05 November 2012

Visualized: Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle

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

Much easier on the eyes than last week's infographic, but still leading to the same result.

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

Normal service has resumed. Liverpool completed twice as many passes than Newcastle, took twice as many shots, and finished with nearly two-thirds of the possession. And still drew, after conceding from Newcastle's first shot on-target, one of the three shots on-target through 90 minutes. Normal service, indeed.

Suarez and Jones' improved passing totals stand out. Lacking the pressure put on by Everton, Jones was able to attempt and complete multiple short passes to start the attack rather than hoofing it long and hoping for the best – the sum of his match last Sunday. It's little surprise that Agger, Skrtel, and Enrique's totals were subsequently far better. The only match were Suarez was more accurate was opening day against West Brom, completing 88% of his passes to yesterday's 83%, while he tied his season-high for chances created with six, as against Reading – and should have had two assists, had Shelvey finished the close-range shot in the 70th and had Sterling not lingered just long enough to allow Taylor to block six minutes later. Going into this match, his pass accuracy was 75%; he'd completed just 62% and 64% of his passes against Reading and Everton. And once again, Suarez was the hub of everything good in attack, by some distance, with 30% of Liverpool's total shots and 40% of Liverpool's chances created. And 100% of Liverpool's goals.

It's no coincidence that Newcastle's four top passers, the only players to complete more than 17 passes, were three midfielders (Anita switched into the holding role after Perch's injury in the 27th) and Cisse on the left flank. Liverpool did well to deny Cabaye and Jonas much opportunity, but as soon as they had possession, they looked to push it up the flank, and to Cisse far more often than Ben Arfa. That Cisse was on the ball more than any other Newcastle attacker demonstrates how they focused on that section of the pitch when in possession, targeting the 19-year-old Wisdom. Who also, not coincidentally, attempted and completed far fewer passes than his defensive counterparts. And yes, Newcastle's goal came from his side of the pitch, albeit after Liverpool's other full-back was beaten for strength and pace in the run-up. This criticism isn't meant to be overly harsh; honestly, it's to be expected from a 19-year-old at the beginning of his senior career, despite his promising start against Norwich and Stoke, forced into an everyday role by lack of squad depth and injuries to the two players ahead of him on the depth chart. It'll improve, but there will be growing pains.

Luckily for Liverpool, Opta differentiates between passes and crosses. Otherwise, the passing total would be far, far lower. Including corners – Liverpool had 14 to Newcastle's 3 – Liverpool attempted 37 crosses. Just one was successful: Downing's chance created in the 90th minute, which Shelvey softly headed straight at the keeper. You'd almost think Andy Carroll was in the side; that total rivals any of last season's matches, where crossing was Liverpool's modus operandi.

Of course, credit for some of that goes to how resolutely Newcastle defended, especially after the furious opening quarter of the match, which the shot-by-shot chart helps demonstrate. The best comparison is the match against Reading two weeks ago, which saw 13 shots from outside the box to 12 yesterday, and the same number of shots blocked (9). Just two of Liverpool's 16 shots before Suarez's goal were on-target; six blocked, eight off-target. Seven players took shots, but Suarez and Shelvey accounted for all six of the shots on target. And that's the pretty much the only nice thing that can be said about all three of Shelvey's efforts. Noticeably, all five of Gerrard's shots came from outside the box: four blocked, one off-target.

Liverpool's shots came in spurts: the first 21 minutes, the final ten minutes of the first half, just before the hour mark, and in the ten minutes following Liverpool's goal. Of course, Newcastle's goal came on a quick attack in the midst of one of those spurts. Liverpool were able to get off just two shots after Coloccini's red card, evidence of Newcastle's willingness to pack the box and settle for a point – which they did well – despite near constant possession and five set plays in the final few minutes (two corners, three free kicks). That Liverpool's lone goal came on a direct long ball, one which didn't allow Newcastle to settle into resolute trenches, shows that Pardew's defense held firm against Liverpool's probing possession pressure throughout the 90 minutes, not just when defending with all 10 men after Coloccini's dismissal.

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