29 October 2012

Visualized: Liverpool 2-2 Everton

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (h), Norwich (a), Stoke (h), Reading (h)

Avert your eyes. This is, by far, my least favorite match infographic so far.

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

Yesterday saw the fewest Liverpool passes attempted and completed in the nine matches this season, as well as the lowest pass accuracy in those nine matches. We saw the fewest Liverpool shots taken in those nine matches. And we saw the least possession Liverpool has had in those nine matches.

Liverpool's previous low in both passes and possession was against defending champions Manchester City, a match where Liverpool still mostly out-played its opposition and would have won if not for a despicable back pass. Liverpool completed 131 more passes that day. That was also the only other match where Liverpool were held below 50% possession this season. Even when down to ten men for long stretches against West Brom and United, Liverpool were able to keep the ball away from its opponents more often than not.

The Reds completed 224 passes more against West Brom, when they lost by three and spent just over half an hour with ten men. They completed 155 more against Manchester United, playing with ten men for just over 51 minutes. Wholly outplayed in the 0-2 loss against Arsenal, Liverpool still completed 232 more passes against the Gunners, almost double what they tallied yesterday. Liverpool actually attempted and completed fewer passes than Reading did against Liverpool last week; only Stoke, Sunderland, and Norwich's totals against Liverpool were lower than Liverpool's totals yesterday, and barely in the case of Sunderland and Norwich.

Everton are also the first opponent to take more shots than Liverpool since opening day, when West Brom took 18 to Liverpool's 16, almost all coming in the second half. Norwich equalled Liverpool's total when those sides met at Carrow Road, both with 16, but Liverpool were notably a bit more potent. The West Brom match was also the only other match with fewer Liverpool chances created, nine against the Bagges compared to 11 yesterday. Liverpool were also limited to 11 chances created against Manchester United, but of course, there was the "unfairly down to ten men" excuse in that case. And Liverpool held United to just six chances created.

Almost every Everton player out-passed their Liverpool counterpart; only Suarez attempted and completed more passes than Jelavic (although Jelavic's passing accuracy was slightly better), and combined, Suso and Shelvey attempted and completed more than Mirallas and Gueye. Most disappointing is Everton's overwhelming numbers in midfield and defense, Liverpool's usual areas of strength.

Everton's strong pressing from its front four – Jelavic on Agger, Fellaini on Skrtel and/or Allen, Mirallas then Gueye on Wisdom, and (to a slightly lesser extent) Naismith on Enrique – led to massively reduced passing totals from Liverpool's back four, even if it's not shown in the tackles and interceptions section. Skrtel completed 24 fewer passes than his average through eight league starts, Agger completed 26 fewer passes than his average through seven league starts, and Wisdom completed 32 fewer passes than his average through three league starts (although, he at least has the excuse of going off in the 70th minute). All three of those defenders attempted and completed less than half of their usual total. Similarly, Allen completed just 37 passes after averaging 69 in the first eight matches. All four of the above Liverpool players attempted and completed their lowest totals of the season, which was the case for nearly every Liverpool starter. All 20 of Brad Jones' attempted passes were long passes, and he completed just eight. Everton knew the disjointing effect this would have on Liverpool's game, and it worked excellently, hauling Everton back into the game by refusing Liverpool to settle on the ball with its 2-0 lead. I'm fairly certain other teams will try to copy the playbook if they have the legs and stamina to do so.

I realize that Merseyside derbies are often statistical anomalies, but Liverpool were beaten in almost every metric. And yes, Liverpool were away from home, while most of the matches I've compared the performance to – City, Arsenal, United – were at Anfield. Still, these totals are simply not good.

Any positives to take away? Liverpool tackled well, with 19 of 23 successful, especially on Everton's left flank – where Everton are often most dangerous. Allen was Liverpool's best in this regard, with six successful tackles all on that side of the field, doubling his previous high for the season (against West Brom); he had averaged 2.25 through the first eight league contests. Wisdom and Enrique also added three tackles each. Allen also won six free kicks, often relieving pressure in Liverpool's half, and made three interceptions. Even when his passes, possession, and accuracy stats were lower than we're used to, he was still one of Liverpool's best players.

The other positive? If not for a wildly incorrect decision by a wildly incompetent linesman, Liverpool would have won despite the statistical horror show.

I guess that counts as a positive.


KeithC said...

Nate --

I think the stats paint LFC in a harsher light than the performance merited. Everton's best spell was, quite obviously, the onslaught of pressure after Liverpool went up 2-0. From the second half on, though, I can't seem to remember Everton creating too many clear-cut chances -- certainly there were nauseating set-piece moments. But I can't remember anything as clear cut as, say, Sterling's 1v1 mis-chip or the atrocious decision at the end.

Then again, I should say that I'm going from what might be a faulty memory of a game which I spent much of the second half pacing around and biting the top of my shirt like a lunatic. I was hoping to watch it a second time to get a more detached perspective, but ESPN3 apparently didn't archive it. NBC's takeover can't get here soon enough.

Ultimately, though, in my Rodgers ledger, I'm going to dock him for risking Suarez + Johnson against Anzhi -- those two guys are utterly irreplaceable, whereas there's at least a bit of cover w/r/t Gerrard -- while giving him major plaudits for the tactical half-time shift against Everton. He also gets points for going with Coates (twice now, including the Man City game) over Carragher, as it would be very easy for him to go with the latter while spouting the experience cliche.


Steve Jensen said...

I also think the stats are a BIT misleading, in the sense that they overstate Everton's dominance. I thought Everton dominated the first half, even for the first 20 minutes when we went up two goals. And, of course, from 20 minutes to halftime was a debacle.
The second half, however, was much different, even though Everton continued to dominate possession. We played the second half in the style of an Italian counter-attacking team, complete with a 3-5-2 formation. In the second half, we ceded them possession, and they created a lot of chances in the style of the 2011-12 LFC squad. But we had the better chances in the second half, I thought. Too bad we didn't take any of them ... oh wait ...

I was delighted with Rodgers' tactical decisions at halftime. There has been a lot of concern that Rodgers is too much of a stubborn idealist who will not make tactical changes in a match even if his possession-based 4-2-1-3/4-3-3 is not working. But the tactics we used in the second half were almost the exact opposite of "tiki-taka." Our regular game was clearly not working in the first half, and he totally switched the tactics. It saved the match. In the end, it actually won the match, but that's another story...
Anyway, I was extremely pleased at Rodgers' display of flexibility and pragmatism.

Cooker said...

This was the first match I've seen this season where the goalie rarely attempted to pass out from the back. I think this accounts for most of the reduction in passes and completions... the small passes among the defense and midfield were reduced when Jones kept hitting it long. Whether this was due to Everton's pressure up the field or to Rodgers making a tactical decision to eliminate possible mistakes in the back isn't clear.