact at all from a Chelsea player.

    Phil,your article would have been more balanced had you not omitted to mention this also.

  • Comment number 20.

    I don't know why there was the questioning of Hilario before the match, every time he comes into the Chelsea side he is completely competent and has yet to make a mistake, even when he was under immense pressure on his debut against Barcelona. Anyone who was suggesting he was anything less than a Premier League standard keeper hadn't really seen him in action.

  • Comment number 21.

    @ 11. At 08:58am on 05 Oct 2009, jealousmonk wrote:
    Isn't simulation supposed to be a bookable offense?

    Actually Drogba didn't dive yesterday, when Chelsea fans get annoyed with Drogba is when he is falling down under a challenge with his hand waving to the bench, saying this will need attention.

    I wish he would play with the lion heart of JT and the skill and power of Drogba, but the impression of Drogba will never change to opposing fans, they will always think of Drogba as a diver and a cheat. However every other team in the proem would love to have him in their team.

  • Comment number 22.

    As a Chelsea supporter, I must say I was pretty much impressed by Hilario! I was expecting Liverpool to bombard Hilario with shots from a distance but was surprised Liverpool were so quiet. Good work from Terry, Drogba, Cole and Essien.

    Liverpool had nothing to lose in this game and I cannot understand why they did not go out and attack... i.e. start with Benayoun! This will give other teams courage to frustrate them.

    It is sure shaping up as the most competitive season in a long while!

  • Comment number 23.

    Drogba was his usual disgraceful self yesterday, when are the FA going to step in and do something about it? Week in week out he's diving and falling over with dramatic painful faces only to be on his feet a minute later. I watched him do it all game at the Emirates last season and had to sit through 90 minutes of the same yesterday.

  • Comment number 24.

    If any team is going to get ousted out of the top four this season it is going to be Liverpool ...

  • Comment number 25.

    liverpool's problem is that they use to have a resolute defence that could hold you out till the last, and they were also deadly on the counter

    with alonso gone, hyypia gone and carragher getting ever older they don't have that defensive steel

    torres was off colour yesterday and alonso isn't there to support gerrard anymore so their attack was blunted as well

    aquilani may just make or break liverpool's season

  • Comment number 26.

    There's so strange people on here today who seem to be inventing their own version of reality about certain things.

    Yes, we Liverpool fans love Carra to bits. But if you lot (mainly Chelski fans) actually bothered to read other blogs and forums etc, then you'd know that we've been critical of Carra this season. We think he's been rubbish, frankly. There's no red-tinted goggles here i'm afraid. He's still a great player, but he's not started the season well.
    Also, no-one is saying that he's better than Terry or Rio. You could have argued the case a few years back that he was better than them (just look at the immense performance he gave in Istanbul and then the Cup final against the Hammers (apart from the own goal obviously, lol)). But this season, Terry and Rio are better than Carra. No doubt about it.

    I don't think this defeat can be blamed on Benitez either. Ok, swapping Yossi for Riera was questionable, but Riera can be brilliant on his day so i don't think it was that much of a risk. He's also stronger than Yossi and would have been able to cope with the power of Essien, Terry and Ivanovic much better. But other than that, the team Rafa put out was pretty much spot on. It's not Rafa's fault that the players were rubbish.

    And what the hell is Drogba's problem? No-one is questioning his talent or his positive influence on the Chelski team, but his diving and play-acting has got to stop. Yes, i am well aware he is not the only one who does it, but he is certainly the one who does it the most often. For a man built as powerfully as him to go down as easy as that is disgraceful. It's like he's an extra from Platoon.

    But regarding the game, Chelski deserved to win. No doubt about it. There's no hiding from that fact, and i can be biggest and honest enough to admit that. They just seemed to want it more than us. I don't think we played too badly (i've seen us play a lot worse than that before!), it's just that Chelski took their chances and we didn't. They had more hustle about them and seemed more hungry than us.

    But to say that we're out of the title race and won't finish in the top 4 is laughable. Of course we will finish in the top 4. The top 4 will be the big 4 as usual.
    There's only 8 games of the season gone!! 30 to go! Being 6 points off the top is hardly a mountain to climb with 90 available is it. Let's get some perspective here people. I'm not saying we're going to win the title (personally, i think Chelski will), but to say we won't finish in the top 4 is stupid and senseless. Stupid WUM's. Stick your dummy's back in and go and get your mum to change your nappy.

    Well done Chelsea. You deserved the 3 points.

  • Comment number 27.

    21. At 09:29am on 05 Oct 2009, BritAbroad66 wrote:

    @ 11. At 08:58am on 05 Oct 2009, jealousmonk wrote:
    Isn't simulation supposed to be a bookable offense?

    Actually Drogba didn't dive yesterday, when Chelsea fans get annoyed with Drogba is when he is falling down under a challenge with his hand waving to the bench, saying this will need attention.


    You couldn't of been watching the game then. Drogba quite clearly dived or went to ground with no contact on at least five occasions. Maybe you are just in the Arsene Wenger "I didn't see it" school of thought ;)

  • Comment number 28.

    Good game to watch, first half was even but Chelseas midfield looked too strong and even though Mascherano tried his best to curtail it. Essien and Terry looked awesome yesterday, whilst Torres looked a forlorn and isolated figure.
    As a United fan, I am not dismissing Liverpools chances of winning the league, they will now have to win around 24 of the remaining 30 games and I just can't see that with the present team. Liverpools best chance was last year when they done the double over United and Chelsea. I still believe that City will be challenging the top four and if anyone looks like being overtaken it is Liverpool.

  • Comment number 29.

    As I said earlier in the season. Liverpool will not take the 14 points they took of the big 3 last season.

    Alonso scored the winner last season. Liverpool dont have him anymore so they are already 3 points down.

    Liverpool will be lucky to finish in the top 4

  • Comment number 30.

    I simply do not understand sentences such as this: 'Call him a drama queen - but never call him anything less than a world-class striker.'

    Didier Drogba is a cheat, just the same as Ronaldo is a cheat. Since when did it become ok to cheat because you have lots of talent? Would it be ok for Roger Federer to start disrespecting his opponents in the same way simply because he is a superb tennis player? No it wouldn't. It is about time people stopped lauding these players who behave in despicable fashion for all to see, including youngsters who are learning from their idols how to behave during a football match.

