It is no coincidence that both Liverpool and Chelsea found themselves in the top two at the end of December given their absence from European football. Neither side had the burden of a midweek match and therefore received far more rest than their rivals did. The benefit of this rest was clear through the performances and results of both sides.
Both Liverpool and Chelsea have had busy schedules since the turn of the year, yet Chelsea’s excellent form continued while Liverpool’s results were dreadful. Despite the congestion of their schedule, Chelsea were able to progress in the FA Cup as well as strengthen their lead at the top of the table. Liverpool departed both the FA Cup and League Cup, and after their defeat at Hull, the top four.
The depth of both squads is the primary factor behind the respective positions of the two sides. Chelsea’s second team claimed victories in the FA Cup and therefore could rest their strongest players for the Premier League. Liverpool, however, have endured a steep decline in form as a result of their lack of depth.
Their second team was poor in their two clashes with Plymouth Argyle as well as in their defeat at home to Championship side Wolves. Their poor performance forced Klopp to play his strongest players in cup competitions, rather than rest them in his failed attempts to get results. Meanwhile, the omissions of Mane, Coutinho, and Lovren saw the Anfield side struggle in the attacking and defensive thirds as they took just one point from their clashes with Sunderland, Swansea and Hull.
Liverpool’s inactivity in the transfer market has damaged their season significantly. Had they spent early in January on stronger backup options, they would likely still be alive in at least one cup competition and would have rested key players for league fixtures.
The Anfield club were in excellent position to challenge Chelsea for their first title of the Premier League era at the start of the year. Liverpool’s failure to address the needs of its squad has allowed has allowed an onslaught of fixtures to end their title hopes and to even dent their campaign for a top-four finish.
Their poor form has now extended beyond January. Though the Reds named a strong side against Hull, their performance was dreadful in their deserved defeat.
What a difference a month can make.
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