25 November 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 3-3 Everton

Previous Match Infographics: Fulham (h), Arsenal (a), 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 was just the second time that Liverpool completed fewer than 280 passes under Brendan Rodgers. The other? Last year's 2-2 draw at Everton, where Liverpool attempted just 314 passes, completing 241. There are more than a few statistical similarities in these fixtures: comparable passing totals and accuracy, almost exactly the same attacking third totals. An early Liverpool opener, pegged back quickly by the home side. Liverpool's second goal last year was very, very much like Liverpool's third this year.

The differences? Liverpool created a few more chances, took a few more shots last year, but were far more efficient this season, especially on set plays. Which has been the case for the majority of this campaign so far. Baines was far more influential in last season's derby, which speaks more to Moyes' tactics (and Liverpool missing Glen Johnson in that match) than it did Baines' performance yesterday. Most importantly, just four of Everton's 16 shots were on-target, but Everton beat Brad Jones with two of them.

This season? Two-thirds of Everton's 18 shots were on-target, a higher percentage than Liverpool's achieved in any match this season, equaling Everton's highest in any match this season – when they put four of just six shots on target in a 1-3 loss at Manchester City. Everton hadn't put more than eight shots on target in a single match this season until Saturday, averaging five shots on target and 13.5 shots in total through the first 11 matches. Simon Mignolet saved nine of those 12 on Saturday.

On face value, a 75% save average isn't mind-blowing. It's below Mignolet's season-long average of 78.3% (second-highest in the division behind Szczesny, who's faced 11 fewer shots on target) but above the division-wide average of 71%. Nonetheless, some of Mignolet's saves were mind-blowing. This compilation shows the full range of his talents: the agility and reflexes to overcome a late start and get low to deny Barkley's whipped shot/cross, the intelligence and quickness to charge out to deny Lukaku twice and Deulofeu once. This one's probably my favorite: both Mignolet and Lukaku do all the right things, but the keeper comes out on top because of his long arms, ability to make himself big, and his speed in closing the angle. Lukaku's shot is seemingly at the right height to avoid Mignolet's sprawling legs, which had denied both he and Deufelou earlier, but somehow the keeper gets his left arm in the way. A little bit of luck, but still a tremendous, tremendous stop. It's not often that the keeper is man of the match despite conceding three.

So what if his season-long pass completion average is 57%? If he keeps saving all those shots on target – and Liverpool are still allowing far, far too many shots on target – his pass completion average could be a negative number for all I care.

Also unlike last season was Liverpool's improvement as the match went on. Which was heavily aided by Leighton Baines' injury and departure early in the second half. Baines wasn't especially brilliant in his 50 minutes, well-marshaled by Henderson and Johnson, creating one chance and taking one off-target shot, errant with all seven of his crosses. But Gareth Barry had been brilliant in midfield, and a large reason why Liverpool had struggled to make any open play headway in Everton's half.

Liverpool's attacking third passes before and after the change demonstrate the difference made.

Deufelou's entrance made Everton more potent on the counter-attack, needing Mignolet to make many of those aforementioned saves, but Liverpool finally settled into an attacking groove of their own, better able to keep possession, better able to create chances, and should have settled the tie through Allen before Everton scored their second or through Suarez before Everton scored their third.

Liverpool took more shots and created more chances in the final 15 minutes than they did in the preceding 75. Yes, that was the only point of the match where they were behind, finally needing to chase the match to get back on terms. But it was still impressive to see the side's reaction to going behind, and that the side had the physical reserves and fitness to do so. The last time Liverpool scored a game-winning or game-tying goal after the 85th minute in the league was in last season's 2-2 draw against Chelsea, and that was the only other time it's happened under Rodgers.

As the manager's said, this Liverpool's become far more resilient, far more confident than last season's version, and that trait's a big part of why Liverpool currently sits second in the division.

Finally, special mention for Liverpool's stand-in left back, Jon Flanagan, Liverpool's leader in both tackles and interceptions. It was only the third time he's played at left back for the senior side in his 19 appearances – starting there in the 5-2 win at Fulham and playing the second half there in the 3-0 win against Newcastle in 2011-12 – and his first Merseyside derby. And he looked like he'd been doing it for years. Gerrard made the comparison to Carragher, which – while forgiving the slight hyperbole – seems fitting. He'll rarely impress going forward, but never hides. And in matches like this, that can and did make a massive difference.


Biggestfandownunder said...

Excellent as always Nate. I always look out for this analysis.

drew said...

How many free kick goals is that for Suarez now? I know it's a handful, but I don't see him regularly mentioned among the likes of CRonaldo, Pirlo, etc. as one of the best at that skill.

Marque Pierre Sondergaard said...

I agree. Mignolet is the main reason why we are doing so well this season. I don't give a toss about his passing when his shot stopping is so massively impressive.

Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis! Keep it up. Pretty much agree with all the points highlighted...