13 January 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 5-3 Stoke

Previous Match Infographics: 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.

Yesterday was the first time that Liverpool conceded three in a league match and still won since a 4-3 victory against Blackburn in May 2002. 441 matches ago. It has happened seven times in cup ties over that span, including Champions League and FA Cup finals you may remember, but it's a more-than-rare occurrence in league fixtures.

That's because rarely has Liverpool been this deadly in front of goal when so deficient in defense. Nine of Liverpool's 13 shots were on-target yesterday. 69.2%. Liverpool's season-long average is 39.6%, Liverpool's previous high in a single match was 53.8% against Crystal Palace. And Liverpool's season-long average is the highest in the division; Arsenal are second-best with 39.2% and the league wide average is 32.7%.

Four of those nine shots on-target ended with the ball in the back of the net. 44.4%. Liverpool's season-long average is 36.4%, which is second-best in the division, behind only Manchester City, who are averaging 44.4% of on-target shots ending in goals. The league-wide average is 29.4%.

Three of those four Liverpool shots off-target came from Liverpool's first three shots; nine of Liverpool's ten shots after the 30th minute were on-target. And one of the four off-target shots ended up in the back of Stoke's net thanks to Shawcross' fortunate deflection. Yesterday was also the first time that Liverpool's opponent failed to block a single shot.

Probably not coincidentally, just two of Liverpool's 13 shots came from outside the box, both off-target.

As for the opposition. When you wrestle with pigs, you're bound to get muddy. Liverpool's 79% passing accuracy was its fifth-lowest of season, behind United and Southampton at home, and Everton and City away. Liverpool's total passes and accuracy almost totally mirrored Stoke's, and both sides took 13 shots. Liverpool had more possession in the first half, Stoke reversed that in the second half. I'm tempted to blame some of Liverpool's lack of control on Liverpool's midfield, but it was Stoke, and Stoke does have previous in turning less-than-pretty matches completely ugly, no matter the opposition and especially on their own pitch.

No team this season has attempted more crosses in a single match than Stoke did yesterday.

Stoke averages 21 crosses per match this season, 14th-most in the league (via Who Scored). Only Newcastle, Cardiff, Palace, Liverpool, Fulham, and Villa attempt fewer per match. You think Hughes identified a weakness in Liverpool's squad? One full-back wholly out of form, one the third-choice stand-in, and a makeshift center-back pairing.

12 of those 51 crosses found a Stoke player. Two led to goals, and Liverpool could and probably should have stopped both of them. Johnson and Suarez had the opportunity to close down Arnautovic before crossing for the first goal, Crouch too easily eluded Toure to reach the header. Mignolet really should have saved the third goal, something we're saying for the third match out of the last four. Liverpool only won 37.8% of the aerial duels yesterday.

But least Liverpool were vastly improved on set plays.

11 corners, but only three found a Stoke player, none led to a dangerous situation. Seven free kicks in Liverpool's half, none leading to a dangerous situation. And that was with Charlie "his set plays are worth £10m" Adam taking almost all of them. That's some semblance of defensive progress.

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