Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Chelsea 1 Liverpool 1 in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge…


HEY now, little speedyhead.

The game changes but players adapt.

Today it was remarkable the level of players passing forward or final-third, sideways 30 yarders. There were so many genuinely excellent line-breaking passes from both teams it was breathtaking. The quality was mind-boggling.

It was also anxiety inducing. How can they? Do we need to be better? Is the shape right? Across the course of this campaign every one will have to have a plan for Enzo Fernandez and Raheem Sterling. But everyone needs a plan for Mo Salah and for Trent Alexander-Arnold. Everyone needs a plan for Luis Diaz.

I loved the opening goal. I need to warn you that these words will be as soppy as ever. If you want calm analysis you should go elsewhere. I loved the opening goal. It is end to end stuff – a counter attack without a proper attack to have countered. Liverpool are excellent in every phase and there is so little that Chelsea can do about it.

This is an important point – Chelsea are just at the mercy of Liverpool’s brilliance from the split second Alexis Mac Allister gets it if not before. What do we think about that? Because while we should praise our players we need to remember this will, from time to time, happen to them.

Chelsea are amongst the most expensively assembled outfits on the planet. They pay wages that place them top 12 on the planet. They have one of the best managers. But they were at Liverpool’s whim. On more than one occasion.

And then, from time to time, Liverpool were at theirs. Because they have exceptional players who are well coached. We play in a super league. Yesterday Aston Villa, coached by one of the world’s best managers, shipped five at St James’s Park. The reality of where we are is that we have eight games a season away from our own grounds that will be absolute battles. Eight minimum. But definitely eight.

I loved it. The game changes but players adapt, but we need to adapt too. We need to revel in the battle, enjoy the uncertainty. If we can do so well on and off the pitch it will help us in the end. It was football at the ragged edge.

First half, we are the dominant force until we have hard lines with the offside around the second and Chelsea grow in different confidences. The goal makes them 10ft tall, but it is both fortunate and rubbish.

Second half, we are the better side for 10 minutes and should be awarded a penalty. I think Taylor referees the game well. But he can’t see the handball. The issue with what the monitor has theatrically become is they can’t just show him it. But he should see it, no blame attached and then decide. It is, for all the world, a penalty. Harvey Elliott has a claim for one late on too.

But Chelsea are by far the better side from 55 to 70 and they turn the screw very well bar the last bit, the penalty area bit. Ibou Konate and Virg van Dijk both play ever so well and it will be missed because your heart wouldn’t stop pounding. Trent Alexander-Arnold was excellent on the cover. Andy Robertson from nowhere is the game’s defining player from 70 to 85 and Liverpool look likelier. They look better again.

I can’t be bothered hating opposition footballers any more. The game changes but players adapt. Conor Gallagher grew into an incredibly difficult game for him. Thiago Silva is a man worth following into the very mouth of hell. Ben Chilwell was ever so good.

But Dominik Szoboszlai will do for me. He was indefatigable. Mac Allister tired but then was playing two positions. When Darwin Nunez’s hairband went akimbo, I was convinced the winner would be his.

I am glad Mauricio Pochettino is back, glad he has his footballers primed for a big year. Maybe I am old, but hey now little speedyhead. The job getting harder suits us, suits you and me too. I want sides capable of doing one another. I want to build a season.

It’s a good point. It always would be a good point. It was an emotional maelstrom, it was highs and lows, it was just the first step. All of this is coming your way.

We can win this league, you know. We have Luis Diaz looking like a glorious backpost demon. We have Mo Salah. We have Curt Jones and we have the best goalkeeper the game has ever seen. We have the best one.

I hope we end with a season to love, to hold one another. I have missed you and missed feeling like this and missed that bit of my brain that unloads and expands when they play on the grass and it matters. Me, my thoughts are flower strewn, with ocean storm, bayberry moon.

Strength and courage overrides. The privileged and weary eyes. All of this is coming our way. I promise. The game changes but players adapt. I’ve missed you and I’ve missed this, and it is soppy nonsense but it is ours.

I want to gaze on it all like a newborn. I want my breath taken. This year, give me the thrillers and give me the thrills. We have the best goalkeeper and the best forwards. The rest we need to sort, yes.

It’s a solid point. The game changes but players adapt. We have some of the best ones. We are in for the best time. But we won’t win every week.

You know that, right?

Into these.

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