  • Comment number 31.

    Aquilani may just make or break liverpool's season.

    That season being 2010/11 I can not remember any player coming to the prem from another top European league and bedding in straight away to the pace of the prem.

  • Comment number 32.

    A good read Phil, as hame however Moderation aappears to be slowing th eensuing debate... This needs sorting.

    Bentitez is a worry, if i were a 'pool fan i would have some serious questions.. As some has stated above Yossi, who week after week outplays 90% of the LIverpool squad is repeatedly left out of "big" matches... Also his faith in Lucas is a major concern, his insistency on playing him is confounding to say the least... as for this being Liverpool’s year, I do not think so, big players are underperforming and I could not agree more about the hole that Xabi has left, Benitez’ short sightedness may be his downfall... Istanbul will only stay in the minds of the Kop faithful for so long...

    As for Drogba... who would not love him in their team? As petulant as he can be, he is a genius and if Chelsea are going to fault this term, it will only be down to his absence during the Cup of Nations...

    On a side note, Utd looked particularly out of sorts and all of the “big 4” have shown large dents in their armour so far this season... A good season lay ahead for us all...

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    There used to be a theory that Ian Rush would deliberately get himself caught offside with runs that were too early for the first part of games.

    Then, with defenders lulled into false security, he would punish them with precision.

    Now we have Drogba ..... who throws himself into dramatic contortions on the ground at the very hint that a defender might dare to tackle him.

    Then, with defenders assuming that he will only look for the free kick, he runs with the strength of Hercules through any attempt to stop him.

    The only difference is that deliberate off-side is not an offence while, allegedly, simulation is supposed to be; one used guile and cunning to win, the other is patently cheating.

    Referees should act and, if they don't, the FA must do so.

  • Comment number 35.

    Liverpools loss of Alonso was glaring yesterday.His ability to pick out either Torres or Gerrard with a long range pass was clearly missing from Liverpools game yesterday, and whether Benitez admits it or not it is quite obvious that Liverpool lost a vital player when they sold him to Real Madrid.
    Its okay to beat the so called lesser teams 5-0 or 6-1,but whenever Liverpool have come up against strong opposition in the premiership and Champions League they have looked lost.I am not a coach but I thought the most sensible thing Benitez should have done was to have deployed Gerrard in front of the defence and stuck Benayoun up front with Torres,but then I am not a coach.The more I watch Lucas,the more I am convinced he has no right starting matches for Liverpool and the sooner Benitez realises this the better for the team.
    Full marks to Chelsea for a great performance,they always look a different team when Drogba is on song and the physical presence he brings to the Chealsea attack is awesome.Hilario surprised me because I thought he could be the weak link,but he put up a very good performance and was as crucial to Chelseas win as Drogba and Terry.
    Liverpool must be worried now because teams like Manchester City and Everton must feel they have a good chance against them.I stiil feel its dangerous predicting the winner of the premiership so early considering what happened between Manchester United and Sunderland on saturday,and of course there is still the matter of the African Cup of Nations in January(How will Chelsea cope with the loss Essien,Drogba and Kalou?)
    I think this is going to be one of the closest and most exciting title races ever,at least for neutrals like me.

  • Comment number 36.

    Good blog again Phil, I agree with everything here. I watched the game as and as a Chelsea fan I have to look away when Drogba rolls around on the floor. I guess the reason he does that is because he is not English - how many English players do that? On a lighter note, he was immense and tore Liverpool to shreds in two passages of play that ultimately won the game. If Torres had scored his good chances then it may have been a different story.

    Laughingdevil - you say that any Chelsea fan could pick the team and that Ancelotti will not be classed as a world class manager because of this. Firstly, I think every fan believes they could pick their team and secondly, good management is more about your man-management and how you get the best out of your players. Take Hiddink, Wenger and Capello. If you listen to interviews from players from all of their teams they all say that their diets and lifestyles have been changed and that they now have respect for the manager. Based on the success so far of these teams, I think that answers your question.

  • Comment number 37.

    One minor comment about your blog Phil - Ancelotti didn't make the partnership of Anelka and Drogba work - Hiddink did and they just carried on from there.

  • Comment number 38.

    I too would be honestly interested in your continuing predictions for the league Phil. As you rightly say, six points is far from insurmountable in theory, but Liverpool yesterday looked poor. They don't look good nor confident enough to make up that gap based on current form, especially not with Man Utd to play at the end of October.

    I will not repeat the over-used point that Liverpool rely on Torres and Gerrard to win. It's not entirely true, but the question must be asked- what do Liverpool do when these two brilliant attackers are off their game or unavaliable? Kuyt is a terrific player as far as effort is concerned, but he's stuck out on the wing most of the time and can't add the goals Liverpool need consistently enough. Ryan Babel is taking far longer to develop then he should, and is usually little more then dead weight. Too often Riera is left on the bench and is unable to break down strong defences.

    Ancelotti may have largely inherited a squad with the exception of Zhirkov and Turnbull, but he should rightly be praised for continuning the work ethic Hiddink introduced and getting the Drogba/Anelka partnership up and running. The one flaw in his tactics seems to be getting Lampard to work in his favoured diamond formation, but that is something that can be fixed with time and practise. To say he is under pressure now is ridiculous and will only contribute to the lack of stability at the Bridge since Mourinho left. Even should he not deliver either of the Leagues this year, he should stay.

    Liverpool need to take a good look at themselves and get over these losses quickly, or else their title challenge is up the creek. As for Chelsea, they should feel very confident.

  • Comment number 39.

    What a Performance from Drogba and Terry.

    Benitez should be absolutley slaughtering Carragher for the way he defended the second goal. I mean Drogba is as strong as they come but at that level to be pinned and rolled like that is embarrassing for Carragher.

    I also think a mention should go to Michael Essien. Every time i watch Chelsea play these days he just completely runs the midfield from his tackling to his distribution. He is an absolute menace and you get the feeling that the other midfielders he plays against are all scared of him.

    Liverpool wont be close to winning the league, there strength in Squad compared to Chelsea and Manchester United is so limited and they have no one that can come from the bench and win a game for them if Torres and Gerrard are out or just out of sorts.

