Not one, but two buses were parked by Chelsea at Anfield last weekend against Liverpool, apparently. It is something that Liverpool and manager Brendan Rodgers are going to have to get used to, though, firstly on Monday against Crystal Palace and then next season too. This was always going to happen at some point, it was just a matter of time and unfortunately for Liverpool, the time is now.
Liverpool have been brilliant all season, scoring goals, attacking at pace, passing the ball with a purpose and even letting goals in at the other end too — great entertainment value! But as the season progressed and the plaudits for Liverpool got louder and louder, you had to wonder just how long opposing teams would allow them to play the way that they wanted to before they started to plan for Liverpool like they would for one of the best teams in the league.
Teams have been playing Liverpool this season feeling like they can beat them, like they have a good chance to get a win just as they would have done in previous seasons. The truth is, though, they don’t have that much of a chance — not playing an open and expansive game against Liverpool anyway.
Now, more and more, other teams are going to follow Chelsea’s lead and play deep, stay compact and deny Liverpool space to play. Liverpool have had the freedom of most pitches this season as strikers Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have ran riot, and it should be surprising to nobody that teams are now going to start cutting off that space and squeezing the game against Liverpool instead.
Liverpool have to get used to it; in many ways, it is a sign that they have really arrived as a top team in the league. What they will now start to encounter every week is no different from what Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal go through every week themselves already. It’s just about Liverpool finding a way to deal with it.
On Monday, Crystal Palace will pose to Liverpool some similar questions as Chelsea did last weekend. Liverpool couldn’t find an answer against Chelsea, but they’ll need to against Palace to keep their title hopes alive for this season after City took all three points against Everton at weekend. They’ll need answers beyond then too, because without them, they’ll have no title challenge next season either.