The 1,000th game of Jürgen Klopp’s managerial career will not be remembered with fondness, if it is remembered at all. “I heard Arsène Wenger lost his 1,000th game 6-0 so I’m really happy that didn’t happen,” the Liverpool manager said. Klopp was determined to accentuate the positives despite his team, and Chelsea, illustrating why Champions League qualification may be beyond them.
A flat goalless draw at a freezing Anfield did nothing to validate talk of a revival from either Klopp or Graham Potter, although both seized on any crumbs of encouragement they could find. For Chelsea, whose run of six Premier League away games without a win is their worst in over seven years, they came in an impressive second half display from new £88m signing Mykhailo Mudryk and another imperious defensive performance from 38-year-old Thiago Silva. For Liverpool, who remain without a league win in 2023, it was a second successive clean sheet and the return to fitness of Darwin Núñez. Slim pickings indeed.
“He was really good,” the Chelsea manager said of Mudryk. “He will get better the more he is with us but there were promising signs. He has only had two sessions with us but from watching him with Shakhtar he is dangerous in one v ones, he makes things happen in the final third, he gets supporters off their seats and he knows where the goal is.”
Kai Havertz had an early goal ruled out by VAR but that was a rare incident in a game of precious little quality. The fixture’s usual stakes were already lowered before kick off with Liverpool and Chelsea ten points off the top four in ninth and tenth place respectively.
Klopp reflected: “For me it is clear, you have to make small steps and that is how it is. I expect progress and from the last league game it was definitely progress. We defended with passion, which we didn’t do two weeks ago, so that is important. Usually a point against Chelsea is not a bad result but I feel everyone is thinking; ‘How can you not win against them?’ They will win a lot of games, believe me. I saw good signs. Now we have to do the good things better and for longer. I am sure they will go in that direction.”
Havertz had the ball in the Liverpool net after only three minutes and perhaps the complexion of the game would have altered had VAR not disallowed the strike for offside. But probably not. The hosts struggled with crosses into their area from the outset. New Chelsea signing Benoît Badiashile was left unmarked at the first corner of the game, from Conor Gallagher, and his touch dropped for Silva to strike the base of a post from close range. Havertz converted the rebound and Liverpool had conceded first yet again. They were reprieved when, with the Chelsea celebrations over and the teams ready to restart, VAR found the goalscorer in an offside position.
Klopp rightly rewarded Stefan Bajcetic and Harvey Elliott with starting roles following their contributions to the midweek FA Cup win at Wolves. The Liverpool manager also kept faith with the same midfield trio that brought more intensity and energy to the team following the abject defeat at Brighton, at the expense of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, while James Milner was preferred at right back to Trent Alexander-Arnold. The end product was perfectly encapsulated by Klopp’s face when the half-time whistled sounded, a picture of undisguised fury at possession being lost and his team failing to trouble Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Chelsea goal.
There was more intensity and purpose from Liverpool after the break, and presumably after a few home truths from Klopp. Mudryk made an immediate impression, showing good feet to weave away from two Liverpool defenders in a tight space before finding the side-netting. Milner, booked for hauling down the Ukraine international, was replaced by Alexander-Arnold after Mudryk had escaped him once too often.
Hakim Ziyech fired over at the end of a superb run across the Liverpool defence and Alexander-Arnold skied a good chance from Núñez’s cross from the by-line. But a non-event of a game got the scoreline it deserved.