26 November 2012

Visualized: Liverpool 0-0 Swansea

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)

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

The two sides, unsurprisingly I guess, were nearly equal in passes and possession. Other than the dangerous and heavily involved Pablo Hernandez, Liverpool's forwards completed more passes than their counterparts. Liverpool also heavily out-passed Swansea in the attacking third. Gerrard and Allen completed more passes than any other player; Swansea's defense played more passes than Liverpool's defenders – except for Agger, who notably came forward at times to try and add an extra man in the opposition half.

Ki's involvement, along with Liverpool's fewer shots in the second half, demonstrate how effective that substitution was. The other four changes, two for each side, did little to change the tenor of the game, but Swansea were much more secure in the second half with Ki's steadying presence in midfield. Liverpool may have had more possession in the second half, but took five fewer shots, only four from the restart until the final ten minutes. I was surprised that Laudrup didn't start him from the beginning, similar to the tactics used in last month's League Cup meeting, where Swansea so thoroughly negated Liverpool while scoring three: once on a set play (when they were at their most-threatening yesterday) and twice on the break.

That substitution, however, also negated what little impact Michu had in the first half. Swansea's top scorer and best player so far this season was surprisingly irrelevant. The only match where he completed fewer passes was against Wigan, a game where he scored the winning goal and was named man-of-the-match. Yesterday was just the third time that Michu failed to create a single chance; Swansea have drawn all three matches when that's happened.

At the same time, Swansea did well in canceling out Liverpool's talisman. Suarez also created zero chances, for just the eighth time in his 54 Premiership starts. Three of those eight games came against yesterday's opponents, all three of the league matches against Swansea since promotion. Three games, I'll churlishly remind, where Liverpool have failed to score.

Liverpool had its joint-highest percentage of shots on target in the league, equaling the 42.86% against United, with six of 14 on target in that 1-2 loss. Gerhard Tremmel's nine saves were a high for any Premier League match this season. But as the above shots on-target chart demonstrates, most were easy saves for Tremmel. Johnson's effort in the 24th when through on goal, Shelvey's rocket in injury time, and Suarez's 58th-minute low drive into the near post corner from a narrow angle were the only which truly tested the keeper; the other six were routine catches, none even close to spilled in the hopes of a fortuitous rebound.

There was, however, a vast disparity in the defensive statistics, which I guess shows that Liverpool were more threatening, on the front foot for longer. Not that it did much good, as those totals also demonstrate just how well Swansea defended. 30 interceptions and 26 successful tackles were both highs for Liverpool opponents this season. The vast majority of Swansea's tackles and interceptions were deep in its own half. Five of Liverpool's 12 tackles and five of 16 interceptions in the opposition's half.

In a match so narrow, it was unsurprisingly decided – or not decided – by the finest of margins. Enrique narrowly offside – or as some (including Rodgers) have argued, narrowly onside – on Liverpool's best passing move of the game, a chance that would have been created by Suarez. Sterling's rocket off the crossbar, the first time that Liverpool have hit the woodwork in the league since they were punished by three woodwork strikes in the last 0-0, against Stoke.

Like last season, many, many Liverpool matches are decided by narrow margins. And like last season, those narrow margins haven't gone Liverpool's way anywhere near often enough.

No comments :