Neil Humphreys: Chelsea must drop Kepa Arrizabalaga or else...
Blues boss Lampard needs to make ruthless decision about lost custodian
Two goalkeeping moments told Chelsea manager Frank Lampard what he already knew.
Kepa Arrizabalaga killed off any chance of a comeback from 10-man Chelsea with another catastrophic error and Liverpool's Alisson saved a penalty to confirm his side's 2-0 victory this morning (Singapore time).
Two incidents confirmed the chasm between the two sides. The Reds are blessed with an impregnable, Brazilian wall of steel. The Blues are lumbered with a goalkeeper that has all the solidity of a Spanish omelette.
|(Sadio Mane 50, 54)|
Lampard can't win anything with Arrizabalaga between the sticks. English Premier League history and another blunder from his brittle Spanish goalkeeper will surely convince the Chelsea manager to sign a replacement quickly.
Manchester United failed to dominate without Peter Schmeichel. Manchester City wobbled before Ederson. And Liverpool needed the imperious Alisson to transform the nearly men into literal world-beaters.
Lampard's No. 1 priority is a new No. 1.
According to reports, the Blues are set to sign Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. The Senegalese's signature cannot be secured fast enough.
Liverpool's comfortable victory already underlined the gulf between the sides, but Arrizabalaga's shattered self-belief has saddled Chelsea with an awkward handicap. The Blues do not need any more setbacks.
A largely uninspiring performance summarised three depressing aspects about these trying times.
First, the marginal home advantage in elite football has dissipated inside deserted, soulless stadiums. Even before this morning's events at Stamford Bridge, the EPL had already witnessed nine away victories, five home wins and no draws.
Empty is the new advantage.
Away is the new home, as the Reds demonstrated with their dominant possession, even before Andreas Christensen's red card on the stroke of half-time.
Without a raucous home crowd behind them, the Blues mostly retreated. Certainly, Christensen misread Sadio Mane's run and the big Dane's rugby tackle on the Liverpool forward was the highlight of the first half.
Indeed, the fixture only came alive with the intervention of VAR, which correctly convinced the referee to turn Christensen's initial yellow into a red.
A loss of home advantage, a lacklustre effort from the hosts and the game-changing intervention of VAR: these three factors directly affected proceedings at the Bridge. Expect the trend to continue.
At half-time, Lampard brought on Fikayo Tomori for Kai Havertz (to replace Christensen and maintain the Blues' back four), but Havertz had been worryingly anonymous.
He deserved better service from teammates that appeared a yard behind their opponents in terms of fitness.
Continuing early-season trends, an away goal was no surprise when it eventually arrived.
In the 50th minute, Mane displayed the neck muscles of an inquisitive giraffe to nod in Roberto Firmino's intelligent cross.
Liverpool's first goal was typical of their intoxicating team play. Their second was typical of a Chelsea goalkeeper who plays as if intoxicated.
Just four minutes after putting the Reds ahead, Mane was gifted his second when Arrizabalaga attempted a pass, but the Senegalese automaton blocked the ball and tapped home.
Arrizabalaga's days at Chelsea must be coming to an end. His latest blunder killed any semblance of home momentum stone dead.
Liverpool transformed Stamford Bridge into their Melwood training ground, playing keep-ball among themselves, screaming loudest in the surreal, silent venue and turning their opponents into blue training cones.
Thiago Alcantara's second-half debut could not have been any more relaxed or welcoming had he swaggered onto the turf with a deckchair in one hand and a glass of red wine in the other.
Indeed the debutant was so laidback, he clumsily brought down Timo Werner in the 74th minute. But Alisson guessed correctly to palm away Jorginho's penalty, as if symbolically highlighting the basic difference between the sides.
The Reds' goalkeeper is a born winner. The Blues' custodian may be a lost cause.
Kepa, James, Christensen, Zouma, Alonso, Kante, Jorginho (Abraham 79), Kovacic (Barkley 79), Havertz (Tomori 46), Werner, Mount
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, van Dijk, Robertson, Keita (Milner 64), Henderson (Thiago 46), Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino (Minamino 86), Mane