03 February 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 1-1 West Brom

Previous Match Infographics: Everton (h), 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.

It's just the second time that Liverpool's pass accuracy has been below 80% in consecutive matches under Rodgers, after also happening against Tottenham and at Southampton last spring. An encouraging result against one of Liverpool's direct competitors swiftly followed by an away setback. To be fair, Liverpool's results in these consecutive matches were better than last season's: 4-0 over Everton compared to a fortunate 3-2 against Tottenham; a 1-1 draw at West Brom compared to a 1-3 loss at Southampton. Liverpool have had less than 80% pass accuracy in just six matches this season and five matches last season. The only two matches where Liverpool were less accurate this season were against United (76.25%) and at Everton (75.66%)

Liverpool were especially profligate in the attacking third, completing just 57 of 101 passes, 56.4% accuracy. Which is, by far, the worst final third accuracy this season, and the second worst since Rodgers became manager; the only match where Liverpool were less accurate was that 1-3 loss at Southampton last season, completing just 53.3%. Jordan Henderson completed the most Liverpool attacking third passes. He completed 10. 10. Ten. Out of 12 in total. Six West Brom players attempted more attacking third passes than any Liverpool player. Suarez and Sturridge, so often Liverpool's saviors, completed and attempted a combined 10 of 18, which was fewer than Zoltan Gera alone.

And Liverpool subsequently put just three of their 12 shots on target, which is Liverpool's second-worst shooting accuracy of the season, after putting just one of five shots at Villa on-target in a 1-0 win. Liverpool only created five chances – another low for the season, tied with the matches at Chelsea and Villa – four in open play, and no player created more than one. Are you seeing a trend here?

Regardless of all that attacking futility (and there sure was a lot), Liverpool still should have won if not for an egregious, mind-boggling blunder from Kolo Toure.

No side has committed more defensive errors than Liverpool this season. 28 in total, and six have led to goals: four from Mignolet (against Sunderland, City, Stoke, and Villa), one from Henderson (also at Stoke), and now one from Toure. Liverpool have been "lucky" that they've only been punished for six of them; City, Tottenham, Norwich, Stoke, and United have committed fewer defensive errors than Liverpool, but have more errors leading to goals. Only 21.4% of Liverpool's errors have led to goals. 60% of Tottenham's errors have.

Liverpool have now dropped 12 points from winning positions this season: drawing 2-2 at Swansea despite a 2-1 lead, drawing 3-3 at Everton despite a 1-0 and 2-1 lead, losing 1-2 at both City and Chelsea despite a 1-0 lead, and yesterday's 1-1 draw after Sturridge's 24th minute opener. Only West Ham, with 14 pointed dropped from winning positions, have been worse in this regard. Incidentally, Liverpool started a different back four in all five of those matches. I wonder if that has anything to do with the dropped points.

We won't pretend that Liverpool could have kept the lead in all five. But had Liverpool gotten a better result in just, say, two of those five matches, fourth place could be sewn up, and Liverpool might actually be title contenders. I truly hope this season doesn't end with Liverpool looking back on these matches in regret. I'm very much afraid that it will.

12 points is the exact same amount that Liverpool had dropped from winning positions after 24 games last season, with draws against City, Everton, and Arsenal, and losses against United and Stoke. For all Liverpool's improvement in other areas, that's a depressing familiar statistic. Last season, Liverpool went on to drop just two points from winning positions in the subsequent 14 matches, in the other 2-2 draw at City.

Conversely, Liverpool have taken just four points from losing positions this season: coming back from a deficit to draw against Swansea, Newcastle, Everton, and Aston Villa. Liverpool haven't yet won a match that they've been losing in. They did that four times in the league last season: at West Ham, v Tottenham, at Villa, and at Fulham. We've suggested that Liverpool have become a more resilient side this season, but that statistic suggests otherwise.

But let's be fair to West Brom. They've taken points off of every top-seven side except City, both home and away, under both Steve Clarke and Pepe Mel. They drew at home against Arsenal, at both Chelsea and Tottenham, and in both matches against Everton, while also beating United at Old Trafford. So far, Liverpool's 4-1 home win in October is the only one of nine matches against the top seven sides decided by more than a single goal. For all of West Brom's struggles against their fellow bottom-half competitors, they've consistently upped their game against better opposition.

Yesterday, they did that with defense. Tackles, interceptions, and blocked shots. No Liverpool opponent made more interceptions than West Brom's 28 this season. No Liverpool opponent has blocked a larger proportion of shots this season than West Brom did, getting in the way of six of Liverpool's 12. The next closest games were the 4-1 win against West Ham and 1-0 win over Villa, where each side blocked 40% of Liverpool's shots. And that defensive solidity was despite an enforced change in the 41st minute thanks to Olsson's injury, with Lugano holding the back line just as firmly except for one moment where he was finally beaten by Suarez, but spectacularly saved by Foster.


Anonymous said...

Putting out our best midfield of Lucas, Allen and Hendo and having 2 of 3 of our top 3 center backs, Skrtel, Sakho and DAgger available fixes a lot of this stuff. Somebody whisper to Brendan who our top midfield is and who it should be.

So much hoofing yesterday. I guess that's one way to bypass Brom's 5 midfielders. Hoof it to Luis or Studge. Not a good way though. The movement of our guys in midfield showing for the ball was just so agricultural yesterday. How many times did Toure have the ball and was unable to find an open player in front of him? This would not happen with Lucas and Allen in the midfield. They always find the space and present themselves for the pass in an intelligent way. Then move it on smartly to create time and space and build the play. Lucas and Allen also so much better at pressing, tackling, positioning, intercepting, linking play and just general misfielding.

Nothing excuses Kolo's brain hemorrhage, of course. But, intelligent and constant movement and players showing for the ball always helps and settles the nerves for the back line.

It will be interesting to see how we set up for Arse since they also play with 5 midfielders. 5 top midfielders actually. Be much tougher than Brom. At least it's at home. Gonna need that 12th man, for sure. Luis and Studge are going to have to run that Ostrich, Mert, ragged.

abhiram_rs said...

Shouldn't Suarez be given an assist for Sturridge's goal?

Anonymous said...

Aston Villa & West Brom = 4 points dropped in a 3 Prem match stretch. 51 points, 2 out of 2nd would feel so much better. Leaving Lucas out 1st half and playing 2 mids 1st half against Villa was suicidal. Kolo's momentary lack of concentration cost us severely. These are the fine margins that prevent us having a lock on 4th place.

nate said...

Fixed, thanks Abhiram.