    Im not a Chelsea fan but after the way they played yesterday and the look of their squad you have to fancy them for the league this season. They are physically stronger than every team and they can play the nice football or the ugly football when they need to, which sets them apart from a team such as Arsenal.

    Manchester United
    Manchester City or Liverpool to battle for 4th

  • Comment number 40.

    Man of the match to me was Hilario, followed by Drogba. Kudos Chelsea!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    I think too little has been made of the work Michael Essien did actually. Whilst Drogba made the difference at the goalmouth, muscling, hustling, bustling and generally being a defender's worst nightmare, it was behind a supported backdrop including an excellent and strong midfield.

    Where Lampard had a quieter game than many, he was giving some essential passing, but the real 'hard man' work in midfield was definitely Michael Essien who cut off the supply to Gerrard and Co with shocking ease.

    I'm not sure if this was all his own ability - he's a great player - or if Liverpool midfield just was formed up poorly and played off their best game.

    It was a generally better team performance by Chelsea, smothering threats, keeping it simple, being patient. Liverpool just looked off-colour, so there were far more differences than just Drogba (although he is just outstanding when at his best!)

  • Comment number 42.

    KWCFC wrote "I think this also puts to bed the debate about who is better out of Terry and Carragher." Is there such a bebate, surely no thinks a plodder who retired from international duty in his 20s because he couldn't get onto the England bench if Wes brown is fit can't be compared to the current England captain. It's low calibre players like Carra that have kept liverpool from being champions of England for decades.

  • Comment number 43.

    Another disappointing article. As a Liverpool fan, I am happy to hold my hands when we lose and there's a good reason for it, i.e. we weren't good enough which was the case in the game such as Spurs, Villa and Fiorentina games this season. But I'm afraid I can't on this occasion and the reason for that is Drogba. I won't say what i really think of him because it would contain too many expletives and wouldn't get posted, but suffice to say I have nothing but contempt for the man. Yes, he has fantastic footballing ability and if concentrated on that instead of falling over like a new born lamb being knocked over by a juggernaut every time an opposition player gets near him, then he would be considered world class. But class is the last thing he has and how on earth his antics on the pitch are not brought to book is beyond me. This is not sour grapes because Liverpool lost, although the game was a lot closer than you make out. But the sight of Drogba writhing in supposed agony and pulling faces as if he had broken his back in ten places when tackled and then running like a 6 year old in a toy store when it suits him is absolutely sickening to me. Yesterday he did this time and time again. Does he not realise that there are 20 cameras trained on him and slow motion replays are shown in high definition that highlight how pathetic he is? Or does he have absolutely no shame at all. Probably the latter.

    And the most annoying thing about your article is that it comes across as if you're saying "yes, we know he exaggerates a bit but hey, what a player so we'll forgive him for that". Sorry, that kind of approach just validates his behaviour because he knows he can get away with almost anything he wants without any sort of challenge from people like you. I have a son who is just taking an interest in football and if he ever said to me that he wanted to be a player like Drogba then I think that it would, without question, be one of the most disappointing experiences of my fatherhood to date.

    I'm sure you'll have some sort of politician type response on this for me but I stick with my point, and that is you should be saying it like most of us see it instead of pussy footing around the issue.

    My mum used to have two sayings when I was growing up:

    1. Mockings catching
    2. I'll give you something to cry about in a minute

    I only hope that one day, those two come true for Drogba and there are 20 high definition cameras trained on him to see his reaction when they do.

  • Comment number 44.

    This is tabloid stuff.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    24. At 09:33am on 05 Oct 2009, Awjh wrote:
    If any team is going to get ousted out of the top four this season it is going to be Liverpool ...

    Have to agree with this comment there is no way Arsenal will drop out the top four so it has to be Liverpool

  • Comment number 47.

    Liverpool's performance yesterday confirmed that overall they are a pretty average side. They have 3 or 4 class players and the rest are mediocre. Alonso is a big loss and where is that new guy they signed? I keep saying that Rafa is not a good manager but his disciples keep attacking me. One day they will have to rethink. He's still living off that one CL win.

  • Comment number 48.

    Hello hpil. well i think I was right about this Droba, he always turns it on in the big games like. he's like a young craig maskell. brute power with class added. cheers. i agree with you on rieri, i think Bennieyoon would have been well better he is a lot of a clever player as rieir. Im guessing Liverpool fans will still be smarting at how easily they let anelka go all those years ago, in favour of El handjidouf. He would have averaged 20 goals a season, 7 seasons, i work that out at 190 goals. and probly a few more title challenges.

  • Comment number 49.

    This is tabloid stuff.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------Well it is a blog about football,are you really surprised?

  • Comment number 50.

    Another game against a top side and another defeat. What Rafael benitez fails to register is that Liverpool are meant to be a TOP side. We are meant to be ONE of the best sides in the league. We arent meant to go to a top side and play okay and expect to get a result. We are meant to goto Chelsea etc and go there and play well and get a positive result.

    At the moment we do not look like winning the league, this season or the next.

    Rafa has no plan B. he has no faith in Babel or Ngog/Voronin and is too blinded by the fact that Lucas isnt a good player. Mascherano at least has a purpose by harrying and giving the ball to a player.. But what does Lucas offer? He is meant to be Brazilian but offers nothing. As a liverpool fan im really depressed.

    Okay, so we dont usually get a result at White Hart Lane or Stamford Bridge and we usually put Aston Villa out of sight at Anfield but something is still not right.

    Why cant Rafa play 4-2-2-2 with 2 defensive midfielders as he chooses and then two wide men, with two strikers.

    You can play Gerrard anywhere.. Either stick him right up top or put him wide right where his delivery is the best in the team and then let Kuyt partner Torres. Torres can play on the shoulder of the defender and Kuyt can work the space.

    It just seems obvious from a fans point of view and obviously Rafa knows best.

    Or, the flip side is, he has been here for 5 years and we are still no closer to the elusive 19th title, therefore it could be time for a change.

  • Comment number 51.

