Liverpool experienced the advantages of VAR as they overcame a Chelsea side bearing hallmarks of their pre-Roman Abramovich era at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool can’t win away to the ‘big six’ teams, except they can.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side continue to re-write the rules in the most pedantic way imaginable.
A New Definition
It takes a special talent to be able to score from a free-kick that is placed so close to the edge of the penalty box.
A right-back in name, but so much more than that, Trent Alexander-Arnold has brought a new definition to his position.
It is something that can also be said about Andy Robertson at left-back.
While attacking full-backs are not a new concept, and rival fans have recently been left to get their footballing kicks by deriding the lauding and praise of Jurgen Klopp from some quarters as having somehow reinvented the full-back, there are undeniably very few examples through football history of teams to have two full-backs of such attacking threat and potency.
It has almost become an odd sensation when we score a goal where neither Alexander-Arnold or Robertson has a hand in proceedings.
It was nothing short of a stunning strike from Alexander-Arnold, and it was Robertson’s free-kick that Bobby Firmino headed in for 2-0.
While in the second half it was the former who put in the cross from which Firmino provoked that impressive save from Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Who else has full-backs that win games in the way ours do?
Kepa won a lot of admiration for his performance on Sunday, but Adrian also pulled off a crucially timed stop of his own, from Tammy Abraham when he was clear through with the score at 1-0.
This early and unexpected call to duty will serve both him and the team well, especially in the domestic cup competitions, where he is likely to be given games after Alisson does return.
Of course, it was at 1-0 where VAR came into play. The concept of the ‘pedantic offside’ has been brought to us, by equally respected and derided Martin Tyler.
Potential banner material right there. ‘Up the Pedantic Reds’.
In old footballing currency, Chelsea’s overturned equaliser would have been classed as having had “a hint of offside in the buildup.”
The defending team would lament the lack of a flag being raised; the attacking team would be unapologetic about getting away with one.
In the world of Tyler, football loses something special when an attacking team is denied a goal via undetected subterfuge.
Shades of Grey
There are undeniable grey areas with VAR.
The previous weekend Newcastle United opened the scoring at Anfield, with a goal that had a “hint of offside in the buildup” yet that one didn’t go to VAR.
VAR might be a piece of technological knowhow, but it is still operated at the behest of human interpretation.
The screen might be in 4K Ultra HD, yet the eye remains naked.
People will forever cry about it, yet is it such a crime that a missed offside in the buildup to a perceived goal is picked up with a second glance at a bank of monitors in Stockley Park, some 13 miles or so away from Stamford Bridge?
It is in the Premier League where the moans are omitted loudest when it comes to VAR. Teething problems aside, every other league seems to be getting on with it a lot better than we are.
A telling comment drifted past my Twitter feed on Sunday, that stated there was a lot of hate being flung at VAR.
“There must be a Premier League game on,” was the conclusion.
Whether it is Liverpool prospering from this type of reprieve, or any other team, I have no problem with an injustice being righted.
A victory away to a ‘big six’ team it was—when told it was something we just don’t do—but we had our issues here and there.
Michael Oliver had an erratic time with the whistle. He gave in to the reactions of the crowd and Chelsea players too often.
Despite their excellence going forward, we left a little bit too much space in the full-back positions at times when Chelsea were on the front foot.
We owned the first half, while Chelsea had much of the second half.
There is something converse about Chelsea this season.
Their transfer ban has forced a temporary change of direction, as youth products filter through—some of whom played under Frank Lampard last season at Derby County—and they have a freshness on the pitch, which isn’t matched by the stale repertoire of songs from the tired old clientele in the stands.
Steven Gerrard was sung about within 90 seconds of kickoff.
Basically, Chelsea have reverted to their pre-Abramovich self. This is a tribute act to the Matthew Harding era Chelsea. Likeable yet harmless football, from a team largely followed by society’s least likeable supporters.
This is how Man City are going to be next season, when Mikel Arteta is their manager.
Next up for Liverpool, the League Cup, or whatever name the tournament goes by. It seems like an age since we last had a run of substance in it.
While you’re here…my debut book, A Tournament Frozen In Time, is available as of today. It can be ordered here.