Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (h), Norwich (a)
Yep, this again. Warning: this week's charts (especially Liverpool's passing) may be hazardous to your health.
All data via StatsZone and Squawka.
Liverpool's passing accuracy was slightly worse against Manchester City – 81.1% yesterday versus 80.5% against the reigning league champions – but otherwise, it was a shambolic total compared to the matches against Norwich, United, Sunderland, Arsenal, and West Brom. The first half, where Liverpool completed just 76.9% of its passes, was especially disheartening. 68% accuracy in the attacking third is also not good.
Probably not coincidentally, it was Gerrard's least accurate performance as well, completing just 73% of his passes, compared to 89% against Norwich, 95% against United, 85% against Sunderland, 81% against Arsenal, 78% against City, and 82% against West Brom. In fact, six other Liverpool starters had their least accurate match of the season: Reina, Agger, Johnson, Şahin, Suso, and Wisdom (although, admittedly, the last two have only started twice). Stoke succeeded in dragging Liverpool down to its level. That – more than the poor finishing, more than anything – should be Rodgers' biggest complaint. And is also partly Rodgers' fault. Stoke are not an unknown quantity. They do not change their style from match to match. Liverpool, and Rodgers, should know how to compensate by now.
As against Arsenal, every outfield Liverpool starter either took a shot or created a chance. It is probably not a good sign that Liverpool have scored zero goals when that happens.
We knew the shooting accuracy would inevitably drop from the heady heights reached against Norwich. I did not expected it to plummet this far this fast. 18 Liverpool shots, just two on target. 11 off-target, 5 blocked. Both of Liverpool's on-target shots came from outside the area – with all 10 from inside the box off-target or blocked – but it was two of eight compared to four of six against Norwich. One week after a hat-trick, Suarez didn't have a single shot on target: two wide (one off the post) and two blocked. Including the two substitutes, Liverpool's front four took ten shots. All ten were either off-target or blocked. Regression to the regrettable mean.
Lacking the "goal events" category, I included a timeline of Liverpool's shots instead. It's not surprising to see an increase in shots in the final 20 minutes of the match, but it's disappointing that Liverpool hit the target with none of them. Nine shots from the 70th minute on: seven off-target, two blocked, four of the nine shots from outside the box. Liverpool's desperation was all too palpable, and all too easily dealt with by Stoke. I apologize for continuing to harp on his performance, but it was surprising to see Gerrard not register an attempt after the 34th minute, though.
Defensively, Liverpool did very well cutting out Stoke's play on the flanks, whether through tackles or interceptions, ensuring Crouch had very little supply from Kightly, Walters, and Etherington. Şahin was responsible for five of Liverpool's 17 interceptions; Agger and Wisdom each had three, no one else more than one. Gerrard and Sterling were Liverpool's top tacklers, with four apiece. Stoke attempted just eight crosses (not counting the five corners); they attempted an average of 19.7 per game in the first six Premiership matches. No other opponent held them below 14 (against Manchester City). With that route cut off, Stoke's most frequent pass combination was Begovic to Crouch, accounting for eight of the 11 passes that Begovic completed.
But Stoke's defense also cut out Liverpool's main supply line, with tackles and interceptions clogging the area just outside the penalty area. Suarez and Sterling struggled to break into the box, with just ten successful dribbles out of the 25 they attempted. It's also no coincidence that Stoke committed the joint-most fouls of any Liverpool opponent this season – 18, the same total as Sunderland. Somehow Sunderland only incurred one yellow card, while Stoke had six memorable ones. And I'm sure we can all think of a few more that went uncalled.