29 November 2012

Visualized: Liverpool 1-2 Tottenham

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), Swansea (a)

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

Aside from possession, Liverpool's stats were quite similar to Sunday's match against Swansea. 14 more passes than on Sunday. Four fewer shots – 17 to 21 – with four fewer on target, but one more goal. Three more tackles and seven fewer interceptions, and like against Swansea, many came in the opposition's half. Which I guess is no surprise given Liverpool started with the same XI and made similar substitutions.

At the same time, Spurs attempted and completed around 200 fewer passes than Swansea on Sunday, making approximately half as many in the attacking third. After Swansea had made the most tackles by any Liverpool opponent this season, Spurs did one better with 27 successful out of 37 attempted. Spurs also had fewer shots than Swansea did, but put seven of theirs on target compared to two from the Swans.

The short version is: statistics lie. Or, at least, some statistics lie. But we've long since learned that possession and passes don't necessarily translate into results.

For the first time, a defender is Liverpool's most voluminous passer, rather than Gerrard or Allen. Agger attempted 72 passes, completing 64. Just eight came in Spurs' half, including one of the six Liverpool chances created. Five of those six were created by defenders, the sixth from Enrique. None from Gerrard, Sterling, Henderson, Shelvey, or – as against Swansea – Suarez, for just the ninth time in his 55 Premiership starts. Granted, he set up one of Liverpool's best opportunities – the throughball that should have led to a Gerrard penalty – and, as per usual, registered far more shots than any other Liverpool player. Small margins, but the last two matches have sadly reinforced the notion that as Suarez goes, so goes Liverpool. If not Suarez then no one, unless we get a comedy own goal off of Bale's face.

Meanwhile, Jose Enrique was Liverpool's least accurate outfield starter, the only one to complete less than 75% of his passes. Again. He may present more attacking threat than Liverpool's other current options for the left-sided forward berth, but remains guilty of giving the ball away in the final third far, far too often; 11 of his 14 unsuccessful passes came in the attacking third, killing any headway Liverpool had built. Again, none of this is news, and as long as Liverpool remain wasteful and profligate in the final third, Liverpool will continue suffering setbacks.

Yesterday was just the fourth time that Liverpool have had more than 70% possession in a single half, along with the second halves against Sunderland, Newcastle, and Norwich. Two of those previous three ended in draws, with Liverpool scoring just once in the second half despite that vast edge in possession. At least those were both equalizers. Like against Sunderland and Newcastle, Liverpool got the one goal, but unfortunately, Liverpool were two behind rather than the usual one by the time they got their act together.

For all the talk about how Villas-Boas was going to change everything, upset the finely tuned Harry Redknapp machine, this Spurs side looked an awful lot like the same Spurs side which has beaten Liverpool four times in the previous two seasons. They were more effective in pressing from the front, but remain similarly direct and similarly open, reliant on speed down the flanks and Dawson and Gallas heading everything out of the box. And as it's been since, say, 2008-09, it remains successful against Liverpool.

Finally, while Liverpool yet again lose because of an inability to score and continued defensive errors, I can't go without another mention of Phil Dowd's refereeing performance. Dempsey's free kick for the second goal was a joke, that neither Suarez nor Gerrard won a penalty was a joke. As Rodgers rightfully pointed out after the match, but like with Dalglish, I assume it'll be treated by non-Liverpool fans as "the lady doth protest too much" and referees will continue to smile and wave away valid appeals.

That said, just as frustrating was the amount of fouls called for either side. Tottenham won 17 free kicks, Liverpool just seven. Seven of those 17 Tottenham free kicks came in Liverpool's half, leading to scoring opportunities – including the second goal conceded. None – none! – of Liverpool's free kicks came in Tottenham's half. Tottenham commit fewer fouls than every side but Manchester United (quelle surprise!) while Liverpool were necessarily more aggressive, behind for nearly the entire game, but that stat still seems incredibly unlikely. No matter. Bale's dive will be brushed under the carpet, as will Dempsey's, as will Vertonghen's late on. It's typical that after Bale received the yellow for his tumble, the Spurs fans started singing "Luis Suarez, we know what you are." Narratives are hard to change, especially when Her Majesty's Press Corps has little desire to change them.

Regardless, complaining about the referee after a loss always appears sour grapes. And, yeah, it partly is. The above statistics show that Liverpool weren't necessarily awful, and don't necessarily deserve the defeat. But defeats will continue for the same reason Liverpool have previously lost and drawn matches. We know where Liverpool need to improve. We've known for quite some time now.


suley said...

What I dont understand is why Rodgers keeps on playing Gerrard and why the team keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. It feels like the same story week in week out. I never thought liverpool would be contenders for relegation but it is increasingly looking that way. Hey it happened to Newcastle and it can definitely happen to us... its amazing how much we've fallen in a few short years...

Mr. Snrub said...

See, I thought it was the Travelling Kop that was singing "Gareth Bale, we know what you are." But I could be wrong.