Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (h), Norwich (a), Stoke (h), Reading (h), Everton (a), Newcastle (h), Chelsea (a), Wigan (h), Swansea (a), Tottenham (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Aston Villa (h), Fulham (h), Stoke (a), QPR (a), Sunderland (h), Manchester United (a), Norwich (h)
As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.
373 attempted and 300 completed is Liverpool's fewest passes since the 2-2 draw at Everton, where Liverpool completed 241 of 314. Those are the only two matches where Liverpool have attempted fewer than 400 passes; the win over Wigan and draw at Chelsea are the only other matches where Liverpool completed fewer than 400.
More depressing was how few passes Liverpool attempted and completed in the attacking third – 54 successful of 76 in total. Again, only the Everton draw rivals that total, where Liverpool completed 63 of 103. In fact, Liverpool completed more attacking third passes than they attempted yesterday in every match except that at Everton. Aside from Everton, the previous low was 88 completed at Manchester United.
Unsurprisingly, it was also Liverpool's lowest possession total of the season. 40.7% possession in the first half was a low for the season, quickly broken by 35.7% possession in the second half. Prior to yesterday's match, Liverpool had been held to less than 50% possession in just three previous matches this season: at City and Everton and against Wigan.
Knowing how easily Liverpool can be exposed on the counter-attack and considering how strong Arsenal were in attack helps explain why Rodgers was so conservative. It's still disappointing because of Arsenal's defensive fragility and even more because that Liverpool went on to lose a two-goal lead, but it's at least understandable. Maybe Liverpool could have snatched a third by piling bodies forward in the last 15-20 minutes, but Liverpool were even more likely to lose the match by doing so. As West Ham, Newcastle, and Tottenham – among others – can attest.
Some credit where due. Arsenal prevented Liverpool from playing, whether through pressing or midfield ball control. Wilshere was phenomenal, Arsenal's best player and the closest thing I've seen to Gerrard at his peak in a long time, but Aaron Ramsey's passing total was also impressive. Via to Stephen McCarthy of EPL Index, no player has attempted that many passes against Liverpool in the last four seasons; the next closest was Modric with 104 at White Hart Lane last season, a match where Liverpool had two players sent off. With its passing and possession, Arsenal did to Liverpool what Liverpool usually does to its opposition. And like in multiple Liverpool matches, especially prior to December, all Arsenal got for it was a single point.
It's no revelation that using Suarez on the left flank decreased his attacking efficiency. Although he scored the opener, Suarez's shots and chances created were both below his usual output; he's averaging just under six shots and just under three chances created per match this season. Often starting from a deeper position, he was also less effective taking on a defender, with just one of seven dribbles successful. However, four interceptions and four tackles were both highs for the season; four interceptions was the most in the squad, only Lucas made more successful tackles. But, as Rodgers noted after the match, Suarez eventually tired at a crucial time, with both of Arsenal's goals coming from that side of the pitch before Enrique could come on, unable to help out before Johnson fouled Walcott for the free kick, unable to get close to Arsenal's attackers during the passive move for the second. While his four shots were a team-high, he didn't take one between the 29th and 88th minutes. The match at Oldham showed how Suarez as a #10 can disrupt Liverpool's balance, yesterday's match demonstrates how pushing him out to the wing somewhat nullifies his threat. Rodgers still has a massive task to figure out how to fully integrate him and Sturridge in the attack, and that's without Borini or Sterling seeing the field and Coutinho still to come.
And it seems I can't write one of these without mentioning the Reina Passing Theory, again coming true. He only completed 10 of his 24, his worst accuracy of the season, although he made fewer passes against Aston Villa. Liverpool's record when he completes fewer than 20 passes is now 1W-4D-6L and 6W-1D-1L when he completes 20 or more. All those Arsenal tackles and interceptions in Liverpool's half definitely affected Reina's passing and Liverpool's build-up. You can be sure that City will do similar on Sunday.
22 interceptions were a season-high for Liverpool. They'd averaged slightly more than 13 per match, with a previous high of 19 against Fulham. All but four of those interceptions came in Liverpool's half. 43 clearances and 19 successful tackles were also well above Liverpool's average. Meanwhile, 10 of Arsenal's 13 interceptions were in Liverpool's half – again, the sort of high pressing which frequently disjoints Liverpool's control of a match.