Chelsea legend Pat Nevin has hailed Chelsea boss Antonio Conte for his tactics against Liverpool on Sunday.
Nevin believes Chelsea tactics of retreating quickly to a back five when without the ball and the three midfielders of Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante ensured Liverpool couldn’t break on us at pace which would have suited Mane, Salah and Firmino.
“I did however have 10 minutes of doubt at the start of the game at the weekend. Why were we so negative? It looked to me we were docile, too sluggish and slow to take the game to them,” Nevin wrote on Chelsea’s official website.
“After a few minutes I adapted that to submissive, we were letting them have all the possession. What possessed us to have that attitude? Then it dawned on me, we were being something else slightly different, we were being passive in the midfield and this suddenly made sense. It was a tactic and a very intelligent one.
“The idea was that when we didn’t have the ball we retreated to not only a back five, but on top of that the three midfielders Tiemoue Bakayoko, N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas were not engaging the opposition high up the park, instead sitting off them to give them fairly easy possession in their own half. The reason for this was to stop them breaking on us at pace which would have suited Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.”
Nevin also hailed the Chelsea defence for a faultless performance.
Nevin added: “There was the added tactic of putting Antonio Rudiger almost man-to-man on Salah who has been brilliant all season. As soon as I figured out this was the game plan I sat back and relaxed, Salah for all his genius was up against precisely the last person he would want to be facing. A superb defender who is quicker than our former striker and Antonio stuck to him like the proverbial limpet when he had the ball. Salah didn’t get past him once in the entire game and I’ll be honest, that didn’t surprise me one little bit, he is a brilliant man-marker.
“When Olivier Giroud scored at the near post (I am fed up saying he is probably the best on the planet from that particular area) I honestly thought there was only one danger and that was a monster mistake from one of our defenders. However Gary Cahill was faultless and totally focused while Azpi was, well Azpi, utterly trustworthy from the first to the last minute. Rudiger probably deserved to be named man-of-the-match for his performance, with some apologies to Eden Hazard who was yet again at his mercurial, impish, delightful best.
“I understand that a one-goal lead against a free-scoring Liverpool team sounds risky but at half-time on Chelsea TV I was very bold with commentator Ben Andrews. I was not in the slightest bit worried, in fact I was very comfortable about the outcome and simply couldn’t see us losing it. And so it turned out and if Marcos Alonso had just one degree more of swerve on his back-post volley, everyone else could have sat back and enjoyed the show along with me with no pressure at all.”