    As a Chelsea fan it can be frustrating to see Drogba on the ground, though its hardly surprising when his style of play gets him frequent (not always accidental) knees in the back, clips on the achilles etc. What annoys me more though is the criticism he gets when Fernando Torres does exactly the same with impunity.
    As for 'diving' please note that in five years in England Drogba has been booked once for diving but the card was rescinded with the referee admitting he should have awarded a penalty, that was 5 games into his English career at Aston Villa in a game that ended 0-0. In the same period one player has been booked 4 times (if memory serves me right) for diving, but where is the righteous condemnation of 'Saint' Steven Gerrard? Or for his convenient bouts of cramp at crucial moments in big games for Liverpool allowing his team to regroup? Let's have some honesty in criticising players for dishonesty.

  • Comment number 52.

    43. At 10:11am on 05 Oct 2009, Sir Jamie of Carragher, OBE, MBE, LFC wrote:

    And the most annoying thing about your article is that it comes across as if you're saying "yes, we know he exaggerates a bit but hey, what a player so we'll forgive him for that". Sorry, that kind of approach just validates his behaviour because he knows he can get away with almost anything he wants without any sort of challenge

    Even though I am a Man Utd fan I have to agree with the above post by a Liverpool fan. The reason why many Man Utd fans didn't mind Ronaldo leaving was because of this exact same behaviour..

  • Comment number 53.

    I still think there are too many egos on the Chelsea team to have consistency to win the top prizes this season. It will be interesting to see how they far on their visit to the Emirates next month because watching Arsenal is an absolute dream at the moment.

    As for Liverpool, I thought they were hopeless. Has Benetiz, the tactician, been too tied down by formatting the perfect midfield system without Alonso?

    He should be more concerned about players' form. Phil, you got it right on the nose to say that there was no creative backbone during yesterday's game with Liverpool. Mascherano's qualities are there but that was more concerned with keeping his defence out of trouble. If you have an outlet in midfield to turn possession into attack then you'll keep quality opposition (like Chelsea) from pressing. Gerrard should be playing in a central position. If Aquliani finds his form and shows creative wit in the Premiership then place him there and by that point he can pair Stevie with Torres up front. Until that time though, the Liverpool form will continue to struggle with inept Lucas, Mascherano, Riera combination.

  • Comment number 54.

    I think Chelsea deserved the win on the day. The chances we did create we either missed or were very unlucky. Even Benayoun when he only had the keeper to beat knocked it wide, somehow, but this was to be expected from a player that was left on the bench when in the form of his life. I think we should try 2 up front and put Gerrard in midfield until Aquilani is fit. Benny can go up with Torres, Kuyt, Voronin, BAbel any of them really. What is troubling is that Rafa doesn't seem to be learning from the mistakes. We can't play 2 DM's with Gerrard behind Torres and no Alonso. It doesn't work. When Mascherano was left out with his whatever injury he had we actually played better-Hull victory and others and although he has only come on as a sub Voronin has looked very good too this season, certainly better than Babel. I think Aurelio will be getting a start in our next match as Insua's inexperiene has shown in the last 2 games.

    What price Voronin to get the winner for Ukraine against England later this week?

    Chelsea's defence looked great. Like Man Utd's last season. It will be a very long season though and with Chelsea's number 1 priority the Champions League and no transfers for 2 windows it will be interesting to see how their ageing squad copes. Also if Drog and/or Anelka gets injured who will score the goals? Certainly not Sturridge as he proved at Man City. Lampard also looks a shadow of the player he was (last season)and I think if they want to win everything this season Ancelotti needs to address this situation very quickly.

  • Comment number 55.

    I just don't understand why he couldn't to start with Babel and Benanyoun.

  • Comment number 56.

    When I joined a few others to say Carragher was weak, I was called a muppet. That was Thursday.Now anyone wants a duel on that one? Who is the spectator ahead of Anelka as he scores the first goal? And who is riding on Drogba's back as he plays in Malouda for the second. Oh yes that's him - our hero.

  • Comment number 57.

    I get the impression Terry doesnt even like Drogba. It was embarassing for the forward when Terry you could see telling him to get up and get on with it. I also noticed at the end of the game when they were doing their huddle, that when drogba threw his arm around Terry, JT quicky took it back off and left the huddle. But what a player he is! Immense yesterday.

    As for Liverpool, how did Benitez ever think Riera was going to be the required standard to win the PL?! Did he not study him at Man City years ago. Not convinced by the left back Insua or whatever he's called or Lucas. Liverpool will, on the back of recent displays, never win the PL with this squad. I happen to think though that Benitez has a lot to answer for - how many players do you think he has now signed in his tenure in charge and how many have worked out? Would love to know so if anyone does - please let us know!

    Chelsea or Man Utd for the title. Arsenal 3rd. City/Spurs/Liverpool for 4th, 5th and 6th - could be in any order though.

  • Comment number 58.

    I was at the game and yes, Terry was fantastic. However, there were two center-halves playing for Chelsea and both of them did amazing. Why does everyone ignore Carvalho? I thought he was just as brilliant as Terry yesterday.

  • Comment number 59.

    "I still think there are too many egos on the Chelsea team to have consistency to win the top prizes this season."

    Can't agree with that. The team spirit at Chelsea is unquestionable. Only Man U come close. And who are the teams that win pretty much everything?

  • Comment number 60.

    Phil, are you still sticking with your predictions that Liverpool will win the PL? I know there are 30 matches left, but I do not see anything that 'Pool have to add, to make it in the top three. I have wacthed all their 'big' matches this season, partly because you predicted that they would win, but also because Benitez still believed they'd won the PL last season. I have to admit, it looks like another Liverpool of three, four season back. there are moments of brilliance against Hull, but there is a distinct lack of that passion and belief that they had last season. I am actully not even threated by them any more.
    In light of yesterday's match, I can (tongue in cheek) make a prediction..
    Man U (please, we have only lost once - three more)
    Chelsea (January will be tough without Essien - not so much Drogs but Essien's Injury last season made a noticeable difference - and then Drogba and the rest)
    Arsenal (say what you may, but they seem to be weatheringg quite well after the Manchester Disaster)
    Man City (they have two things the Reds lack - Passion, and money)
    Liverpool and maybe another team... or another team then Liverpool :)

  • Comment number 61.

