Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (h), Norwich (a), Stoke (h)
Are we getting bored of these yet?
Match data from Stats Zone and Squawka, infographic idea from On Goals Scored (who recently posted a lovely look at previous Bundesliga champions that you should check out).
All in all, it's not incredibly different to Liverpool's statistics against Stoke, except in one key area. The goal, the crucial, crucial goal. The difference between more disappointment and three much-needed points.
Liverpool attempted and completed about 20 fewer passes than against Stoke, while the passing accuracy was a half-percent better – 81.6% to 81.1%. The match against Manchester City remains Liverpool's low for the season, but the Reds were far more accurate against West Brom, Arsenal, Sunderland, United, and Norwich. Liverpool were more accurate in the middle of the pitch on Saturday – specifically Gerrard, who played quite well, thankfully avoiding his Captain Hollywood shtick when forcing the game, but Liverpool didn't need to force the game after Sterling's 29th minute goal. But Liverpool were similarly inaccurate in attack, specifically from Suarez, Şahin, and Johnson, evidence of Reading's parked bus defense – as Stoke did at Anfield two weeks ago. It's something Liverpool will have to get used to, but that's something Liverpool have had to get used to for years now.
More noticeable is the shots and chances created total. Specifically from Suarez. Wow. The Uruguayan took 10 shots (his high for the season) and created six chances (his high for the season). Unfortunately, nine of his ten shots failed to hit the target: six off-target, three blocked. 27 shots in total was also Liverpool's high for the season – four more than the previous high against Sunderland and ten above Liverpool's average through the first seven matches. If not for Sterling's early, excellently-taken goal, we'd be lamenting Liverpool's horrific finishing yet again. Thankfully, one was all Liverpool needed. Also, despite taking 27 shots, none came after the 77th minute, that desperate stretch when Liverpool clung onto its narrow lead.
Liverpool noticeably focused their attacks down the left flank, constantly attacking Shaun Cummings, evidenced by Sterling and Johnson's season high in shots and Sterling's five chances created. Johnson spent the majority of the match as a second left-winger, with a average position ahead of both Gerrard and Allen, almost level with Şahin and Suso (via WhoScored), which allowed Sterling to move into central positions, into space away from Cummings, including on the move for Liverpool's lone goal.
Reading did similar when actually springing attacks of their own. Outside of the holding midfielder Leigertwood, McAnuff and Shorey attempted the most passes for the away side, while the majority of Liverpool's tackles and interceptions came in that zone. Wisdom, Şahin, and Suso all made two tackles in that area – joint-most for any Liverpool player along with Gerrard – while Wisdom also led the way in aerial duels, completing four of his six attempted. McAnuff is one of Reading's most-dangerous attackers, and Liverpool's raw right back did an outstanding job on him all match. Special mention also goes to Suso, who tracked back excellently to help Wisdom, something rarely seen from an 18-year-old attacker. Pogrebnyak is Reading's other focal point, and he was utterly invisible, wholly marked out of the match by Skrtel and Agger. It's amusing to see so many shots and chances created from Liverpool's striker while Reading's striker tallied none.
Finally, the possession graphic remains eminently disappointing, specifically in the second half. Liverpool have seen their possession totals drop in the second half in four of eight league matches, but two were when Liverpool had a man sent off, with the third against Arsenal, where Liverpool tried to draw the opposition out in the hopes of springing more effective counter-attacks and were throughly beaten regardless. But, no matter the lead, Liverpool should expect to dominate the ball against Reading, especially when holding onto a one-nil lead. That, more than Liverpool's marginally disappointing passing and all-too-usual profligacy in front of goal, will command Rodgers' attention this week.