16 December 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 5-0 Tottenham

Previous Match Infographics: 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.

I have no idea what Spurs' defense is doing here. Capoue's so far out of position he might as well be in the dressing room. Dawson's dropped behind every other defender, aware of Henderson's dangerous run, and makes the interception, but no one's in position to clear; everyone else was beaten all ends up by the throughball. And it leads to this.

Good luck with that, Kyle Walker.

Oh hey, 'sup, just taking out your entire unorganized defense with one long cross-field pass. Maybe someone thinks about marking Henderson? He keeps making all these runs from midfield. No?

And throughball. Oh look, there's Henderson again.

And throughball.

And throughball. Andre Villas-Boas, what do you think?

Yesterday's match was a story of a high line taken out by long passes over the top and throughballs, offside traps beaten like a red-headed step-mule who stole something. Enjoy the above infographic. Revel in the statistical dominance. But this biggest reason for this utter shellacking was Tottenham's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad defense. It is not a clever idea to play such a high line against the likes of Suarez and Liverpool, especially when missing your top three center-backs and top two left-backs, and using a defensive midfielder as a makeshift center-back. And now Villas-Boas is out of a job.

Believe me, that's not to downplay Liverpool's performance. Because that's the last thing I want to do. There's often too much "Liverpool only romped because the opposition was so bad" after the big wins over the last year. I'm guilty of it as well. It's one thing when demolishing a substandard Fulham or Palace, or when Suarez single-handedly disembowels Norwich. But yesterday was against a Tottenham side that's finished above Liverpool in each of the last four seasons, who's beaten Liverpool on this ground in each of the last six meetings. I don't care how much Villas-Boas side has struggled this season, how inane the defensive tactics were. That happened against Tottenham and that was marvelous.

No one outfield player dominated possession for Liverpool. Henderson attempted the most passes with 63, Sterling the fewest with 29, but every other outfield starter attempted between 35 and 55. It's evident in StatsZone's 'Player Influence' chart, where no name stands out. Compare that passing to, say, the big wins over Norwich, where the midfield troika monopolized the ball, or Fulham, where six players attempted at least 70 passes. Yesterday's win truly seemed much more of a team performance.

But, again, Suarez was the star of stars, primus inter pares. Two goals and two assists, as well as the shot which directly led to Henderson's rebound for Liverpool's second. Lost amongst the match's brilliance, lost amongst Flanagan's undeniably enjoyable first goal for the club, was just how good the finish for his second was. And he made it look routine, feel routine.

Liverpool have scored 34 goals since Suarez became available after missing the first five matches through suspension. 34 goals in 11 matches. He's been directly involved in 21 of them, with 17 goals and 4 assists, but there's another five goals he set up but doesn't get statistical credit for: his shot yesterday rebounding for Henderson's goal; deflected shots that led to Amorebieta and Demel's own goals and Coutinho's opener against Everton; winning the penalty against Newcastle. Add those five, and that's a direct, tangible contribution to 76.4% of Liverpool's goals in the matches he's played in. That's a staggering total.

There were 24 passes, over a little more than a minute, prior to Liverpool's fifth goal. Every Liverpool player touched the ball at least once, everyone aside from Johnson and Suarez got it back at least a second time. 21 of those passes came in Liverpool's half before Sterling's speedy dribble into the final third, a fortunate cross-field pass, Suarez's jink and throughball, Sterling wide open and able to pass it into the back of the net. Skrtel and Coutinho each received and played four passes in the build-up, Henderson and Flanagan three. Yes, Spurs were thoroughly, thoroughly beaten by this point, but that only makes it a little less enjoyable. It was a fitting capstone to the day's proceedings. Death by football spelled out to the last letter.

In addition to putting none of their nine shots on target – as written in yesterday's match review, for the first time at White Hart Lane since Opta starting collecting data in 2006-07 – Tottenham only created five chances, by far the lowest total of the season. They'd been averaging 13.7 per match prior to yesterday. Like Liverpool in 2011-12, creating chances hadn't been the problem, it's converting them. And yes, that's meant to be the damning comparison it seems. But they couldn't do either yesterday, thanks in large part to Liverpool's midfield and defense.

Meanwhile, none of Liverpool's 14 chances created came from out wide. All were clustered through the middle, most in front of the box, another indictment of Spurs' defending. But part of the reason was also Liverpool's woefulness from set plays. That looks to be the biggest thing Liverpool will miss during Gerrard's absence, and could well be very important against teams that defend better than Spurs did.


Anonymous said...

I was thinking Levy would have to pay AvB for the 18 months left on his contract. Silly me. After reading Spurs press release it seems Levy negotiated a settlement that may have included a case of cokes (need caffeine), 3 coffees and 2 danishes. Lost my head for a moment. Forgot we are talking about Daniel Levy. You don't want any bad "employment references" right Andre? In truth he probably settled for 6 months pay. "Mutual agreement and in the interest if both parties." AvB got Levyied.

Yes Suarez has been really good. Talk about productive. He's a one man wrecking ball. Has been really good at setting up teammates too. Most of his goals at Anfield, but if yesterday's 2 goals and 2 assists are any indication, he's getting ready to break out with the hulkamania routine away from home too. His on field growth and maturity is coming along nicely too. Good job Doc.

Shout out to Mamadou. Had a good match yesterday. Hadn't quite noticed before how composed he is with the ball at his feet and his ability to pick and deliver a pass. Secure in possession, not a natural dribbler but good at it anyway and able to protect the ball. It probably helps to know that if someone nips possession of the ball you can just break him in half. Still want to see DAgger and Mamadou in some tandem work. Should be a sight.

Seth said...

Incredible how good a midfield can look when its a triangle, and all 3 players are capable of pressing, moving without the ball, and tracking back.

Gerrard's set pieces have been great this year, but not good enough to outweigh how awesome that midfield was today. I realize it's just one game, but it also seems to confirm a hypothesis everyone was considering already.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of Rodgers, so don't think that this is meant to bash him by any means, but I'd love to know your opinion on his substitutions (or lack there of) during the Spurs game as well as throughout the season.

My feeling is that as long as his hand isn't forced through injury or simply terrible 1st half performances, he makes his substitutions based upon motivation for the other players in the squad. Its almost as though you have to earn the right to get subbed on at all, and he considers it a privledge for players to stay on the pitch for the full 90.

While I agree with that in terms of team spirit, and a drive for players to take their chances when they get them (which obviously worked with Allen and Sterling), I found myself screaming at the tv to take Suarez off after we were up by 3, he had been kicked in the chest, and we are currently without his best replacement in Sturridge and our captain.

Again, I love Rodgers and think the world of him as a man manager (just look at Luis to see the effect he can have on a players attitude), but would just like your opinion on his subs.