Saturday Analysis: Chelsea and Saints march on as Liverpool and City stutter
Having rested several of his 'first choice' players for Tuesday night's Champions League defeat at Real Madrid, Brendan Rodgers had rather put all of his eggs one basket - he badly needed that gamble to pay off with a positive result against the league leaders. It didn't happen. Liverpool may have taken the lead, but they appeared to run out of steam and ideas far quicker than their visitors, and were eventually beaten.
Rodgers made seven changes from that midweek loss at the Bernabeu, but just one from last Saturday's defeat at Newcastle. That change saw Emre Can come in for Joe Allen, and it was the former Bayer Leverkusen midfielder who put the Reds ahead on nine minutes, after an energetic and composed start from the Anfield side.
The German under-21 international's 25-yard strike appeared to take a slight nick off John Terry, then a sizeable one off Gary Cahill, which wrong-footed Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois and saw the ball nestle in the back of the net. Liverpool were bright and buzzing - could this be the game that kick-started their stuttering season?
No. No, because it was at around this point the stopped playing. Gary Cahill just about bundled in an equaliser after Mignolet did well to save John Terry's header, and the momentum suddenly swung in Chelsea's favour.
No player better symbolised the manner with which the Reds lost their way than Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian started brightly and showed great willingness to take the game to Chelsea, but he soon faded into the background, and by the time he was substituted on 70 minutes, he had become a peripheral figure in the match. Rodgers' decision to sub the playmaker may have been met with howls of derision by many in the Anfield crowd, but it was by no means an undeserved withdrawal. To highlight the point, Coutinho completed 6 of 7 attempted take-ons in the first 25 minutes - in his remaining 45 minutes on the pitch, he completed 0 of 2.
Speaking after the match, Rodgers claimed part of his game-plan was to keep Cesc Fabregas quiet, with Jordan Henderson tasked with man-marking the Spaniard, a task Rodgers claimed the England midfielder "did very well". Yet, while Fabregas was notably quiet by his own standards, so was Henderson. While Rodgers may have succeeded in quelling the threat of Fabregas, in doing so, he nullified one of his own key playmakers.
Fabregas may have been kept quiet, but then man who has benefited most this season from the former Arsenal and Barcelona man's creative wizardry still managed to make a telling impact.
Diego Costa scored his tenth goal in nine Premier League matches when he blasted home following good work from compatriot Cesar Azpilicueta down the right. The fullback cut inside and used the outside of his right boot to drill a dangerous ball across the six yard box. Mignolet parried, and Costa punished the Reds' hesitant defence.
Liverpool's shaky defence cost them the title last season. Four errors leading to Chelsea chances on Saturday suggest they're still a long way from resolving the problem.
- Chelsea have now scored in 12 successive Premier League matches.
- Chelsea have netted five goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches this season, more than any other team in the top flight.
- Only Crystal Palace (8) have scored more goals from set pieces than Chelsea (7) in the Premier League this season.
- Gary Cahill scored his first Premier League goal since December 2013, when he scored at Stamford Bridge against Southampton.
- Liverpool have only kept two clean sheets in their last 17 Premier League games.
- Diego Costa scored his 10th Premier League goal in his ninth appearance in the competition; Mick Quinn (6) is the only player to reach double figures in fewer (Mark Viduka and Papiss Cisse also took nine).
- It took Didier Drogba 23 Premier League games to reach double figures for Chelsea.
- All 10 of Diego Costa’s PL goals have been scored from inside the box.
- After a run of four successive Premier League wins against Chelsea, Liverpool are winless in five against the Blues (D2 L3).
- Only in two Premier League seasons have Liverpool had fewer than 14 points after 11 games (1992/93 and 2012/13 (both 12)).
- Meanwhile only two teams in Premier League history have ever had more than 29 points at this stage (Chelsea in 2005/06 and Man City in 2011/12 both had 31, and both won the title).
- Despite that, the only previous team in the Premier League to have exactly 29 points at this stage were Newcastle United in 1994/95 – they finished the campaign sixth.