24 February 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 4-3 Swansea

Previous Match Infographics: Fulham (a), Arsenal (h), West Brom (a), 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.

Yesterday was 14th time Liverpool have scored three or more goals in a league match this season. That happened 12 times last season, and just seven in 2011-12. And there are still 11 matches to go. Liverpool's record when they scored three or more? 13 wins, one draw.

Liverpool have taken an awful lot of points because of their goal-scoring prowess. They've already tallied 70 goals this season, more than any other club in the league. They're one shy of last season's total, and have already surpassed 2011-12's tally by 23 goals. Averaging 2.59 goals per game, they're on pace for 98 or 99 this season.

Liverpool could score just eight goals over the rest of the season (note: I highly recommend not doing this), and it'd still be Liverpool's highest-scoring campaign in the last 26 seasons, going all the way back to 1987-88, where Liverpool under Dalglish scored 87 and won the league by nine points. And that was a 40-game season. You have to go back to 1963-64, when Liverpool won its first league title under Bill Shankly, for the last time the side scored 90 or more in the league. And that was a 42-game season.

Chelsea holds the record for most goals in a Premier League season with 103, set in 2009-10. When they won the league with 86 points. Of course, they only conceded 32 goals that campaign. Liverpool have already let in 35.

Yesterday was the 11th time Liverpool have conceded at least two in a league match. Liverpool's record when they concede at least two? Three wins, four draws, four losses. The wins came at Stoke, at Fulham, and yesterday against Swansea. The draws were the 2-2 at Swansea, 2-2 at Newcastle, 3-3 at Everton, and 2-2 against Villa. And the losses were 0-2 at Arsenal, 1-3 at Hull, 1-2 at City, and 1-2 at Chelsea.

It's a lot easier to overcome conceding two or more goals against the Swanseas and Stokes of the world. For every 5-1 against Arsenal, 5-0 at Tottenham, 4-0 against Everton, there are those 0-2, 1-2, 1-2 setbacks.

Nine of the 11 matches where Liverpool conceded two or more were away from Anfield. Liverpool's remaining away matches? Southampton, United, Cardiff, West Ham, Norwich, and Palace. There are a lot of sides Liverpool will expect to beat in there, but there are more than a few opportunities to drop points if Liverpool continue conceding avoidable goals.

But back to yesterday's match. Which followed the pattern of a fair few Liverpool matches already this season. Liverpool are very good going forward, but Liverpool also have problems in midfield when they're too open – especially against sides that they're expected to take the game to – and Liverpool have an unsettled and mistake-prone defense.

Swansea's three goals highlighted both problems. The first saw Liverpool's missing midfield: Swansea allowed to pass and run through the center before pushing the ball out wide, both Henderson and Gerrard failing to mark Shelvey, allowing a dangerous player the time and space to kill them. But, to be fair, Liverpool did almost the exact same thing to Swansea just three minutes earlier.

Both the second and third goals aptly demonstrated Liverpool's flaws in defense, especially on set plays, and just how unlucky that defense has been at times this season. On other days, Skrtel isn't whistled for a petulant little kick at Shelvey after winning the tackle. On other days, Skrtel's deflection off of Bony's header doesn't end up in the back of the net. On other days, Sterling doesn't slip when offered the opportunity to transition to attack, allowing Dyer free range to cross. And on other days, Skrtel's desire to give opposition strikers a hug isn't punished.

Yesterday's Match of the Day had a Liverpool 'lowlights' reel, which was amusing, but seemed to need a different soundtrack.

Luck and errors, luck and errors. If it seems like I'm writing about that every week, it's because I pretty much am.

The second and third goals conceded yesterday also demonstrate the dangers of bringing back players from long-term injuries, with Johnson losing Bony on the set play, and out-of-position on the third, unable to defend Dyer because he wasn't expecting Sterling to stumble. Neither was necessarily responsible for Liverpool's concession, but neither helped. Still, you'd expect – or, more accurately, you'd hope – those errors are erased with match practice.

But Liverpool fixed itself around the hour mark. More accurately, Rodgers fixed Liverpool by bringing on Joe Allen.

I highlighted his performance in yesterday's match review, but it bears repeating. In 32 minutes, Allen completed 18 of 19 passes, made five tackles (of six attempted), seven ball recoveries, one interception, two successful dribbles, and created one chance. It was pretty impressive.

Liverpool, finally with some shape in midfield, defended far better, and the majority of that time was with Swansea chasing yet another equalizer.

Allen won five of those 16 tackles after coming on, nearly a full third. And while he only made one of the eight interceptions after the 58th minute, Liverpool's interceptions mostly were higher up the pitch rather than just outside their own box, preventing Swansea from getting into more dangerous positions.

Despite playing more attacking third passes in the final 32 minutes compared to the 58 before, Swansea created just two chances, compared to the eight which came before Allen's entrance.

But that seemed more a Band-Aid than a solution. Liverpool still have problems, are still trying to find a balance, in both defense and midfield. The goal-scoring pace is keeping Liverpool amongst the Champions League places and near the top of the table, but until the other two areas are improved, Liverpool won't come close to its full potential. As has been written for more than a few weeks now.


Bundesliga said...

Amazing post, great data!

alcatrazzledazzle said...

I'd be a bit disappointed if our defense is finally healthy and in tune with one another with, you know, one match left or something. That'd be a heck of a match, though.

Anonymous said...

That "highlights" reel is dang funny. Watching Kolo put hands on head, either one or both, after a fatal error is hilarious. Should have added the one from Swans where Sterling and Jono win the ball on the left, then both start upfield and Sterling trips over the ball has it taken back and crossed towards Bony who Skrtel is slyly undressing and goes down for the soft pen call. That whole play belongs on that video.

Good to see Joey Allen at his barnstorming best again. Imagine what that midfield would look like with the reborn Allen in this form (he looks close to his Man City peak to me), with Hendo in the form of his career to date and if Lucas could get back to top gear. That would be one sweet midfield. With Lucas at DM, the Shelvey goal never happens. He blows that play up way before it evolves as Swans were parading around our midfield with impunity.

Allen certainly added some bite to our midfield play as well as helping us maintain possession and pressing and tackling to win the ball back. He is back to very very good with and without the ball. He always makes himself available when we have the ball and moves intelligently to open himself up for the pass. His tackling is again very strong and he's moving and creating space well with the ball too. It also helped us when Jonjo was subbed out at the half. He was starting to control that midfield and press Gerrard. Shelvey was much more effective than Canas in establishing Swans dominance of the midfield. Even though the stats don't quite reflect the extent of that.

Hopefully DAgger and Jonno get to their best with game time. They shouldn't be far off. The center backs will always have to do MORE when SG plays at DM. Leaves much more room for error in defense. Allen helps, but the answer is Lucas. Unfortunately it's the answer that will never get to be the answer. Not likely this season anyway.

Soton away is gonna be a tough ask. Maybe Allen gets the nod for the start to try to help out in mid and steady that D a bit. We'll see.