As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.
I'm gonna test drive of couple of new sections this season: shot location and chance creation location. Any comments are welcome, as well as any suggestions for other sections. If it's feasible, I'll give it a whirl.
The former idea is via Dan Kennett. As Dan wrote when previewing this season's Liverpool, last season's Liverpool took far too many speculative shots, shots with little chance of going in. That wasn't the case on Saturday, with 17 of 25 shots taken inside the box, and another five from just outside the area – including Liverpool's lone goal. I'm interested to see if that continues.
It resulted in Liverpool putting 44% of its shots on target. Last season's average was 31.8%. Liverpool put a higher percentage of shots on target in just three matches last season: 5-0 v Norwich, 1-3 at Southampton, and 6-0 at Newcastle.
Meanwhile, three of Liverpool's chances came from corners, but almost everything else was created in the center of the pitch: three inside the box, nine just outside the box, and three from deep.
Liverpool's also improved its passing in the final third from last year's averages. Against Stoke, Liverpool attempted 202, completing 149, for 73.8% accuracy. Last season, Liverpool averaged 159 final third passes per match, completing 115, for 72.3% accuracy. They completed more final third passes in just four matches in 2012-13: 1-0 v QPR, 0-0 v West Ham, 5-0 v Norwich, and 1-3 v Aston Villa.
16 of Liverpool's 32 successful tackles came in Stoke's half of the pitch. Liverpool's total – 36 attempted tackles, 32 successful – so dwarfs any match last season that I'm tempted to think Opta changed the definition of a tackle event. Liverpool's highest total last season was 27 (of 30 attempted) in the 1-1 draw at Chelsea. That and the 1-2 loss at United were the only times Liverpool made more than 25 successful tackles last season.
32 tackles. But just look at that large empty area in the middle of Liverpool's half of the pitch. That's some pressing.
Stoke's statistics suggest that Mark Hughes really will try to change Tony Pulis' style. Last season at Anfield, Tony Pulis' side attempted fewer passes than Mark Hughes' side completed on Saturday. Stoke's passing totals in last season's meetings were 190 of 288 (66.0%) at Anfield, 203 of 284 (71.5%) at the Britannia; Saturday's was 337 of 417 (80.8%). Stoke had 37.6% and 36.5% possession in the two meetings last season, but 45.1% on Saturday. Hughes' Stoke took more shots, including shots on target, and created more chances than when they beat Liverpool 3-1 last December. But whether or not that style succeeds, however…
Finally, I threatened to highlight Lucas's performance in the match review, so here goes.
He'll undoubtedly have matches with more passes and a higher accuracy, but what impressed me was his running – look at how many passes were completed in the final third, especially on the right side of the pitch, moving into that space to support Johnson as Henderson and/or Aspas drifted inside – and his duels. Lucas won all six of his attempted tackles, three of his five attempted headers (which is no small matter given Liverpool's weaknesses in the air), and completed a successful dribble (just before creating a chance for Coutinho).