Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (h)
I had a conversation on Twitter earlier in the week where I was asked if I'd do these graphics for every league match. I stupidly said I'd consider it, but only if Liverpool's performance against Norwich made it worth doing. Well, I still can't (or won't, whatever) promise this will be a weekly feature, but I had to come through after that Liverpool performance.
All data via StatsZone, Squawka, and EPL Index (HT and FT possession).
Nota Bene: I'm using the StatsZone passing totals rather than Squawka's. Squawka has Liverpool's total as 662/747 and Norwich's total as 259/320. From what I can deduce, the difference is due to including throw-ins, free kicks, and corners in the individual and team passing totals. Which I'd rather not include. If it matters to you, LiverpoolFC.com use the same numbers I'm using in today's Opta feature.
Anyway. My apologies, but I can't do the full Goal Events for this match. Liverpool simply made too many passes in scoring its fourth and fifth. There were eight passes before the fourth, 21 before the fifth. Had Liverpool's first been set up by a Şahin touch rather than a Turner interception, there would have been 15 or so passes in that move as well. The graphic would just look like a maelstrom of red arrows covering the width and breadth of the pitch. Which is how Rodgers wants it, I imagine. I probably should have thought this through better.
If this happens again, I might add an altogether different graphic, but today there's "goal location" instead, because it helps demonstrate just how out-of-the-ordinary Saturday's result was. Four of Liverpool's five goals came from outside the box. Four of its six shots from outside the box were on-target, all resulting in goals; the other two were blocked before entering the penalty area. That's not going to happen every week. It might not happen again for a very long time. In the five league matches prior to this one, Liverpool hit the target with just 24% of its long-range shots (9 of 38), resulting in just one goal (Suarez's free kick against City). Liverpool scored just seven league goals from outside the box through all of last season: Bellamy 2; Adam, Gerrard, Henderson, Shelvey, Suarez 1. Only the penultimate 4-1 against Chelsea had more than one long-range Liverpool goal. And on Saturday Suarez went and scored three in one match by himself. Until proven otherwise, we should assume that was an exceptional outlier.
Norwich actually had the same number of shots as Liverpool and created just three fewer chances. But Liverpool won in a romp because Liverpool finished its chances. Which, as we all know, certainly hasn't happened enough. As usual, Suarez dominates the shots/assists section, but Gerrard was nearly as impressive. Despite ostensibly playing in a deeper role, although sometimes switching with Şahin, he created five chances and had two shots on target, scoring with one. His performances in this position under Liverpool's last three managers were often cause for concern, but his play against City, Sunderland, United, and now Norwich has helped dispute the notion that he'd struggle to fit into Rodgers' system. And with Şahin, Shelvey, and Suso all impressing in the attacking midfield role, it's seemingly the perfect solution for where to play him. Until Lucas returns, of course. But that discussion can wait another month or so.
And those passing totals. Bananas. Liverpool completed 395 more passes than Norwich. No matter the form of either, rarely does the away side out-pass the home side by 267%. I guess the simplest evidence of Liverpool's domination in this aspect was that Reina completed 35 passes, attempting 43. Through the first five matches, he averaged 16 successful passes per game, 22 attempted. So, just double his usual total, and far more accurate to boot. Only one Norwich player completed more passes than Reina. Again, bananas.
You can point to almost any Liverpool player's total and wax poetic about the amount and accuracy. Allen and Gerrard bossed the game, with twice as many successful passes as Norwich's midfield duo attempted; Wisdom had an incredible total for his Premiership debut; Suarez was far more accurate than usual; Reina's rarely been more involved; Henderson barely put a foot wrong, averaging more than a pass a minute after coming off the bench. I'd like to make special mention of Suso's total – 36 completed, 88% accuracy in just 59 minutes. Averaged out to a full 90 minutes, it'd be 63 attempted, 55 completed. Which an insane amount for a winger, demonstrating how heavily he was involved, and even more impressive when you consider it was his first Premiership start and not even in his favored position. Get him a long-term contract. Now.
Finally, it's also refreshing to see Liverpool's possession go up in the second half. That's only happened in one other match this season, when Liverpool was chasing an equalizer then potential winner against Sunderland, with 61.8% possession in the first half and 70.2% in the second half, although there were admittedly caveats against WBA and United because of the red cards. Nonetheless, it would have been all too easy for Liverpool to sit back and soak up any futile Norwich pressure due to its massive lead. No offense meant, but that's absolutely what Liverpool would have done last season. That's why Liverpool only had 56% possession in this fixture last season despite its overwhelming dominance. Instead, Liverpool kept playing its passing game, blunting Norwich by keeping the ball, which led to those astonishing passing totals and the egregious 21-pass move for Liverpool's fifth. And which is exactly how Rodgers wants Liverpool to play.
Death by football indeed.