    For a wake up call the Wigan loss could not have been better timed for Chelsea. Also the sheer crudity of scale with which it was delivered staggered Chelsea. Like a giant vacuum cleaner it hoovered away all the euphoria that was beginning to seep into the marrow of their bones following a longish streak of wins. They were fortunate to eke out a win at Apoel and needed no further reminders that fallibility could be imminent if the mental cobwebs were not attended to, pronto.

    The match against Liverpool is a study in contrasts between Torres and Drogba. While Torres seems to hang around for an auspicious moment, Drogba seems to have no patience or use for such sophistication. He must get immediately, whatever it is that he wants. I am tempted to hypothetically reconstruct his childhood milieu and I can clearly see no playmate of his would ever have dared entertain any hopes of snatching the toy from him. Whatever came their way must have been at the grand Drog's pleasure.

    I will not say it is a new trend but Drogba, after snatching and securing the ball in dogfights, now seems to be quite happy to place it in the unhindered path of lesser mortals like Anelka and Malouda. They should be quite surprised by the unexpected largesse but are by now seeing Drogba as some kind of Don Corleone and have learnt to deal with the windfalls.
    Terry of course was outstanding but I am struck with the defensive alacrity shown by Ashley Cole on a regular basis. He strikes like lightning, at times even at a cost to his upper leg. What a great asset Chelsea have there.

  • Comment number 62.

    My pre-season prediction of Chelsea champions, Man Utd second is still looking good.

  • Comment number 63.

    As a Liverpool fan i would just like to say that for a long time i have regarded Drogba as the best striker in the Premier League. He lets himself down by making a fool of himself by diving and rolling around on the floor but when he is on his feet and confident he is unplayable.

    Many Liverpool fans think Torres can do no wrong but i do find myself getting very frustrated with him - particularly against top opposition - when he gets outmuscled and disposessed of the ball, his reaction in then to stop still and try to claim a foul when in most cases it isn't. Don't get me wrong there is no better finisher/poacher in the league and his movement off the ball is excellent but he needs to work on his strength and look and learn from how Drogba created Chelsea's second goal yesterday.

    This leads me on to Carragher, who has been a great servant for Liverpool but i think the time is fast approaching when our first choice centre back pairing has to be the cultured and technically gifted Agger and the stronger, no-nonsense Skrtel.

  • Comment number 64.

    OK. Let's get the predictable ones out of the way first. Yes, I do still stick with Liverpool for the Premier League. Eight games is a season in its infancy and I am certain Liverpool fans would not want Rafael Benitez and his players to write off their hopes so quickly. Very defeatist talk.

    I will inject a "but" here - but do not confuse it with backtracking because I have no intention of considering that with the season in its current shape.

    It is impossible to ignore points of real concern. I did not expect Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel to be so vulnerable and while any team would be reliant on Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, Liverpool are over-reliant on them at the moment.

    No-one should ever write off a team if they are six points off the top of the table after only eight games, and there have been some unpredictable results already this season. Liverpool, however, must do so much better because they are falling short in crucial areas.

    And a combination of Lucas and Mascherano in central midfield is desperately lacking in creativity, especially when the wide men are not delivering. Cue Alberto Aquilani. Eventually.

    On Drogba's theatrics, I did mentioned Javier Mascherano's dive when challenged by Michael Essien in my match report - what I will say is that Essien was very fortunate he did not catch the Argentine because that was a very poor challenge.

    This does not excuse Mascherano's reaction and if Liverpool fans criticise Drogba then they must also condemn their own midfield player.

    And poster26 claims Riera is "brilliant on his day." Sadly he has not had too many of those days at Liverpool. Only my opinion, but Benayoun is a much better option.

    Jamie Carragher's recent performances have drawn both comment and criticism. Is it time to think the previously unthinkable and drop Carragher, or will Benitez eventually exclude Martin Skrtel when Daniel Agger is fit?

    My view? I'd stick with Carragher now, but would want to see an improvement quickly to erase any doubts.

    And Chelsea fans, was this win confirmation Carlo Ancelotti is the real deal - or did we know that anyway?

  • Comment number 65.

    Phil.. i think your blogs need to reflect all actions in the league than a preffered match of ur choice. for example, theres no mention of the gunners win or the red devils last gasp escape.. being the only post-weekend blog, i think most of us would want a blog that covers most premier league actions..

  • Comment number 66.

    3. 'I think this also puts to bed the debate about who is better out of Terry and Carragher.'

    There's a debate about that? I really dislike Terry, but he's up there with the top 5 defenders in the league. Carragher has been a fantastic servant to Liverpool, but he is too slow, and on yesterday's evidence, maybe even losing some of his strength.

  • Comment number 67.

    Riera was very good for us last season when the team gave him the ball. One thing that was noticeable when Stevie G didn't play was that we didn't siphon everything back into the middle for him to have a shot from outside the box. Riera and Kuyt played much better. ( I note at Chelsea we didn't have many shots from outside the box which was disappointing with a reserve keeper. Benayoun is not a left winger so I do not agree that him or Riera should be an either/or option. One of the DMs should be left out to accomodate Benny and when Mascherano was injured we did this and played great. It is fairly obvious really just a case of watching the matches we have played.

  • Comment number 68.

    despite all his power and talent - Drogba is a cheat. Always has been, always will be. I think it says a lot that John Terry has to run the length of the pitch to drag this 6 foot odd 14 stone clown off the floor, as if to say "c'mon mate, this is getting embarrassing"

    Liverpool don't have a strong enough starting eleven to wij tghe league, nevermind strong enough squad. Torres, Gerrard and Mascherano (maybe reina and Kuyt as well).

  • Comment number 69.

    i see people criticizing drogba for diving,eventhough contact was made,but i dont see people mentioning the blatant cheating by mascherano,who pretended essien had made contact with him when he clearly hadnt!he was obviously trying to get essien booked or sent off!thats worse than anything drogba did.
    when chelsea lose drogba and essien etc to the acon they could struggle to win some games,and thats when the likes of united could overtake them,but we'll have to wait and see.
    i still think united will win the league again.

  • Comment number 70.

