Previous Match Infographics: 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.
Liverpool have now scored three or more goals in its last five league matches at Anfield. That hasn't happened since 2008-09, when Liverpool did it in the last five of the season – 5-0 Villa, 4-0 Blackburn, 4-4 Arsenal, 3-0 Newcastle, 3-1 Tottenham – when Liverpool came oh so close to winning the title. And that streak includes a 1-3 Champions League loss to Chelsea. Last season, Liverpool scored three or more at Anfield in six of the 19 league matches. In 2011-12, Liverpool scored three or more in seven league matches in total, just four at home. This team is finally recreating Fortress Anfield, even if it's a slow process, one which still sees Liverpool concede too many goals. So it's a fortress with shoddy walls and a shallow moat, but it's armed to the teeth with archers, cannons, and trebuchets. You've got to start somewhere.
Liverpool's 32 shots came from 30 chances created; 93.8% of Liverpool's attempts were set up by a teammates' pass. There was very little one-man improvisation, very little 'Suarez wins possession, runs at defenders, scores all by himself.' Liverpool's attacked as a team, which seems a good thing considering how resiliently West Ham usually defend. And how well James Collins has marked Suarez in the past. In the previous 14 matches, Liverpool had averaged 72.3% of its shots from chances created, bettering 93.8% just once this season, when all five of its shots against Villa came from a teammate's pass.
Nine of those Liverpool shots came in the 10 minutes after Gerrard went off. Liverpool utterly dominated those ten minutes, completely camped in the opposition half, and were more than unlucky not to find a third goal before West Ham's very lucky goal of their own.
An average of just under a shot per minute, 7.3 completed passes per minute, seven chances created. Liverpool completed 95% of its passes during those 10 minutes. 95%! And just six of those 77 passes originated from Liverpool's defensive third. Hopefully, it was a sign of Liverpool's potential if Gerrard's out for any extended stretch of time (it's rumored to be a month, meaning he'd miss the three crucial away games against Tottenham, City, and Chelsea). Of course, none of those 73 completed passes, seven chances created, or nine shots led to the needed third goal. And that Liverpool (read: Lucas) was hassled out of possession in the center of the park, directly leading to the extended move to get West Ham back into the game, was as worrying as the previous 10 minutes were encouraging.
Saturday was just the sixth time where Liverpool's opponent has registered a single shot on target since Rodgers took over as manager. It's happened one other time this season, last month's 4-0 win against Fulham, and four times last season: the 1-0 win against QPR, 0-0 in this fixture last April, the 5-0 win over Norwich, and the 1-1 draw against Sunderland. Probably not coincidentally, all six matches took place at Anfield.
West Ham's shot on target yesterday was brilliantly saved by Mignolet while the game was still 0-0. Of course, West Ham still managed to score, thanks to an own goal, but it was still a vastly improved defensive performance. Going into this match, Liverpool had allowed 5.0 shots on target per match this season, well above last season's 3.7 on target per match. And, as we've learned in a few previous matches, allowing that many shots on target can be a recipe for disaster. Mignolet can only save Liverpool so often.
There were more similarities between Saturday's match and last April's 0-0 draw at Anfield besides West Ham's one shot on target. The passing and possession totals are incredibly alike, especially West Ham's totals.
Of course, there's one big, obvious difference – Liverpool scored four more goals than they did in the last meeting – and a couple of reasons for it. Liverpool took 12 more shots on Saturday, but it's not as if Liverpool peppered Jaaskelainen more frequently, putting eight shots on target in both matches. Still, you can't ride the carousel without buying a ticket, and Liverpool bought an awful lot of tickets this weekend.
Liverpool's attacking third passing was also drastically, dramatically better. They only attempted nine fewer passes in April, but completed 38 more on Saturday. 69.8% attacking third accuracy last season, 83.9% this season. 83.9% is also Liverpool's highest attacking third accuracy in any match under Rodgers. This season's previous high was 82.8% against 10-man Newcastle, last season's was 83.0% in the 5-0 home win against Norwich. Liverpool had averaged 72.1% attacking third accuracy this season prior to this match.
But, of course, you still need those intangible bits of luck: that ricochet off Demel for the opening own goal, that deflection off O'Brien for Liverpool's fourth. But, of course, there's also something to be said for making your own luck.