Only in the surreal world of the Premier League would the European champions be looking to demonstrate the first, tangible evidence of their domestic title credentials – in August.
Of course, it would be silly to get carried away with knee-jerk conclusions or aspersions after just three league games anyway; to chuck in a favourite from the managerial book of cliches, we all know titles aren’t decided in August.
In truth, there were no statements of intent from either side in this early meeting between two of the four teams earmarked to be serious contenders for this season’s top-flight crown.
Zouma sale to West Ham set to trigger Chelsea swoop for Kounde – reports
24/08/2021 AT 17:09
It was honours even, and yet Chelsea do leave Anfield as the more upbeat team, but it had nothing to do with a rampant win or a stand-out performance from their £97.5m striker, Romelu Lukaku.
In fact, the Belgian failed to rubber-stamp the belief he’s returned from Serie A as the complete centre forward. There was no domination of Virgil van Dijk to truly announce himself as the Dutchman again showed no signs of rust from the anterior cruciate ligament injury that had kept him out for so long.
Instead, van Dijk’s performance will have bolstered Kopites’ hopes that his presence will help return Liverpool back to the summit this season and if everyone remains fit you can expect them to be contenders.
So, yes, Lukaku cut a peripheral figure but he was also starved of service. It would take a bold scribe to suggest he won’t go on to plunder the raft of goals that were missing for the Londoners at times last season and he is clearly a huge upgrade on Timo Werner.
This just wasn’t his moment to lay down the gauntlet. There will be plenty more occasions in the future for him to shake off the big-game doubt that blighted his pre-Inter Milan days, as the 10-man Blues were forced to dig deep for the entire second half to claim a deserved point.
‘It spoils the game’ – Tuchel accepts but disagrees with red card
This resilience was where Chelsea’s real strength under Thomas Tuchel once again revealed itself and will no doubt prove an invaluable quality in the months ahead.
There was so much to admire from the Blues from the first whistle to the last. They weathered an early storm before taking control of the contest. Lukaku was largely locked up by Liverpool’s centre backs but it allowed Mason Mount and Kai Havertz to dart beyond the home side’s high line and at one point they were the protagonists in the game.
The penalty award on the stroke of half time was obviously a big turning point and the visitors were forced to readjust at the interval having suffered the double-whammy of the Reece James red card and Mo Salah’s equaliser from the spot.
Throw in an injury to N’Golo Kante and many a top side would have folded in front of a baying Kop. Tuchel once witnessed a remarkable Liverpool comeback in the Europa League during his time managing Borussia Dortmund, but he wasn’t about to let it happen again here.
The switch in personnel with the inspired introduction of Thiago Silva, the shift in tactics and fearless mentality was hugely impressive, leaving Liverpool to rely on long-range shots as they struggled to carve out any clear-cut chances.
‘Red card harsh on Chelsea’ – Klopp on James sending off
This was the sort of display that was a hallmark of champions of yesteryear and also had a touch of Italy about it from their Euro 2020 triumph.
Chelsea have a wealth of attacking talent but they also have the capability to shut up shop and be incredibly hard to break down. They demonstrated this trait on their way to lifting last season’s Champions League trophy and it remains a significant string to their bow that will see them push for their first Premier League crown since 2017.
The impact of Tuchel at the end of last season was undeniable and he has already got some pundits hailing this as the best Chelsea team they have seen, particularly given his emphasis on the collective and how he got all of the squad to buy into it.
It will be fascinating to see what he can achieve in his first full campaign at the helm in what could well be one of the most keenly-fought title races in years.
‘A true, true legend’ – Tuchel questioned Chelsea decision to sack Lampard
22/08/2021 AT 10:52
UEFA Super Cup
‘It was not spontaneous’ – Tuchel reveals Kepa switch was planned months before
12/08/2021 AT 08:27
Source: Euro Sports