23 December 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff

Previous Match Infographics: Tottenham (a), West Ham (h), Norwich (h), Hull City (a), Everton (a), 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.

Fairly standard fare. Liverpool dominated possession, tempo, and tenor, Liverpool made an early breakthrough thanks to Suarez's brilliance, Liverpool cruised. Fairly standard fare will suffice just fine at this point of the season.

Cardiff attempted and completed the fewest passes, with the lowest accuracy, of any Liverpool opponent so far this season. It's the second lowest passing total by a Liverpool opponent since Rodgers became manager, with Villa attempting just 211 passes, completing 146, in their 3-1 win at Anfield a year ago. That was also the only match where Liverpool had more possession in a single half than they did in the first half on Saturday, with 75.8% possession in the second half against Villa.

Wait. You're right. I shouldn't have mentioned that monstrosity of a match. I'm sorry.

Jordan Henderson tallied his fourth and fifth assists of the season, setting up both of Suarez's goals. Henderson has assisted at least one of Suarez's goals in three consecutive matches: Liverpool fourth against West Ham, the first goal at Tottenham, and the two goals on Saturday.

Liverpool's most frequent assist-scorer combination last season was Jose Enrique setting up Suarez. It happened four times. Henderson-to-Suarez has already surpassed that, in just 12 games.

It's been excellent to see the two increasingly on the same wavelength in the opposition half with Henderson playing a more influential, more attacking role in Gerrard's absence.

As hoped, the midfield performed almost as effectively as it did against Tottenham, with the difference most due to Cardiff's vastly improved organization. Henderson, Allen, and Lucas all know their roles, and mesh together excellently.

That Henderson's added a finishing touch – whether in his goal against Tottenham or the assists in both matches – has been the most important feature, or at least the feature that most worried me prior to these two matches, but all three midfielders continue to play the same harmonious tune.

Meanwhile, five of Cardiff's eight chances created came from set plays. It's good that Liverpool limited the opposition to just eight chances. It's quite good that they were limited to just three from open play. But it's bad that Cardiff created five chances from 10 set plays in Liverpool's defensive half, creating chances on three of the five corners and two of the five free kicks.

Six of the 19 goals that Liverpool have conceded so far this campaign have come from set plays. That's 31.6%. That's terrible. And that doesn't include goals by Everton and Hull which came after Liverpool failed to clear a free kick.

Saturday's consolation was especially abhorrent.

Where's Skrtel going? Why is Sakho left alone against two players at the back post? Liverpool conceded because of two mistakes: Skrtel broke the offside trap, someone forgot who he was marking. I assume the marking broke down because Kelly had just come on, changing the defensive assignments, but that's little excuse (if it's even correct). Regardless, these should be easily remedied mistakes. But we're still seeing far too many mistakes when defending set plays, and better sides will undoubtedly punish Liverpool for it.

Incidentally, after a 4-2 win over Fulham on Saturday where they scored from a corner and direct free kick, Manchester City now have 11 goals from set plays this season. Which is tied for the most in the league with Liverpool.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Someone must have whispered to Skrtel that there was a Picnic at the penalty spot but he had to get there NOW. There should be 4 guys offside in that picture. Everybody needs to be clued in to hold the 18 yard line and maybe even take a step forward right before the kick. But they all have to be clued in. 7 guys defending 5 attackers and we leave the guy at the back open?

What do they do in practice? Not defend set pieces evidently. Coutinho doesn't do any shooting drills either. Why is his standing foot 18 inches from the ball when he makes contact and his focus on the goal to see where the shot is going? He's moving at speed and got a moving ball 9 inches in diameter and an area of contact of 1 square inch in order to place the shot where, in his minds eye, it needs to go. If he looks up to see where it's going before he makes contact, it's going WIDE. If his shot timing is such that his standing foot is 18 inches from the ball when he makes contact, it's going WIDE. Guaranteed!

Skrtel has been very very good for me, even with his OG's. He looks much more comfortable with the ball at his feet and even looks almost comfortable dribbling/running with the ball. And look at that passing stat for him, 68/70. Almost perfect.

I still would like to see DAgger and Sakho at City. In my mind they are our best central defenders individually and even in combination. I'm guessing BR goes with them on Thursday. Skrtel has got to stop his MMA routine on corners too. He's definitely going to get whistled for a penalty at City if he starts. The refs will be clued in to his Grappling technique by both Pellegrini and other refs. Lee Probert is never going to call it at Anfield. It will be called at City.