29 January 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 4-0 Everton

Previous Match Infographics: Aston Villa (h), Stoke (a), Hull (h), Chelsea (a), Manchester City (a), Cardiff (h), 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.

Liverpool have had less possession than they did yesterday in just one match under Brendan Rodgers: last season's 2-2 draw at Arsenal, where they had just 38.2% possession. Those are the only two matches where Rodgers' side has had less than 40% possession. And yesterday's was at Anfield. Last season, the side averaged 57.2% possession per match; so far it's 54.5% this season. Yesterday truly was a masterclass in transitioning from a firm defensive shell to blitzkrieg counter-attacks, made possible by the early set play goal, and it was a team-wide victory.

Liverpool's top three tacklers yesterday? Cissoko, Sterling, and Coutinho. Top three in interceptions? Suarez, Sterling, and Skrtel. Top four in ball recoveries? Gerrard, Suarez, Coutinho, and Sterling – all with seven. Those are players you wouldn't expect to see leading the team in those categories, especially Coutinho and Sterling. Skrtel and Toure won seven of their eight aerial duels, Gerrard won all four of his four. Every player put in a defensive shift, and every player – even Cissokho! – did their jobs more than ably.

We criticize Rodgers when Liverpool's tactics fail, so it's only right he reaps the plaudits today. Pretty much every decision he made worked.

Liverpool's lopsided 4-3-3 formation exploited Everton's weaknesses, pressed Everton's defenders, forced an unfamiliar back-line into mistakes. Stones is untested, Alcaraz and Jagielka are both carrying knocks. Playing either Sturridge or Suarez on the left allowed them to run at Stones, and Liverpool perfectly exploited the space left by Stones trying to get forward for the second goal. Toure's long pass (it wasn't a hoof; he meant that) rent Jagielka and Alcaraz's high line asunder, while Suarez's pressing forced Jagielka into the mistake for the fourth. And it's no coincidence that Leighton Baines – often Everton's talisman – had Everton's lowest passing accuracy outside of the two strikers, while creating just one chance. Which emphasizes just how good Flanagan and Sterling were in defense. Sterling and Coutinho tracked back excellently; Suarez and Sturridge both did more work than expected when either was stationed on the left.

And both strikers were ruthless in attack: Sturridge with two goals, Suarez with a goal and assist. As we've become accustomed to. Sturridge and Suarez have now played together in 20 league matches. At least one of them has scored in 16 of those 20 matches; combined, they've 29 goals and 9 assists in those matches. Yesterday, the two took 10 shots, hitting the target with six. In total, Liverpool put 45% of its shots on target, Everton just 22%. Everton's two most dangerous players – Barkley and Mirallas – failed to hit the target with any of their nine shots.

Of course, I can't help but focus on Liverpool's midfield, as that's the area that's been broken more often than any other. There was Coutinho's defensive work, but still in position to play passes like the assist for Liverpool's second. Coutinho led the side in chances created with four; it's been more than a month since he played that many, with six against Cardiff. He had none against City, Stoke, and Villa; one against Chelsea; and two against Hull. There was Gerrard's discipline, while also winning his aerial duels and blocking more shots than any other player. And there was Henderson playing the link perfectly, supporting Gerrard but also helping out Cissokho on the left when needed, when either Suarez or Sturridge was higher up the pitch.

Unsurprisingly, it all started with a set play. Liverpool are currently converting around 16% of their set plays this season, which is more than any other team in the division. The league average is just over 8%. Through 23 matches, Liverpool have scored 15 goals from corners or free kicks. That's already more than in the last four seasons: scoring 11 last season, 14 in 2011-12, 11 in 2010-11, and 14 in 2009-10 (via WhoScored).


Anonymous said...

Got to give Brendan his props.

So glad you pointed out that the PASS from Kolo to Luis for the fourth was actually a pretty damn good "lay it on a dime to Luis, rent the back line asunder" intentional pass. Too many sites calling that sublime little piece of magic a HOOF. Nice work Kolo! Not everybody missed it. Nate's on it.

I also like Brendan's recent little slice of wizardry in the transfer market. Hold out Salah as the main target. Let Mou be a dick as he has no choice, it's part of his DNA, and hijack the move. Thereby tying up his funds (a bit anyway) and then after having acquired a "winger", raise him a Konoplyanka. At the same price, no less. That is one very sweet bit of mysticism.

His continued stubbornness to not target a top top DM/CM is somewhat troubling. Obviously, he knows that move would force him, in short (medium?) order, to move Zanetti to the bench. Moving Javier to the impact sub role is causing Brendan to have tortured dreams, I'm sure. Come on Brendan, make the big call. Before TW has an epiphany and starts asking about it. Scratch that part, that will be 12 months, minimum. Do it soon.

Anonymous said...

Ah...great work as per usual Nate!!

Stevie's heat map...wow...what a thing of beauty!! Question on that, though: a lot of the kerffufle on the Gerrard in the "DM" role is based on the traditional thinking of what a DM does. Looking at the past few games, it seems to me that BR is placing him further back as a catalyst for offense rather than JUST a strict DM. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

For all of the criticism of Stevie he is excellent at assists and is our calmest penalty taker (note Kuyt has left), excellent at lofted free kicks and corners and can hit the long through ball. Yes his poisitioning is poor and yes he no longer has the legs but he will be a successful DM one day, maybe not now but one day.

Anonymous said...

With Abramovich's close ties to Putin and Medvedev is it any real surprise that Kolomoyskyi refused to sign the Konoplyanka paperwork? Abramovich was one of the first people to recommend Putin to Yeltsin, to succeed him. Medvedev was personally recommended to Putin by Abramovich.

When you get "that call" from Roman's guy you pick up the phone. "You will not be signing the papers. Understand Ihor"? "Play with those boys for a few days though. Make them look silly. OK?

That damn Mourinho. Need to give him a good spanking on April 26th.