17 January 2011

Liverpool v Everton: Four Crucial Changes

1) Tackles won
Everton (H): 20 out of 46 in opposition half (43%)
Everton (A): 14 out of 38 in opposition half (37%)

2) Successful clearances
Everton (H): 23 out of 44 clearances successful (52%)
Everton (A): 13 out of 33 clearances successful (39%)

3) Shots
Everton (H): 4 of 20 shots from outside the box (20%)
      - 1 on target, 2 blocked, 1 off target
Everton (A): 15 of 21 shots from outside the box (71%)
      - 4 on target, 4 blocked, 7 off target

4) Reina passes
Everton (H): 27 out of 35 passes successful (77%)
Everton (A): 20 out of 30 passes successful (67%)

1) Pressing from the front
Goes without saying, and the biggest improvement we've seen in the last three games. The increased number of tackles taking place in Everton's half demonstrates the return to pressing from the front, a trait which Liverpool used to great effect under Benitez and sorely lacked under Hodgson.

2) Less hoofing (successful clearances)
'Hoof and hope' doesn't allow a team to control possession or the pace of the game, which is almost always asking for trouble. The return of Daniel Agger has assuredly helped in this regard, and Liverpool somewhat returned to the 'bad old days' when Kyrgiakos had to replace the Dane at halftime, but the chalkboard still shows progress. The increase in successful clearances means Liverpool's at least keeping possession instead of waiting for the opposition to attack yet again. Also notice that the vast majority of clearances yesterday came from inside Liverpool's penalty box, whereas in October, a number came from the flanks (cough Konchesky cough). The increased number of clearances from outside the 18-yard box also demonstrate a slightly higher defensive line, with the center-backs playing further forward, compared to how deep the back four sat when Hodgson was in charge.

3) Less hoofing (Reina passes)
Neither chalkboard is the horror that was Reina's performance against Wolverhampton, but more completed passes show Liverpool's increased focus on building from the back and maintaining possession. As suits Reina's talents. Incidentally, the higher number of successful passes to the right flank shows that Kuyt was doing his job collecting Reina's clearances – a combination that also thrived under Benitez. The Dutchman was missing from the last meeting due to injury.

4) Attacking cohesion (shots from distance)
Liverpool continues to look disjointed in front of goal, but far less so than when Hodgson was in charge. All those shots from distance in the October derby demonstrate a lack of a plan once Liverpool got into the final third – basically, it was the attacking version of Liverpool's defensive 'hit and hope.' With no concrete ideas up against two strong center-backs, Liverpool resorted to blasts from distance, praying one would come good. That wasn't the case on Sunday, where attacking players actually attempted to get into the penalty box, leading to two goals. The improvement we've seen from Torres in the last three games, clearly looking far more interested, also played a huge role.

Yesterday's result, as well as the two goals conceded, show that Liverpool still have some distance to make up. There are still big worries about the defense and the team still hasn't won under Dalglish. But, at a bare minimum, we wanted progress, and we're getting progress, as well as a playing style that suits the players in the squad. Which is all we could ask for after this season from hell.

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