24 March 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 6-3 Cardiff City

Previous Match Infographics: 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.

Once again, it's all about Liverpool's attack. Six more goals, for 82 on the season, by far the most they've scored in the Premier League era, and there are still eight games left to play. Right now, Liverpool are on pace to beat Chelsea's record total in 2009-10; they scored 103 that season, an average of 2.71 goals per game. Right now, Liverpool are averaging 2.73 goals per game.

Liverpool scored those six goals from just nine shots on target, just 19 shots in total. Because Liverpool have two of the best strikers in the world, and because Liverpool are taking the vast majority of their shots from prime shooting positions.

Breaking down a packed defense can be troublesome, as we've seen time and time again in previous seasons (and, at times, earlier this season). But despite playing against a five-man defense for the majority of the match, Liverpool still got into fabulous shooting positions. And took ruthless advantage.

That's been the case in almost every match during this six-game win streak.


16 of those 20 goals, including all six of yesterday's, came from either the six-yard box or the middle of the 18-yard box. 15 of those 16 were less than 12 yards from goal. But it's not as if this is a new habit; 40% of Liverpool's shots all season have come from those two areas (204 of 512), and it's led to 59 of Liverpool's 82 goals. When you get into those positions – either because Suarez and Sturridge are magicians (see: goals five and six on Saturday) or because you can pass the opposition to death (see: goals one and four on Saturday) – you're going to score fairly often.

And Luis Suarez scores more than fairly often. In the last two years, Suarez has six Premier League hat-tricks: his first came at Norwich in April 2012, two last season, and three this season. During that span, no other player has more than two: Robin van Persie, who notched them in September and April last season. 15 players have one. Luis Suarez has six. That's incomprehensible.

But for all that attacking prowess, there's something to complain about in each of Liverpool's goals conceded. The first two were especially troublesome as Cardiff had started the better side, exploiting the gaps Liverpool left in both midfield and defense.

Despite those gaps, the first goal was almost solely down to an individual error. Allen had stopped the move, tackling Fabio and recovering possession. But under only a modicum of pressure, he passed straight to Campbell rather than the open Flanagan, catching the left back on the back foot. Now, Flanagan, Allen, Agger, Skrtel, and Gerrard were out of position. And both Campbell then Mutch took advantage. Liverpool remain the most error-prone team in the division, with 34 errors leading to a shot; Arsenal are catching up, with 32, while Norwich and Fulham are tied for third with 25. Liverpool are 'lucky' that they've only been punished for nine of them. Tottenham have committed 22 errors, but 15 have led to goals, while Arsenal and Norwich's errors have led to ten goals each.

The second, however, was all about those gaps, as Liverpool Offside thoroughly covered yesterday. There's little to add to that, except that it's worth pointing out just how far Agger's out of position, marking the same man that Skrtel's marking, ignoring Campbell just as much as Gerrard did, and recovering too late to meaningfully hinder Campbell's effort.

Both the first and second goals exploited Liverpool's left flank. For all the deserved praise of Flanagan and Allen after the last two matches, that demonstrates they've still some way to go before being as consistent as Liverpool need. Yes, Flanagan's still quite young. Yes, Allen's not long back from an extended injury. Yes, both have been better more often than they've been worse. But I wouldn't be surprised to see either or both rotated against Sunderland on Wednesday.

And Cardiff's third goal demonstrated that even a bound-for-relegation side which had scored just 23 goals in the 29 previous matches can cut you open if you grant them the opportunity. 7% of Cardiff successful passes in the entire match came in the move leading up to their final goal. 16 completed passes, in the space of about one minute. Yes, Liverpool were comfortably ahead. Yes, they'd spent a fair amount of energy in the previous 87 minutes to be in that position. But allowing the opposition that much time and space, with only Sterling attempting to tackle a player in possession, remains annoying. And very much preventable. Even at that point in the match, goal difference matters.

It was yet another example of "Score three? Fine, we'll just score more than you." We've said over and over that can't keep happening, that Liverpool can't remain this potent, can't remain this resilient. But it has. Just make sure it keeps happening for eight more matches.

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