31 December 2012

Visualized: Liverpool 3-0 QPR

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), Tottenham (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Aston Villa (h), Fulham (h), Stoke (a)

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

Not much surprising; Liverpool controlled the match from start to finish, got the early goals (emphasis on the plural) in the first 30 minutes which allowed them to cruise to the finish line without breaking a sweat in the second half.

The 520 completed passes and 614 attempted passes were second- and third-most Liverpool played in a single match this season. The side completed more against Sunderland and Norwich, attempted more against just Norwich. Those are the only three league matches where Liverpool have attempted more than 600 passes and completed more than 500.

First proposed after the 4-0 victory over Fulham, the Reina passing theory remains in effect. Reina completed 20 passes against QPR, Liverpool won. Reina completed 16 passes against Stoke, Liverpool lost. The majority against QPR were short passes, but he even completed more than 50% of his long passes (six of 11). The updated record when Reina completes 20 or more passes is 5W-1D-1L; 1W-3D-5L when he doesn't. When the opposition presses the goalkeeper and defenders, forcing more long passes from Reina, Liverpool struggles to build attacks. Thankfully, not all sides can press Liverpool like Stoke, Villa, and a handful of others.

The shot-by-shot chart emphasizes just how much Liverpool took its foot off the gas in the second half. The side's only shot in the final 35 minutes was Agger's blocked effort following a short corner. Comparatively, ten of Liverpool's 19 shots came in the final 20 minutes of the first half, including the killer third goal, with four in the three minutes prior to that death knell. A spell of pressure wearing down the opposition, leading to a goal. That's exactly what we haven't seen enough of this season. Liverpool took more than 15 shots in a single half just once this season: 21 in the second half against Aston Villa (and we all remember how that worked out, mostly because 11 of those 21 came outside the box). There have been three matches this season where Liverpool took fewer than 15 shots in 90 minutes: against United, Everton, and Chelsea.

Similar is the case when comparing Liverpool's passing chalkboards for each half. It's even clearer when considering just the attacking third passes, attempting 21 fewer in the final 45 minutes. Most notably, there's a big hole on the right flank. Much of that is due to Enrique's injury – compare Downing and Suso's passes received – but Liverpool were also simply far less attacking-oriented after the interval.

Some credit for that also goes to QPR's change in tactics; Redknapp wasn't kidding about "damage limitation" with the Derry for Cisse substitution. QPR made just one more tackle and three more interceptions in the second half, but those interceptions came far deeper in their own half, just as happy as Liverpool to keep the scoreline at 3-0, sitting back in order to prevent yet another breakthrough.

One of QPR's (and Cisse's) many failings was a failure to test Agger and Skrtel in the air, which was a large reason for both Villa and Stoke's success. The away side won 11 of the 19 aerial duels; Villa won 16 of 26, Stoke 24 of 50. That wasn't even close to an issue yesterday. QPR won just one in Liverpool's defensive third: Clint Hill out-jumping Raheem Sterling in the 77th minute during a free kick – a free kick that Liverpool eventually counter-attacked from. However, Steven Fletcher should present more of a problem on Wednesday, especially with Sunderland's willingness to cross through Johnson and McClean, as well as Enrique's likely absence at left back.

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