Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool – entertainment 0, value for money 0, intensity 0, inspiration 0 – you get my drift.
The latest episode, no litany of stats here, of a fixture that has in recent years lit up the Premier League and the Champions League but not on Tuesday night.
I was actually searching for a phrase that encapsulated the dire efforts offered up by Chelsea and Liverpool but someone beat me to it. I found a perfect summation of the game between managerless Chelsea and rudderless Liverpool.
“A mass of mediocrity.”
I have been covering the Premier League since day one. I have played the game, coached, managed and reported on football for many years. In addition, I am a qualified FA Coach and referee.
That skill set, modesty apart, has enabled a lengthy career reporting and writing on football. It has allowed a wider perspective than a too-regular, one-dimensional view of the game by the current football media.
I have a quirky method when I settle down to watch a televised game. As the camera moves along the team lines, close enough to catch every nasal hair, I do an instinctive ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ depending on whether I rate the player.
When the camera went along the unrecognisable Liverpool side Jurgen Klopp put out there were only five ‘yeahs’. Chelsea fared a little worse with just four out of 11. No science in that appraisal – just years of observation and analysis.
So, almost 50% of the players on duty at Stamford Bridge, starting line-ups, were not up to the task of playing a Premier League game. And many of those ‘nays’ have the same approach week in, week out – but that debate is for another time.
This may be a timely point at which to introduce one of the many elements of what makes a good Premier League side and coach.
The top two, likely champions Arsenal, and current champions Manchester City are almost a world apart from the, shall we say ‘also-rans’.
A detailed discussion for another time but, in short.
Arsenal players believe in themselves and each other, AND their coach. City, whichever XI they field, have a line-up full of players who are consistently 8/10 for performance.
Chelsea and Liverpool do not.
Further analysis of the previously mentioned debating point is a bit further down the line, but for now, ‘a morass of mediocrity’ says it all.
Brian Beard is an Associate Historian to the Football Association, longest serving football reporter with Sky Sports and formerly a ghostwriter for George Best.
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