    Hmmm. And your point is?
    The fact is, both teams were very cagey, and very little separated them. This game could have gone either way - Chelsea deserved it, because of the brilliance of the move that led to Anelka's goal, but that relied on an uncharacteristic mistake from Mascherano who was otherwise excellent. Praising Ancelotti to the heavens and damning Liverpool and Benitez is simply silly - Ancelotti did not "out-think" Benitez, and if Torres had put away his header in the first half, it could have been a different game. I still think this Chelsea side will fade (January will be tough without Drogba and Essien), and that Arsenal will be there or thereabouts at the end. So too Liverpool - they could easily beat Man Utd at Anfield in 3 weeks, and then everyone will be saying something different.

  • Comment number 71.

    I really think it is hypocritical of Arsenal and Liverpool fans to criticize Drogba and fail to notice Van Persie, Torres and Gerrard for simulation (see you tube for proof )

    Drogba does get fouled, what makes him look a daft 'appence' is his reaction to the fouls.

    We Chelsea fans hate it too (so do the rest of the team, especially Terry)

    But maybe this is the price we have to pay for having the most awesome centre forward in the world.

    Sir Dicky Attenborough is in west stand at Chelsea, maybe he could give Didier some reaction coaching !

  • Comment number 72.

    3. 'I think this also puts to bed the debate about who is better out of Terry and Carragher.'

    I'd say, in Carragher at Liverpool i see, what i see in Gary Neville, and that is a good solid player, that in their prime were top class, but against the strong opposition these days, look vulnerable and exposed and weak. Terry is none of those.

  • Comment number 73.

    Some questionable refereeing, too many soft freekicks given away against mascherano and lucas, drogba should have been booked several times for simulation, although saying that mascherano should have been booked once for that. The thing is though we wouldnt have to look at dodgy refereeing for an answer, Benayoun should have played from the start, same with aurelio at left back he is much more solid and physically imposing than insua defensively. Gerrard should have partnered masch, with kuyt, benayoun and babel/riera playing around torres. I used to have faith in benitez but its starting to wain. Aquilani and Agger cant get fit quick enough...

  • Comment number 74.

    Coming from a neutrals point of view, i can't stand Drogba's attitude to diving etc. it ruins him really, however there is no doubting that he is definitely in the top 5 strikers in the world currently, as is said in every game: "when he plays like this he is unstoppable" i must agree. He is a totally different class to Torres when he plays this way consistently too mind..

    To be honest i think Chelsea are the team to beat, and the best chance England have of winning the CL again. There physical dominance is unmatchable in the CL as we saw against Barca last year where they were very unlucky. So if they can almost "bully" the Barca's and Real's then i think they can win it. Drogba & Terry will be key to their success this year.

  • Comment number 75.

    Liverpool are title pretenders just like aston-villa, man-city and arsenal. And they proved that yesterday...

    Blues for life

  • Comment number 76.

    snowJacuzzi007 at 9.39; your`s were very gracious comments; well done for being big enough to be gracious in defeat. A lot of people in football (esp at the top) could learn from that, instead of putting on the spin or blaming the ref etc. From a Chelsea fans pov its good to know (I didn`t see the game) that we were "hungrier for the win." And yes of course Drog should utterly stop the playacting. I`m not holding me breath on this, bit I hope Ancelloti just tells him to cut it out. In other respects he`s the best striker/front player Chelsea have had since Peter Osgood! Re league title, as you say only 8 games played; a long way to go yet. Ask us again in March.

  • Comment number 77.

    As a Liverpool fan, I have consistently argued that Benitez poor man management with reference to alonso will cost us (C/L place)
    Benayoun should have started at the expense of Lucas, who is not a bad player, but is average, in a position where you need the exceptional.
    The expectation on Aquilanis shoulders will be great, but I for one will not be expecting much from a guy who has not kicked a ball for over 6 months.
    A quality striker to accompany Torres is an obvious must, only middle eastern intervention can remedy that problem come January. But these are all obvious problems the fans could see a mile away, before the Spurs game.
    Well done to Chelsea they are the team to beat (my tip at the start of the season) Drogba with all of his faults is an exceptional player, the African nations cup may well hold the key to domestic success for them.

  • Comment number 78.

    " Not every team has a Didier Drogba. And for all his faults Chelsea were grateful they had him to see off Liverpool and return Ancelotti's side to the top of the table. "

    " Drogba may spend more time on the deck than any glass-jawed boxer, "

    In resonse to the second quote above, can anyone explain, as it is obvious to one and all that the said drogba spends a considerable time attempting to decieve the officials but is allowed to play on as it were.
    No wonder chelsea are " gratefull " to have him, how else would they win games.

    " first class striker " with a very chequered history to boot though that is conveniently forgotten not someone I would like in my team I'm afraid. if he was 1st class then he would not need to resort to deciept in order to , what is it, gain an edge? or dare we use the word " cheat "

    If the said player seems to be spending more time on the turf the solution would be simple to get him to remain on his feet, in my opinion the solution adopted by JT, ok ref I will have a word with him, is not good enough, he is not an official. What should happen is the officials should be paying a little more attention, and issue a verbal warning along the lines, right thats twice you have gone to ground for no reason, this is your final and last warning, anymore of it and you will be given your marching orders, now get up and play on, and as they do in rugby, call the captain over and inform him of the warning so that everyone is aware.

    Problem solved!

    Up the Gunners.

    Shine On.

  • Comment number 79.
    Just reading through the comments and there seems to be alot of panicking going on! A week ago, after Liverpool beat hull 6-1 they were "back to their best". All of a sudden after a defeat to Chelsea they wont even finish in the top 4!

    Yesterdays game was even for the most part, the difference being Liverpool's inability to defend against Drogba at two crucial moments. On the other side, Chelsea's back line were immense.
    Chelsea only really created two clear cut chances, and Liverpool were comfortable up until the first goal.
    I think the real concern for Liverpool will be the fact that Chelsea didnt have to play that well to win the game.

    P.s. A little response to BritAbroad66 who said:
    31. At 09:47am on 05 Oct 2009, BritAbroad66 wrote:
    Aquilani may just make or break liverpool's season.

    That season being 2010/11 I can not remember any player coming to the prem from another top European league and bedding in straight away to the pace of the prem.

    Erm.. Torres - 24 goals... Van Nistlerooy - 23 goals... Yakubu - 16 goals(Portsmouth)... Even Henry scored 17 goals in his first season. Alonso was immense in his first year as was Robben for Chelsea.
    So Aqualani may suprise some of us too!

