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)
As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.
I could probably write a couple hundred words on the shot chart alone.
29 shots ties Liverpool's high for the season, set against Aston Villa. You may remember some differences between that day's output and yesterday. First and foremost, Liverpool put three more shots on target, scoring two more goals. Even more importantly, Liverpool created six clear-cut chances against Sunderland, scoring on three of them. None of Liverpool's 29 shots against Villa came from a clear-cut chance. Sometimes, it really is that simple. As against Villa, 14 of Liverpool's shots were from outside the box, but eight came after the third goal (including five of the last six), when Liverpool were all but reenacting a training session. Liverpool never went more than eight minutes without taking a shot, constantly putting pressure on Sunderland's goal no matter the scoreline. Unlike against QPR, Liverpool didn't take it easy after scoring the third, with more attacking third passes attempted and completed in the second half, including more inside the penalty box. Six of Sunderland's nine blocks came after the 59th minute – like QPR, happier to sit deeper and operate on damage control by that point, despite bringing on a striker for an attacking midfielder to start the second half. Liverpool also had almost the exact same possession totals in each half.
Meanwhile, six of Sunderland's eight shots came from defenders. McClean was the only player in the front four to take a shot – that early opportunity to equalize which he thankfully put wide. That, along with Matthew Kilgallon's back-post point-blank effort well saved by Reina in the 35th minute, were Sunderland's two clear cut chances. Clear-cut chances, and taking those chances, matter very very very much.
Unsurprisingly, given the similarities in result, there were an awful lot of statistical similarities with Sunday's match against QPR, most notably in Liverpool's passing. As against QPR, it was just the fourth time that Liverpool attempted more than 600 passes and completed more than 500, along with the reverse fixture against Sunderland and the win at Norwich. Yesterday's totals were the second-most of the season, surpassed only by the 631 completed and 700 attempted passes against the Canaries. It was also just the third time that two of Liverpool's midfielders completed more than 75 passes, as in the reverse fixture and against Norwich. Incidentally, it was also the first time that Lucas completed a full 90 minutes since returning from injury.
Yesterday was also another example of the earlier-proposed Reina passing theory, which is bordering on becoming the Reina Passing Axiom. He completed 28 of 31 passes, many of them short passes, and Liverpool won again. The side now has 6W-1D-1L when Reina completes more than 20 passes, and 1W-3D-5L when he doesn't. Seriously, no one tell Liverpool's opponent to press the goalkeeper and central defenders. It'll be our secret.
It was also just the second time that Liverpool have registered more tackles and interceptions than its opponent, as in the 4-0 win against Fulham. Neither side registered all that many of either. Liverpool average 21 tackles and 13 interceptions per match; the side made 13 tackles and 12 interceptions yesterday. Sunderland averages 21 tackles and 16 interceptions; they made 11 tackles and 11 interceptions yesterday. In Liverpool's defense (ba-dum-ching), they didn't have much defending to do, while many of those interceptions coming in the crucial center of its half. In Sunderland's defense… well, Sunderland didn't do much defending yesterday either, to their regret. In addition, both sides made more unsuccessful tackles than usual: five for Liverpool, eight for Sunderland. Although for some reason, the Lucas tackle that led to the extended possession prior to Liverpool's third is counted as an unsuccessful tackle by both StatsZone and Squawka (which is why it's not on either the defensive or goal events section above).