12 February 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 0-2 West Brom

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), QPR (a), Sunderland (h), Manchester United (a), Norwich (h), Arsenal (a), Manchester City (a)

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

The shot-by-shot chart tells you pretty much all you need to know. For the first 77 minutes, Liverpool averaged a shot every three minutes and 20 seconds; the longest stretch without taking a shot was all of seven minutes. No matter Liverpool's other faults – and we've a few to choose from – wastefulness remains the most galling. Sure, only seven of those shots were on target, while 12 of the 23 came from outside the box, but Liverpool were creating chances and testing Foster despite West Brom's determined defense. None of those chances were better than the luckily earned 77th minute penalty. But as soon as Liverpool failed to take advantage of one of those rare strokes of luck, confidence fell through the floor. The look on every single player's face said "oh shit, not again." Yes, again. Unsurprisingly, it didn't take West Brom long to snatch the lead. And Liverpool attempted just two more shots, both blocked, in the subsequent 15 or so minutes. Once again, we're ruing Liverpool's mentality as much as, if not more than, the performance. Which has been the case all too often for the last, oh say, three years. Incidentally, there has been a new manager in each of those three seasons. Funny how that works.

That said, it's not as if Liverpool were especially coherent in attack. Neither of Sturridge's replacements – Shelvey as a starter or Borini as a substitute – were able to be that much needed second man in the penalty box, either often playing far deeper or wider, neither creating a single chance and registering just three shots between them. None of Suarez's seven shots were on target – three off, four blocked – meaning that once again, the insufferable, barely human Jonas Olsson kept him well guarded. Suarez has faced 16 teams at least twice in the league. West Brom is one of just three that he's failed to score against; the others are Swansea and Tottenham (and he scored against Swansea in the League Cup).

However, the most criminally wasteful were Liverpool's fullbacks. Jose Enrique – he of the 69.7% passing accuracy – was the only outfield Liverpool player, substitute or starter, to fail to either take a shot or create a chance. Johnson created just one, for Henderson's back heel in the 52nd, but despite attempting 27 passes in the final third, he completed just three into the box. And completed none of his four attempted crosses. That chance for Henderson was Johnson's only successful pass from inside the box, only attempting one other short, errant one on the edge of the area. With West Brom packed into their own defensive third, Liverpool were heavily reliant on the fullbacks to help find space in attack. Neither succeeded at that task, by any definition.

But Liverpool's final third passing was pretty much abhorrent from all involved. 104 completed of 150 attempted: 69.3% accuracy. Liverpool were less accurate in the final third in just four matches this season: August's 2-2 home draw against City, the 0-0 draw against Stoke, the 2-2 draw at Everton, and the 1-2 loss at Spurs.

Yesterday was just the fifth match where Liverpool took more shots from outside the box than inside the box. The others? Both 2-2 draws against City (where three of Liverpool's four goals came from outside the box), 1-1 against Newcastle at Anfield, and 5-0 against Norwich at Anfield. Six of Liverpool's 12 shots inside the box were on target, including outstanding Foster saves on Henderson's backheel and both Gerrard's penalty and blast from 15 yards out. But just one of Liverpool's 13 shots from outside the box were on target: Downing's effort in the 26th minute, well hit but too close to the keeper.

West Brom's three central midfielders – Morrison, Yacob, and Mulumbu – were responsible for 48% of Albion's interceptions and 63% of the tackles. Liverpool had the misfortune of being the first side in more than two months to face the Mulumbu/Yacob midfield pairing. The duo combined for 10 successful tackles, six interceptions, and 76/90 passes. Compare that to Yacob and Morrison in Albion's 0-1 loss at Tottenham a week ago: combined, they made four tackles, six interceptions, and 57/74 passes. West Brom's record when both Mulumbu and Yacob start is 8W-2D-4L and 3W-2D-7L when both don't. An average of 1.86 points per game versus an average of 0.92 points per game.

Which is almost as big a discrepancy as Liverpool's points per game versus the current top 10 compared to those placed 11-20. Liverpool's record against the sides currently in the top half of the table is 0W-7D-7L, an average of 0.50 points per game. And it's 9W-2D-1L against the bottom half, an average of 2.42 points per game.

As said yesterday, there comes a time, in the face of mounting, overwhelming evidence, that what we had hoped were coincidences stop being coincidences.


Anonymous said...

The bottom half average should be 2.42ppg

nate said...

Crap, thanks. I'd be right if wins were still worth two points but I'm pretty sure that's not the case anymore and have no idea how I made that mistake.

Unknown said...

That's quite interesting Omair...

Love the blog Nate. Read it constantly.

Easily Johnson's worst game of the year. I didn't notice Jose's profligacy as much, but only because he wasn't nearly as involved. (I am pretty sure that Enrique had a shot in the later stages of the second half).

I'm in complete agreement with your previous post on Roger's selection. I think a lot of this final third inconsistency comes from Shelvey as a #10. He was either making poor movements that actually congealed the Albion backs, or staying in off sides positions. I was also mystified when Henderson was taken off. We seemed close to making the break through before that point, but in bringing both Sterling and Borini, as well as the clearly unready Coutino, BR ended our attacking momentum even if we were ridiculously wasteful.

I would have much rather seen Henderson stay on, or have him moved to the 10 with sterling or borini on the wing. Alas. Very disappointing. Also, I do think Downing needed to be rewarded with a win after his performance. Best game of the year for him?