  • Comment number 80.

    Phil - you are getting totally carried away! So that's it Drogba is better?!?! On the basis of this one game, there was very little to choose between Drogba and Torres in terms of attacking threat. Neither looked particularly like scoring and I felt Anelka offered more pace and direction.

    It was not, by any stretch, Torres' best game but surely his form coming prior to this game is worth some consideration. Assuming no injury concerns, I would be extremely surprised if Torres doesn't finish way above Drogba in the scoring tables at the end of the season.

    However, the big problem I have is with Drogba's simulation. He is a mountain of a man who could go toe to toe with the biggest defenders in the world. So why does he look like he's running up Omaha beach every time he gets the slightest contact from a player / ball / the wind?!? The best example of this is when he and Ballack went up for a header together (left alone I think Ballack would have burst the net). Check out the slo-mo of this moment - the agonised look, the tumble, the shrieks of pain. Then he realised it was Ballack behind him and he gets up, and runs back like he's never been touched. For another one, have a look at when he caught Vidic with his knee last season.

    Such a shame. Great player no doubt, but a great sportsman???

  • Comment number 81.

    I'm a neutral, a fan of a team outside of the Prem, and from the outside it all looks very obvious. Just two things need fixed with Liverpool. But they seem to have a manager who cannot see the wood for the trees in either respect.

    1. It was not about Drogba v Torres. It was about Drogba and Anelka v Torres. Drogba had help. He had someone to cross to. Torres was on his own and looked totally fed up. If Mr Benitez cannot see the need to play a second striker with Torres then I raise the first question about his reputation as a great coach. In recent games Voronin has actually looked very sharp when coming off the bench and Torres has scoed in the last 3 occassions he has been on the pitch. Hmmmm, Rafa, Hmmmm.

    2. Lucas. the L word. I mean come on? Is there any player less effective in the Premiership at the moment? Doesn't win tackles, cannot pass and his positioning sense is ordinary too. Question 2 about Rafa's ability. Why the blind devotion to this player? Every fan, Liverpool or otherwise, believes him to be a joke. The type of player Keegan would have resigned over if forced upon him by Wise. Your team will win nothing with 10 effective players on the pitch. You must have a talented kid from the academy that is better than this Brazilian, surely?

    Other than that, there is the basis for a challenge. But until those two issues are fixed, they may struggle to keep the big 4 together.

  • Comment number 82.

    Aquilani may just make or break liverpool's season.

    That season being 2010/11 I can not remember any player coming to the prem from another top European league and bedding in straight away to the pace of the prem.


    Erm - Torres perhaps?

  • Comment number 83.

    I'm sorry Rafa, but if you think we're still title contenders then think again. As a Liverpool fan it pains me to say it, but I think qualifying for the Champions League will be tough the way we're playing at the moment.

    People were saying we'd turned the corner after our last three league games (4-0 v Burnley, 3-2 v West Ham and 6-1 v Hull), but with the utmost respect for those teams, West Ham aside, they didn't make it difficult for us.

    We have gone backwards this season and without trying to sound like a broken record, Alonso is a MASSIVE loss. Not just for what he brought to the team and the way we played, but the fact that in his absence, Rafa is having to rely on the sub-standard Lucas to do the same job. Lucas should never be getting anywhere near a regular first team place. Not once have I watched him and been impressed with what he brings to the team. He's a liability.

  • Comment number 84.

    Interesting article.

    Just one point to some of the comments - Liverpool have 15 points from 8 games so far this season. After 8 games last year, Man United had 15 points also. Where they out of the title race then? Not at all. A season is determined by 38 games, not the first 8.

    Another insightful article though Phil.

  • Comment number 85.

    Phil, is Ancelloti the real deal? Maybe 90%. But what he needs to do, imo: Make sure Chelsea play with punch and verve. Get Joe Cole on; get the flair in the team as well. Input from the touchline when needed ie when team gone missing v. Wigan or 2nd half against Cypriot team.Those games just examples but over a course of a season thats what can make difference between winning titles or not. The one flaw I thought in Gus Hiddink`s reign was bringing off Frank Lampard in the Nou Camp CLSF. 15 mins to go and the away goal was then a real possibility with Barca flagging a bit; and Frank`s name was on it....

  • Comment number 86.

    " It is about time people stopped lauding these players who behave in despicable fashion for all to see, including youngsters who are learning from their idols how to behave during a football match. "

    Spot ON There!

    Alas the powers that be and the media in general do not want to see change and we will all no doubt be witnessing more of the same as the season unfolds.

  • Comment number 87.

    Hey Phil, good blog again.
    i know there is a lot of debate surrounding liverpools title challenge, and being a red fan, i admit i am concerned. Benitez, for me, has always been a degree inflexible with his tactics, in regards to his sticking to his defensive style and we were often stumped by lesser teams and grinded out draws with the top teams. I thought (hoped)after the last three months of last season that he had seen the light and unshackled some of our less celebrated players and given us fans some wonderful perfomances. However, with this deserved result against chelsea, it appears to have taken a backward step. This brings up the sale of alonso, although a big loss, was necessary as the player lost his love for the club after the shocking treatment of the summer before last. alonso, was not always as great as last season. in his 5 years he had 2 good seasons(first and last).
    The issue for me comes back to the close season and our monetary problems. Aquilani has quality and will be a good player for us, however if benitez had had the financial support he had (apparently) been promised and bought a top notch strike parnter for torres and aquilani, the squad would have been improved. If he had spent the alonso money on just another striker and placed gerrard back with mascherano, we would still be improved, but as is the team has generally looked good, but it appears Benitez has lost his bottle with the gung ho tactics of last season. It is this that disappoints most.
    So until the powers at liverpool(the Yanks) sell up or find some cash and sort the joke that has been our account books, benitez needs to learn from last season and take of the shackles earlier. I am sure the funding will come, but i do wonder is benitez the right man? Until last seasons change, i said maybe. the summer i said yes(like Phil), now i still say yes....if.....he can revert to last seasons all conquerers!
    We will see.......

  • Comment number 88.

