22 April 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 2-2 Chelsea

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), West Brom (h), Swansea (h), Wigan (a), Tottenham (h), Southampton (a), Aston Villa (a), West Ham (h), Reading (a)

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

Not for the first time this season, it was a tale a two halves.

Liverpool were light years better in the second half, especially in attacking third passing, shots on target, and possession. The take-ons and crosses stats also seem important, more evidence of Liverpool's increased attacking potency. Conversely, Chelsea were much worse, mostly because Liverpool were able to control the tenor and tempo – aside from the mad move which led to Chelsea's penalty and the subsequent ten minutes on tilt.

To reinforce the tale of two halves narrative, compare each side's "Player Influence," via StatsZone.

The extra attacking player handed Liverpool the initiative in the second half. The fullbacks and Gerrard were much more involved, Liverpool were more coherent in the final third without Coutinho, Henderson, and Downing repeatedly giving the ball away, and Chelsea's defenders couldn't focus solely on Suarez. Benitez's tactics aided Liverpool in the final 15 minutes, removing Hazard, Mata, and Oscar for more defensive players, which was part of the reason that Liverpool took more shots from the 85th minute on than in the entire first half.

But the 4-2-4 formation isn't always the easy solution to Liverpool's problems, and I wasn't surprised by Liverpool's starting XI. Liverpool were marginally better than their opponents, with Chelsea blunted, from Hazard's penalty until Benitez's substitutions, but still struggled to test Chelsea for a good 20 minutes in the second half. Liverpool woefully underperformed in the same formation against Southampton, who use similar tactics to Chelsea, and Liverpool had to shift from 4-2-4 to 4-2-3-1 to prompt the comeback against Tottenham at Anfield last month. There is no catch-all panacea, but at least Liverpool under Rodgers have increasing options.

Meanwhile, Suarez was responsible for 63% of Liverpool's shots on target. He put five of his six on target, scoring once, fittingly registering both Liverpool's first and last shots on target. Sturridge had one on target, his goal, while Gerrard had two, both saved. The other 12 efforts were either off-target or blocked. Keep that in mind when Suarez serves his inevitable ban, hopefully for no more than the last four games of this season. Sturridge was very, very good yesterday, but Liverpool will need that sort of performance with even more output, plus vastly improved performances from Downing, Coutinho, and Henderson. The Uruguayan is a hard man to kill, and an even harder man to replace.

It doesn't seem coincidental that both of Liverpool's goals came from quick, one-touch passing moves down the flank, moves that started in Liverpool's own half. That's been the case for more than a few goals this season, including many of Liverpool's best. And it doesn't seem coincidental that both of Chelsea's came from set plays: one a free header directly from a corner, the second a penalty won during a corner. But we're all already well aware where Liverpool need to improve during the offseason.

There was one interesting, reassuring defensive stat. Yesterday was the first time this season that all of Liverpool's attempted tackles were successful tackles. Lucas made five; Enrique four; Johnson, Agger, and Suarez two; and Carragher, Gerrard, and Henderson one. Compare that to last week's match, where just 11 of Liverpool's 18 attempted tackles were successful, and just two of Lucas' seven. Liverpool also committed just eight fouls (not included the handball), compared to Chelsea's 11, including just three in its own half. Which, at least, is a good way to limit those dangerous set plays that Liverpool have an all-too-nasty habit of conceding from.


Biggestfandownunder said...

Just wanted to say thank you for these. Always informative and enlightening. And shows me just how subjective I am during the game itself.

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