by Ernie Fox (@ernietfox)
What a time and place for Jurgen Klopp to claim his first Premier League victory, hopefully the first of many to come.
There are many reasons not to get over excited; Chelsea may be the reigning champions, but their current league form is far from impressive, the team look completely lost for ideas and Mourinho cuts a shadow of the figure that led them to the title just a few months ago. There were also some fortuitous moments in the game which certainly contributed to the result which under scrutiny may suggest we still have a long way to go until we get over excited.
Sure, it was one of our better performances in some time, but there are still a number of things that need work, not least our attacking prowess. As half time was approaching at Stamford Bridge I was genuinely worried that we would leave empty handed once more because despite our dominance of possession, we seemed to be completely toothless up front.
It can’t be denied that we have some technically gifted players, but without Benteke or Sturridge in the starting line up our control of possession was in danger of going unrewarded. We certainly created the opportunities, but too often we have seen it over the last 12months where our players seem to snatch at the chances haphazardly and with a complete lack of composure. Coutinho’s moment of brilliance at the end of the first half was perfectly timed and helped to heap even more pressure on the Chelsea camp, but the talented Brazilian still hasn’t discovered the consistency that will elevate him into one of the world’s greats – in short, we can’t rely on him to do it on a regular basis.
Benteke came on as a substitute and immediately had a massive impact. He’s not just a target man, he has the power and technique to take his chances when they arise either in the air or on the ground, unlike so many of his team mates. The trouble is that we can’t just rely on him to be our sole goalscoring output, we need the rest of the team to contribute.
At times it is like watching an under 9’s contest, with shots feebly bobbling across the grass into the keepers’ arms or being fired so high and wide of the goal that workmen on the redevelopment must be hoping to get in on the action. This season only two men have shown any sign of consistent competency in front of goal, but both have found themselves sidelined through injury.
Having said all that, I think we should be very excited about the result at Stamford Bridge for a number of reasons. Sure it was just a single victory, but how often do we see one single result reshaping an entire team’s season? Having gone so many games struggling to score a second goal, it seems rather significant that we managed to secure such a victory against the league champions – a team who have frustrated us so often in recent years.
Against a side who in recent times we have struggled against, we came from a goal behind to not only take the lead but comfortably secure the victory with a two goal cushion. For once we actually did show character, in the second half we reaped the rewards of our performance; it was a turning point which I’m sure we will look back at come the end of the season as the moment when our fortunes changed.
Does that mean we’re now in the title race? Even though Jurgen Klopp laughed off that suggestion as crazy, you can’t help but wonder what we are capable of. Just four points from a top four spot, in the last eight of the league cup with Man City and Everton as the two biggest challengers and unbeaten in the Europa League.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves by starting to predict all manner of success based on one win, but at the same time let’s not understate the importance of such a victory. Klopp came in to reinstall a confidence and belief at the club that has diminished from months of lacklustre performances, not just for the players but the fans as well. This was the first step towards that, and a huge step it was.
Written by Ernie Fox