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Mentality Monsters

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Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. These are the words of famous economist Aaron Levenstein. Watching Liverpool win the EFL Cup against Chelsea on Sunday further proved this statement. When the game finished, surely the stats would say that both teams had several chances to put the tie to bed; however, watching the game, one could truly see the greatness of Jurgen Klopp. What the Reds did in the final is something that will be written in the golden pages of football history.

There was no Mohamed Salah, there was no Dominik Szoboszlai, there was no Darwin Nunez, there was no Alisson Becker, and there was no Trent Alexander Arnold. Liverpool’s squad on the day looked something like that of an under-23s squad with loads of younger players combined with three to four players who usually are surplus to first-team requirements.

That didn’t stop them from being crowned the EFL Cup champions for the tenth consecutive time.

Youngster shine for Liverpool

Liverpool’s starting XI on the night had seven players that were aged 25 or younger. In fact, players like Harvey Elliott and Conor Bradley had only broken into the first team this season while others such as goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher had been thrown into the deep end as first choice Alisson was out with injury.

However, watching the first half, it felt like Chelsea were the more inexperienced team as Koop’s men put them to the sword, creating several chances but failing to find the back of the net. The Reds were already hugely affected by injuries, and the situation worsened further after Ryan Gravenberch was stretchered off the pitch after a tackle by Moises Caicedo.

However, this didn’t deter Liverpool, as they continued to be on the front foot. That came with a cost, as Chelsea regularly found massive space on the counterattack. They would have scored two to three goals if it were not for Kelleher. The youngster was amazing on the night and showed that he is really a first-team goalkeeper quality. Still, the environment at the club is so excellent that he has accepted to be Alisson’s understudy till now.

The influx of youngsters into the game from Liverpool’s side continued as Bobby Clark, James McConnell, and Jayden Danns were substituted into the game. Danns’ debut for the senior squad had come only three days before the final in the Premier League against Luton Town, while McConnell’s first start came in January of this year.

However, even with such inexperienced starters on the pitch, Liverpool played the same system that Klopp has deployed over the years, showing the synergy between the young player and the veterans on the team.

Liverpool’s mentality was the key difference on the night 

In total, the EFL Cup final saw 40 shots (18 from Chelsea, 22 from Liverpool), out of which 20 were on target (9 from Chelsea and 11 from Liverpool). However, there was a crucial difference in how both teams created the chances. Several of Liverpool’s chances came as they forced the Chelsea defence to commit mistakes using their famed Gegenpressing method. Other chances came as they expertly found their way through the defence, mostly through the impressive Luis Diaz. Chelsea, meanwhile, mainly relied on fast-paced counterattacks to find the breakthrough.

Another example of Liverpool’s winning mentality was the way they reacted after having their goal disallowed in perhaps the harshest decision of the tournament. Virgil van Dijk scored from a header, but the goal was disallowed after VAR deemed Wataru Endo was blocking Levi Colwill and asked referee Chris Kavanagh to look at the monitor after which he deemed there was enough evidence to overturn his on-field decision.

For any other team with so many youngsters to have a goal chalked off in such a manner would have had a detrimental effect on the team. Liverpool, however, were relentless and even dominated large parts of the extra time after the scores were tied at the end of regular time.

This was all down to the team’s mentality, something that Klopp has spent years drilling into every player of the squad. The performance was so brilliant that one would put money on them to win the league even if the game went to penalties.

Van Dijk found the winner ultimately with a well-directed header, and it was the just reward for a performance of the highest order. With this win, Liverpool also keep the dream of a quadruple alive, and this win has just given them a massive boost towards realising their dream.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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