07 April 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 2-1 West Ham

Previous Match Infographics: Tottenham (h), 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.

Liverpool have now won 12 penalties this campaign, converting ten of them. This is the most that Liverpool have won in a Premier League season; the previous high was 10 in 2003-04 and 1992-93. Historically, it's usually somewhere between four and seven league penalties a season. Manchester City and Chelsea are tied for second-most penalties this season; they've each earned seven.

The last side to win 12 penalties in a season? Chelsea in 2009-10. Who set the record for goals scored in a Premier League season. And won the league.

Luis Suarez has earned five of those 12 penalties (as well as Liverpool's one penalty in the FA Cup): two via handball, two via mistimed tackles by the defender, and one when taken out by a goalkeeper. Sterling's earned three, Sturridge two, Allen and Flanagan one each.

It shouldn't be surprising that Liverpool have won so many spot kicks when they've the capacity to score at will, and with fast, clever players such as Suarez, Sterling, and Sturridge. But 12 is still a surprisingly large amount of penalties. And we can easily come up with more than should have been given: at City, at Chelsea, at United just to name three.

It took chutzpah to take off Philippe Coutinho at halftime. He'd created three chances of Liverpool's five first half chances, looked the player most likely to find the pass that finally broke West Ham's defense. It was not the obvious change if Rodgers was looking to make changes. No matter. Liverpool's midfield wasn't working, Liverpool weren't in control, West Ham were threatening too often, and Rodgers wasn't having it. So on came Lucas.

From there, Liverpool played and completed more passes, had much more possession, took more shots, created more and better chances. In addition, Andy Carroll was rendered mostly moot and mute.

Obviously, Lucas wasn't solely responsible for Liverpool's improvement or Carroll's nullification. But the switch to a diamond midfield with a stronger defender as one of the wider midfielders did negate West Ham's primary attacking strategy to a large extent. And, to the shock of pretty much all involved, it was Lucas' throughball which earned the winning penalty. Rodgers has increasingly been praised for his willingness to tinker, often in the starting formation and personnel. Now we're seeing those adjustments during the match as well.

Once again, Liverpool did an excellent job limiting the opposition to shots from less dangerous positions, with only four of 11 shots coming inside the box. One of those four – the goal – obviously shouldn't have stood. Another, from Nolan, was as much an attempted flick-on as a shot, and didn't go anywhere near Mignolet. Credit for that is team-wide, defending well in both midfield and defense, but special mention goes to Skrtel and Sakho, combining for 21 clearances and winning eight of 17 aerial duels against a difficult opponent. Skrtel's renaissance has been remarkable, but Sakho's efforts were even more impressive given that he hadn't started a match since December 29.

However, three of those four shots came from set piece situations, the fourth – Carroll's header off the bar – from Diame's right-flank cross. It's worth reiterating a stat from yesterday's match review: Demel's goal was the 12th set play goal Liverpool have conceded this season (not counting penalties, which would bring the total up to 15). Only Fulham, Stoke, Sunderland, and West Brom have conceded more. Granted, it's vastly improved in recent weeks – Liverpool conceded nine in the first half of the season, but just three since the New Year – but it's still enough to worry at times.

Liverpool have also scored the most set play goals in the league this season. Second-most? Next week's opponent: Manchester City.


Zētētikos said...

Great post as usual, Nate. Thanks.

I have a question about the game. Not much has been made of the Johnson / Downing match-up and comments that I've seen post-match have tended to claim that Johnson did well. But my impression during the game was that Downing was bursting by Johnson quite often during the first half (but then thankfully not hitting the target with his crosses).

I wonder if Lucas coming on didn't also help Liverpool tighten up on the right side, so my question is this: What do Downing's crossing stats look like for first vs. second half? Again, my impression during the game was that he had much less joy during the second half.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. That would be a interesting stat to look at. My friend and I were discussing the same. We were expecting a Allen for Coutinho or Lucas for Stevie change. It didn't make sense to get Lucas and then play him wide. It worked though because West Ham were quiet from the start of second half.

Anonymous said...

Skrtel and Sakho are defending monumentally well. Stevie is finally coming to terms with the "defensive" part of filling that defensive mid position. Those 3, on current form, can shut down any team. Stevie has also dialed in that cross field long ball to Luis so that he can take a touch across the defender who just can't but help slap the ball with their hand. "Maybe the ref will miss it"? Sakho is also a beauty to watch with the ball at his feet. Easily maintains possession, holds off any pressure, and always finds that pass to create time and space on the ball. Skrtel is also much more composed and even comfortable on the ball.

I put the rust on Suarez's and Sturridge's finishing down to the hangover that you always get in the first game after a mini vacation. Normal service will resume come Sunday for City. Luis has to find that extra little bit of ingenuity which he has in the locker for torching Kompany. It's getting old seeing Vinny upbeat after matches. And Danny always has a thing for playing City.

Raheem just has to keep doing his thing and Flanno has to be more judicious in his challenges to avoid any yellow cards. We want that steel in the tackle, but not to the extent of getting that card. That hurts his natural game.

Hendo will continue to do his Dirky things, non stop everything.

With that Anfield crowd behind them, this team has the ability to outcompete and play anybody off the park. Can't wait for next Sunday.