04 November 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal

Previous Match Infographics: West Brom (h), 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.

This chart seems a pretty good starting point:

Arsenal were responsible for 15 of the 18 highest pass combinations in Saturday's match. Liverpool's three all involved Gerrard, but all three went to players who ostensibly played 'behind' Liverpool's captain: the deeper midfielder, a center-back, and a young, defense-minded wing back. Arsenal monopolized the ball, and – especially in the first half, when Liverpool played 3-1-4-2 – cut off the supply line between midfield and attack.

It's not as if this is the first time this has happened. Since I started these match infographics at the beginning of last season, just two players have completed more than 100 passes against Liverpool: Arteta at the Emirates this season and Ramsey at the Emirates last season. Arteta came damned close in the 0-2 loss to Arsenal at Anfield last season as well. It should be no surprise to see Arsenal pass any opposition off the park, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow.

Still, there have been other matches where Liverpool have lost the possession and passing battles – more this season than last – but still come away with at least one point if not all three, usually thanks to Liverpool's ability on the break and/or Suarez and Sturridge's individual brilliance. But Arsenal effectively shut off those routes as well.

Liverpool were wholly reliant on Suarez and Sturridge's one-on-one ability against Arsenal's defenders in the first half, attempting 21 take-ons. Which is more than all but three teams' league average this season: Liverpool, Everton, and Tottenham. That, along with two or three times where Henderson broke forward from midfield, was the alpha and omega of Liverpool's attack in the first half – the other eight players simply weren't involved in that phase of the game. And it was routinely snuffed out by prepared defenders. Of course, the one time in the first half where Liverpool played bombed forward, with Sakho, Cissokho, and Flanagan in Arsenal's half, Arsenal tore Liverpool open on the counter-attack to take the lead.

Arsenal made more tackles than every Liverpool opponent except Southampton so far this season. And Arsenal's two deeper midfielders made 13 of the 31: Arteta seven, Ramsey six. Liverpool's three midfielders made 10: Lucas four, Gerrard three, Henderson three. Neither Ramsey nor Arteta is an out-and-out defensive midfielder (which may well demonstrate the value of out-and-out defensive midfielders, but that's a different discussion), but both more than adequately shut down Liverpool's attacks before they became threatening.

At least Liverpool marginally improved after halftime.

Which is probably an answer to "what are we gonna see now that Coutinho's back?" Liverpool looked vastly more effective in a 4-2-2-2 formation compared to the 3-1-4-2, although "vastly" is very much a relative term.

A couple of chalkboard comparisons:

Liverpool actually retained some semblance of possession, got into Arsenal's final third, created a few chances, and stopped getting criminally abused down its left flank (thanks Aly!). Even though Liverpool had one less defender and Arsenal had less possession, Liverpool's defensive statistics were almost exactly equal in tackles, interceptions, clearances, shots allowed, etc.

However, there are caveats: Arsenal had the lead, Liverpool had to go in search of an equalizer. Then, less than 15 minutes into the second half, Liverpool had to go in search of two equalizers. Of course Arsenal would attempt fewer passes, average less possession, allow more Liverpool shots. Despite Liverpool's improvement, Arsenal rarely looked like conceding even a consolation until the final 15 minutes, with Szczesny coming to the rescue when called upon.

And there are two relevant statistics not on the above table. Goals for each Liverpool formation: Zero. Arsenal goals against each formation: 1.

From Friday's match preview:
One swallow rarely makes a summer and all, but tomorrow's match will be an excellent barometer for how far each team has truly come this season, and how far each still has to go.
Yep. Much to our dismay.


Anonymous said...

The game certainly was an entertaining one to watch. Liverpool did have some decent chances, never gave up in the match and could have gotten a goal or maybe two. Hendo scuffed his shot in the first half. Atkinson could have allowed the quick free kick by Suarez. Hendo had a decent chance on a cross from Suarez running along the byline. He could have taken a first time volley and scored or made a quicker trap for an easier chance. The best chance of the game and a likely goal would have been when Suarez should have crossed to Sturridge and instead missed the far post. Suarez might have thought Sturridge was offside in the build up and that’s why he shot instead of making the easy layoff.

If Stevie would have made more than a jogging effort to track back and mark Cazorla on the first goal he definitely cuts that ball out and there is no goal. He just had to go the ¾ speed over a 35 yard run to cut out the obvious danger. If Toure just steps up a bit towards Ramsey he could have easily blocked that shot for the second goal. He was too worried about the pass behind and played off him.

On the balance of play it’s hard to argue with the result. The 2-0 scoreline was a fair representation of the match. Arsenal was just better and more skilled in most facets of the game. The Coutinho for Aly switch at halftime did make s significant improvement in our play and help to create more and better chances. Arsenal completed almost twice as many final third passes in the match 181/237 and more than double of ours in the first half 101/132 and still 29 more in the second half 80/105.

Stephen said...

Two frustrations:
1)When I saw the starting line-up, my first reaction was WTF! Cissohko and Flanno starting!?! Sticking w 3-5-2 despite Johnson's illness, and the inconsistent to poor form of Cissohko and our MF? BR needs to own some of the blame and is frustrating in tactics and personnel decisions. We should have started in a defensive-minded 4-4-2 with Agger and Toure at FB…Allen or Alberto at the top of a MF diamond replaced by Coutinho in 2H. Focus on strong defending and counterattacks when opportunity presents. Did BR really think the starting wingbacks were our best option? Or that our MF was ready to press ARSE in their end of the pitch with success?

2)Tactics aside…our MF is too one-dimensional and too inconsistent. As Nate addressed in his post, ARSE MF is multi-dimensional …with Arteta and Ramsey equally adept at pressing, defending, possession, and starting/participating in attack. In contrast, our MF are specialists (Hendo pressing, Lucas defending, Gerrard attacking) and none are great at possession. In addition, they are inconsistent in performing their specialty (see Lucas on the Cazorla goal, Gerrard impotent in attack). This frustration is unfortunately not fixable but the resulting risks can be disguised with a better formation and personnel changes.

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