07 October 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 3-1 Crystal Palace

Previous Match Infographics: Sunderland (a), Southampton (h), Swansea (a), Manchester United (h), Aston Villa (a), Stoke (h)

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

In the two league matches since changing to 3-4-1-2, 12 of Liverpool's 28 shots (42.9%) have come from either the six-yard box or the middle of the penalty box, resulting in 5 goals – a 41.7% conversion rate in that zone. Eight shots (28.6%) came from the wider areas of the box and the D, seven (25%) from outside the box, and just one (3.6%) from what Dan Kennett – in his outstanding season preview for Statsbomb – labeled "crazy" zones: Sturridge's goal against Palace from an incredibly narrow angle.

Two swallows don't make a summer, but compare that to last season's totals, via that same article. 35% of all shots came from the center of the box, 23% from the wide areas of the box and D, 28% from outside the box, and 9% from crazy positions.

At the same time, five of Liverpool's 18 chances created in these two matches have come inside the box, including three of Liverpool's four assists – and one won penalty inside the box which, statistically, probably should also count as an assist (besides in fantasy football).

So far, whether it's because of the formation or tactics or just how well Suarez and Sturridge are linking up, Liverpool are creating fewer chances and taking fewer shots than they did last season, but they're creating and taking them from far, far better positions. Since Suarez's return, he's put four of nine total shots on target (44.4%), scoring with three of the four shots on target. His average was 38.5% last season, 37.5% the season before. Sturridge has put five of six on target (83.3%). Liverpool's improved shooting (and shooting from improved positions) has led to six goals in the last two matches, even if those two matches have been against the two worst teams in the division.

At the other end of the pitch, Liverpool have allowed 34 shots in these two matches, which break down as follows:

So while Liverpool are allowing far too many shots – heavily skewed by Sunderland's 23 (15 from outside the box) – they're not allowing many from high percentage locations. Again, it's just two matches, two matches against two of the worst teams in the league, but that bodes well, both for Liverpool and for the 3-4-1-2 formation.

Sterling was Liverpool's most creative player on Saturday, responsible for four of Liverpool's ten chances. In the same role last week, Henderson was Liverpool's most creative player, responsible for four of Liverpool's eight chances. Sterling won a penalty against Palace, but neither he nor Henderson provided an assist despite creating a combined eight chances in the last two matches. This is the main reason why I think Johnson's absence has been more detrimental to Liverpool than any other. That's not to downplay what Coutinho brings to the side, by any means, but Johnson has been one of Liverpool's most prolific chance creators over the last few seasons, far more comfortable in what the role needs both in attack and defense.

Finally, it was nice to see what Mignolet's capable of when the opposition doesn't press relentlessly in Liverpool's half.

16 of 18 passes completed, compared to 8/13 at Sunderland, 17/34 against Southampton, 17/32 at Swansea, 7/24 against United, 5/15 at Villa, and 7/13 against Stoke. Almost all went to Sakho, Skrtel, and Toure, and each of those players had their highest passing totals of the season (even Sakho, despite going off in the 67th minute). Palace allowed Liverpool to set up at the back – it was just the third match this season where Liverpool's opponent didn't register at least one tackle in the attacking third (United and Sunderland were the others) – and I doubt it's coincidence that Liverpool subsequently achieved its highest passing totals, highest passing accuracy, and highest possession of the season.

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