31 March 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 4-0 Tottenham

Previous Match Infographics: Sunderland (h), Cardiff (a), Manchester United (a), Southampton (a), Swansea (h), 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.

It's another game whether we question how good Liverpool were versus how bad the opposition was.

That's not to take anything away from Liverpool; it was an emphatic result with some excellent individual performances, the team once again set up perfectly by Rodgers, but Tottenham were really really really really really really really *gasps for air* really really really really bad.

It starts with Tactics Tim. There's the usual "why play a high line without midfield pressing" question. You know, the exact same problem that doomed Tottenham in the reverse fixture. That was exacerbated by using Eriksen on the wing and Chadli as the #10, even though they're best in the opposite positions, and with starting Sigurðsson and Bentaleb in central midfield, leaving both Sandro and Dembele on the bench. All three decisions were wholly baffling, and partly led to Liverpool's first three goals.

For the first, Liverpool passed and passed and passed, with all the time in the world, with neither Sigurðsson nor Bentaleb closing down players in the center of the pitch. Then, after Liverpool found the weak spot (hint: never give Coutinho that much time and space), Eriksen wholly failed to track Johnson's obvious run. 1-0, within two minutes, and well on the way to game over. Unlike in other matches – say, midweek against Sunderland – it never felt as if Tottenham could come back from that stomach punch.

For the second, Tottenham's high line succumbed following individual mistakes; there was no covering defender once Suarez outmuscled Kaboul following Dawson's silly back pass, but to be fair, Dawson should have never, ever played that back pass. Ever.

And for the third, Liverpool aptly demonstrated that pressing from the front matters little if you've no control in midfield or defense. The front four pushed Henderson backwards, and challenged Mignolet, Skrtel, Agger, and Flanagan, but when Flanagan spun upfield, Liverpool swiftly took advantage of Spurs' flawed shape, charging straight through Tottenham's tender underbelly with defenders retreating haphazardly.

The malaise continued with individual performances. None of Tottenham's players, save Lloris, looked like they wanted to be anywhere near Anfield. That admittedly had something to do with the early goal, a reminder of just how bad December 15 was, and how that very much could and probably would happen again. That Rose decided to milk an injury to waste time with Tottenham down four goals in the final minutes summed up his, and for the most part, Tottenham's, attitude by the end of the match. 'Just don't let them score five. Just get me out of here.'

You couldn't tell Liverpool's dominance or Tottenham's ineptitude from most of the statistics. Yes, Liverpool monopolized control of the ball, evident in the passing and possession totals, but last season aptly demonstrated that winning passing and possession battles doesn't win you the war. It wasn't the authoritative attacking display we've become accustomed to in the big wins; just 11 shots in totals, only four shots (and none of the goals that came from Liverpool shots) from DANGER ZONE! positions. Tottenham took more shots, had more shots in prime positions, created more chances, won more corners, attempted more crosses, and had almost the exact same number of attacking third passes as Liverpool. That's what an early goal, soon followed by a second goal, can do. After the second, then the third, Liverpool could just sit back and not do anything stupid, which is why Liverpool took just two shots in the final 35 minutes. Cruise control.

The 24 passes in the buildup to Liverpool's first goal, not counting Johnson's unsuccessful low cross, equalled the most in a scoring move so far this season. The last time Liverpool played 24 passes before scoring? The fifth goal at White Hart Lane back in December. Lots and lots of passes in Liverpool's half and the middle third, patiently probing for an opening, then whoops, defense torn asunder. There's just something about Tottenham. It probably has something to do with Tottenham's high line coupled with a refusal to press in midfield. As has been written time and time and time again, that's not a good combination.

Liverpool set multiple records yesterday. Suarez, with 29 goals, is Liverpool's top scorer in a Premiership season, ahead of Fowler's 28 in 1995-96. And yes, it's worth reminding that he missed the first five games, and there are still six matches left. In scoring four for the 11th time this campaign, Liverpool now have the most 4+ goal games in a Premiership season. Liverpool's 47 goals at Anfield are also a new club record in the Premier League era. Liverpool have long surpassed their most goals in a Premier League – which were the 77 in 2008-09 – and are still on pace to catch Chelsea's record 103 in 2009-10.

Finally, I was asked in the comments yesterday why I thought that Sterling was Liverpool's man of the match. That's another thing that won't show up in the statistics. If you have a subscription to LFC.tv, I highly recommend watching this, but if not, this video from Mostar will also suffice. Don't forget to hit mute.


wides said...

I have LFC tv ... but it restricts based on country, saying not available until 23:00 UK time... can this be gotten around?

nate said...

The Hola! extension for Firefox and Google Chrome (google it) will let you pretend you're in a different country, but if you don't want to download that or don't have that browser, you'll have to either wait or hope it pops up somewhere (such as on RAWK) sooner.

wides said...

Aww man... danke! I've been looking for that plugin (albeit halfheartedly) for a long time. Was so irritated when I first got LFC TV and couldn't watch basically anything for over 24 hours after the game.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Another comprehensive team performance. 11 guys leaving everything on the field and playing for and supporting each other. Listening to the noise and emotion from the home crowd as the teams took to the field was stirring. You could just feel the individual heart of the Spurs players fading into oblivion. They needed Tactics Tim to prepare them better for this and be there in spirit for them during the match, which he wasn't. What a tool. His new name is Timmy the Tool. The early OG was a dagger (DAgger) to the heart for them.

Raheem for me was also MOTM. Exceptional play. All day long. The one play later in the game where he shielded the ball from Dembele in the corner was fantastic. No matter what Mousa tried, no matter which way he went, nothing was working to allow him to get at that little ball. It was like a little invisible force field was keeping Dembele at bay.

6 big derby matches left. Daring to dream. Safe in the knowledge that the team has already outperformed my early expectations. I, like everybody now, want a title. One game at a time. West Ham and Fat Sam away up next. Hope nobody got too much sun on the 2 day mini vacation. Time to again illustrate to Stewie why he never should have had the arrogance to shush the Kop.