    The game could have gone either way yesterday. If Liverpool had played with a bit more passion and verve we could have got something out of the game. Think Rafa got it wrong with team selection yesterday, Lucas will never be good enough, Riera was very poor, I would have preferred Benayoun on in his place. Drogba is a cheat and a big girl!!!!!
    PS hope the FA throw the book and the kitchen sink at Ferguson for his disgraceful comments after another very lucky result - the man is beyond the pale.

  • Comment number 89.

    When you tot up Drogba's overall contribution, no one else in the PL comes close. His deliveries from either flank are exquisite, he defends well, strikes a mean free kick, and occupies two defenders most of the time.
    Chelsea's main problem at the moment is Petr Cech. He still hasn't recovered his confidence and may be their Achilles heel against the more physical sides.

  • Comment number 90.

    "Benitez has shown his poor grasp of management, and his arrogance to think he could loose a key player and get by for the first 3 months of the season without a replacement"

    If you could spell, laughingdevil, you'd have your own comedy blog. Of course, Rafa turned down the chance to sign Xavi, Ribery and Pirlo this summer, how could i forget.

  • Comment number 91.


    Re: - And a combination of Lucas and Mascherano in central midfield is desperately lacking in creativity, especially when the wide men are not delivering. Cue Alberto Aquilani. Eventually.

    I keep seeing Liverpool fans, and yourself mentioning Aquilani, yes he might look a quality player in a league outside of the premiership, however he has been injured for quite some time and will need time to get his fitness levels up to speed and then adjust to playing in the Prem, with new team mates.. That can sometimes take a season alone.

    Joe Cole has been passed fit for the last few matches and we know along with Drogba, he loves the Liverpool games. Carlo has not played him yet, is that the sign of a good manager not rushing a player back into the team before he is 100% fit.

  • Comment number 92.

    Drogba is a diver - pure and simple. A class player, but you can see why everybody in Europe, not just England, despises this pathetic creature..

    I only hope (as somebody said above) that this 'boy' cries wolf once too often, and suffers the appropriate fate for his disgusting continued actions.

  • Comment number 93.


  • Comment number 94.

    On the John Terry thing, I don't think he is as good a player as everyone makes out, best defender in the Champions League 2 years running? Not for me. Don't get me wrong I think he is a very good defender - big lump of a boy who throws himself at everything with relatively good timing. Many people will disagree but that's just my opinion.

  • Comment number 95.

    There is nothing risky about the wins&losses vs draws logic. Fergie has been using it to scoop titles for years.

    As the 80minute mark turns on any Man Utd game that is still sitting as a draw watch him force the game on. Any team that can convert just one of those draws into a win can then afford to try again and again and even if they turn the next two into losses they still go home with the same 3 points they would have had for sitting on 3 draws.

  • Comment number 96.

    To have completely misread my intentions regarding my comments about Drogba and and Torres. I stated clearly that Drogba was better than Torres yesterday, which he was, not that Drogba is better than Torres full stop.

    Not sure whether you read some comments I made on Friday when I asked who people would rather have in their side, Drogba or Torres? My own opinion, publicly stated, was that it was an incredibly close call but I would go for Torres because he had pace and youth on his side.

    I did add that Drogba would also do very nicely in any team in the world, but having posed the question myself it was only right I should give my own answer.

    Drogba, however, was better than Torres yesterday. No-one could seriously argue with that, although he got a lot more help from his team-mates than Torres.

    Liverpool fans...let's imagine Aquilani and everyone else in your squad is fit. What would be your first choice eleven? And would you regard it as good enough to win the league?

    Are Chelsea's fans concerned by their team's lack of width? I would love to see Joe Cole back in there. What is your view?

    And Hilario...I criticised him in the build-up but he was faultless. Apologies - feel free to post your response if your reading Hilario!!

  • Comment number 97.

    is it just me or is skortl falling very short of expectations at the moment. i think liverpool should have kept hold of sammi hippya for a couple of more seasons. his experience and strength would have been a steadying influence on the lads in this game. and then he could be rested for the likes of stokey at home, and hull etc, and give the other lads ago. this worked at ald trafford last season like didnt it. u agree paerhaps wphil? ririe is not upto the job im afraid, even penndant was more effective in his time with the reds

  • Comment number 98.

    Ref " right listen up, you are a big lad playing a mans game, this
    falling over has to stop as its interferring with play and you
    are certainly not fooling me "

    Drogba... hands on hips looks at the ground
    Terry.... likewise

    Ref " anymore of it and I will send you off "

    Drogba...hands on hips looks at the ground

    The above warning is heard by all those in the ground as well as those watching on TV. The stadium erupts with applause for the Official.

    Drogba and Terry trudge of with red faces and play resumes with no further occurences of play acting. Drogba then plays a blinder and is
    rightly judged to be 1st Class. i dont think anyone would have issues
    with that.

    Its not rocket science is it.

  • Comment number 99.

    Yes because it's not like Torres has ever scored against Chelsea, Manchester Utd, Arsenal, Manchester City before and Drogba has never gone missing :rolleyes:

    The facts are Drogba is surrounded by better players, Torres only has one world class player in Gerrard around him, with Benayoun looking very good when given the chance. Liverpool ask more of Torres and Gerrard than any other of the top teams when playing against each other. The inclusion of Lucas baffles me, he is nowhere near the quality of a top four side but we don't have anyone to replace him yet (Aquilani still not fit). Immediately we look weaker than any top 6 side in the centre when Lucas plays, but it's not his fault, Benitez is too stubborn to drop players he favours.

    So comparing Torres to other world class striker you must compare the team-mates they are surrounded by and I bet Liverpool have the weakest of them all. It should be a testament to how much he has achieved, sometimes you can't always rely on your best players, unfortunately we have nothing after that.

    Again, it's not like Rooney, Drogba, Anelka etc. have gone missing in games is it.

  • Comment number 100.

    Phil,your article would have been more balanced had you not omitted to mention this also. On Drogba and his so-called theatrics - wWatch the replays carefully and you will see definitely several times when he was clearly caught with painful blows and the referees did not make calls. Very few players can survive this!

    Does anyone still think Torres is a better player? Hahaha!!!! This is a good sign to MU, MC, and Arsenal - respect Chelsea!!!!


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