28 October 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 4-1 West Brom

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

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

Every outfield West Brom player – starter or sub – either created a chance or took a shot, something Liverpool did last week against 10-man Newcastle. Meanwhile, Luis Suarez took 44% of Liverpool's shots (71% of the shots on target) and created 23% of Liverpool's chances. Sometimes a one-man team will suffice, especially when that one man is in that form, but you still need the platform to build from.

Liverpool's revamped midfield provided that platform on Saturday. Henderson, Gerrard, and Lucas combined brilliantly; the first two pressing and hassling well to deny Mulumbu and Yacob a base to create from, the latter giving an archetypal holding performance. Lucas' most-frequent pass recipient was Gerrard (tied with Sturridge), Gerrard's most-frequent pass recipient was Henderson (tied with Sturridge), and Henderson's most-frequent pass recipient was Suarez (tied with Cissokho). Liverpool effectively moved the ball from back to front, but also made full use of the out-ball to Sturridge. Lucas was especially impressive as both defensive destroyer and the metronome at the base, responsible for eight of Liverpool's 21 tackles and three of the 15 interceptions, completing more passes with a higher accuracy than any other player.

The heat maps for each midfielder (via Squawka) demonstrate just how well each knew, and performed, his role. Especially Lucas, almost wholly covering the length and width of Liverpool's defensive half.

From start to finish, Liverpool's second goal was a thing of beauty. And an excellent example of Liverpool's team performance melded with Suarez's sorcery. There were 15 passes in the move, which started in Liverpool's half when Gerrard, Lucas, and Skrtel hassled West Brom into losing possession. Every outfield player except Henderson and Gerrard touched the ball at least once; Gerrard's pressing helped win possession, Henderson's movement in West Brom's half gave Sturridge and Suarez space at the sharp end by drawing Yacob out of position. But for all of Liverpool's good work, it still required that finish. Oh, that finish.

And Liverpool needed the full range of Suarez's witchcraft on Saturday. It's not as if West Brom allowed easy goals, aside from Liverpool's third from the free kick. 10 of Liverpool's 18 shots came from outside the box, 56%, a higher percentage than any match except the lone loss to Southampton, where six of Liverpool's 10 shots came from outside the area. West Brom's defense sat deep and forced shots from marginal positions. But Suarez – and Sturridge, with his wonderful, wonderful fourth – just wouldn't be denied, marginal positions be damned.

Liverpool were similarly effective, if not more so, in denying their opponents good opportunities. Sure, West Brom took 16 shots, only two fewer than Liverpool, which looks odd given the balance of the match and the final score, but only four of those were on target, only scoring from an egregiously absurd penalty.

That's been the case for most of the season. Liverpool are still conceding an awful lot of shots: only Cardiff, Fulham, Hull, and Norwich allow more shots per game than Liverpool, only David Marshall of Cardiff has made more saves than Mignolet. But through nine games, Liverpool's opponents have put an average of just 34.4% of their shots on target. And since the switch to three at the back – which, admittedly, has been against the murderer's row that is Sunderland, Palace, 10-man Newcastle, and West Brom – that average drops to just 23.3% shooting accuracy.


wides said...

What determines whether a shot that hits the post is on target or off target ? Suarez and Sturridge both hit the post, but are categorized differently.

nate said...

Suarez's shot was initially saved, with Myhill tipping it onto the crossbar. That's why it's given as on-target. Same thing happened with a Henderson shot in the first match against Stoke.

Technically, it's probably not even classified as a woodwork strike by Opta. Although Henderson's against Stoke was. This is one of the few times my personal opinion shows up in these visualizations, as much as I try to stick with Opta's official stats otherwise. I want to remember all times that Liverpool hit in the goal-frame in case I ever want to do something like this again.

wides said...

Ahh... yeah, I had forgotten that was saved. Thanks!

Let's hope we don't need to dwell on what position we would've had this year due to woodwork strikes :)