Chelsea and Liverpool have been eliminated from the Big 7 of the Premier League

Just three years ago, in 2020, Liverpool won the Premier League and were at the top of the world.

Just three years ago, in 2020, Liverpool won the Premier League and were at the top of the world. Image: Getty Images

There have been many disgusting, if not downright disgusting, angles on the attempted formation of the European Super League two years ago. One of the reasons lurking behind the destruction of the entire fabric of European football, or naked and unfathomable greed, was the awkwardness of involving the English clubs and the initial excitement of being involved. Because the Premier League is essentially already a Super League.

The league’s worldwide popularity, thanks to its pioneering role in both domestic (and especially) international TV deals, has put it leaps and bounds ahead of the other five top European leagues. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, when the lists of the 12 or 15 richest clubs are published annually, along with the list of the biggest donors in the transfer market, seven of them will be from England. Maybe more. While the Saudi takeover of Newcastle is gross in many ways, there’s a reason a mid-to-relegation-threatened club in England is different and far more appealing than one in Spain or Italy. The Saudi PIF was after Spain for a reason.

beginning of autumn

What the big clubs in England naturally wanted to avoid is that there are only four (soon to be five) chairs for seven asses in the Champions League. Thanks to Saudi money, but mostly thanks to Eddie Howe’s management in Newcastle, the club are now a Big 7 in the Premier League. Three teams each season will not get the Champions League money that fuels the leadership and budgets of all these clubs. And as Chelsea and Liverpool have found this season, as Spurs and Arsenal and Man United have found in the previous ones, the margin of error that takes you from enjoying the open bar to getting DJ Jazzy Jeff out in the alley isn’t huge at all not so great.

While their fans would be reluctant to admit it, the similarities between the two are quite striking, especially now. Liverpool supporters would first point to Roman Abramovich’s endless cash reserves and now Todd Boehly is no less bottomless, it’s not like Fenway Sports Group (FSG) is poor. But the main point is that two and three years ago, when Chelsea won the Champions League and Liverpool the Premier League (or almost picked up the quadruple last season), everything had to be buzzing at the maximum level for both teams.

They may have weighted it on opposite sides but go through the successful teams at Anfield and Stamford Bridge and you’d be hard pressed to find a player who didn’t play, or come very close to, the best football of his career. While Liverpool depended on being on the cutting edge defensively, Virgil van Dijk always kept them on the right flank and Thomas Tuchel kept Chelsea on the same edge in attack – always finding that one goal they needed, it always worked . It was a high-wire act for both of them, and yet they never fell off because everything was humming so loud.

G/O Media may receive a commission

$50 off pre-order

Ring Car Cam

It’s a camera. For your car.
Ring Car Cam’s dual-sided HD cameras capture activity in and around your car in HD detail.

Until now. Chelsea are 10th in the league and have just been violently booted out of the FA Cup by something resembling Man City’s B-Team. Liverpool are sixth but seven points adrift of Champions League places and have just held on to an FA Cup replay against Wolves’ B team (20th in the league). And both look like they’ve been cycled out in the most important area.

Old man, look at my midfield

Both teams’ problems stem from the fact that both midfields have become old and slow. Liverpool’s success was based on their midfield simply overtaking everyone, smothering everyone and quickly returning the ball to their devastating front line. Whenever they lost the ball around the opponent’s penalty area, the opponents didn’t even have time to look up before Jordan Henderson or Gini Wijnaldum or Fabinho fucked their ass. They either made an instant turnover right outside the box or just caused a wild clearance for Liverpool to collect the ball and start over.

The midfield didn’t really call for creativity or invention, a lack that was partially remedied by Thiago’s signing in 2020. And it’s not that Thiago can’t push and press, it’s just not the sharp end of his game. But even though he can, he now faces the same problem as Henderson and Fabinho. He sold. He’s slower. They just don’t arrive. Defenders now have time to play passes into (or just through) Liverpool’s midfield. Fabinho is good at intercepting passes made under duress. He’s not good at attacking players who already have the ball and he’s not that fast. It’s an airstrip in the middle of the park.

Chelsea’s troubles aren’t all that different, even if they’ve been asked for different things. Jorginho and Mateo Kovačić have a lot of kilometers under their belts. N’Golo Kante doesn’t come out on the pitch very often. Neither does Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Connor Gallagher fails. Chelsea have never pushed as hard as Liverpool, but their midfield can’t keep up with what an opponent is doing either. Anyone can play around or through them with a Chelsea midfielder a step or two away from making an interception or tackle. You are behind everything.

Injuries have not helped either team as Chelsea are currently without 10 first-team players and Liverpool have had to deal with injuries across the field, currently without van Dijk, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota. But the roots are the same.

And their solutions, apparently, are the same, which are far from the goal. Liverpool signed Cody Gakpo earlier this month. Chelsea today agreed to loan Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid for the remainder of the season. Both are attackers who can fill current injury gaps in the forward. Neither are midfielders. There might not be any good midfielders in January, but that’s what everyone faces.

But that is exactly what will happen in the Premier League for the foreseeable future. Lose 5-10 percent of your engine and you pass. Now it’s Newcastle and Arsenal running everything green. Man City are the only ones who appear to be bulletproof and never need a pit stop, either due to Pep Guardiola’s management or their Scrooge McDuck vault or both. Man United may have been a basket before but Erik Ten Hag is no idiot and has them on the rise. It doesn’t need more.

Chelsea is an example that all the money in the world is no guarantee. Liverpool is an example where progressive management and squad building aren’t either. In the Premier League, everything has to be in overdrive to stay in the top four. As soon as the operation starts to shake and something leaks or starts to overheat, another mace in your side mirror immediately becomes bigger.