14 April 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City

Previous Match Infographics: West Ham (a), 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.

I'm still fairly amazed that both Coutinho and Sterling started in a diamond formation. Sterling reaped more of the plaudits, wonderfully scoring the first, setting up what should have been the second for Sturridge, and terrorizing City's midfield and defense. Pellegrini did not expect that set-up, and it most definitely led to Liverpool's mesmerizing start. Incidentally, that unpredictably has been a massive factor in Liverpool's fast starts: managers now don't know what to expect from Rodgers' Liverpool, only that they're most likely going straight for your throat.

Coutinho, in even more of an unfamiliar role, was just as impressive when Liverpool were in control of the game. He's rarely looked like an orthodox central midfielder while at Liverpool, even during his best performances in the 4-3-3. But that's exactly what he was yesterday.

Only Sakho attempted or completed more passes for Liverpool yesterday. Coutinho's six tackles were a high in yesterday's match, and a high for Coutinho this season. And every tackle he attempted was successful. But five of those six tackles, all five on the right flank, came in the furious first half.

Liverpool needed those performances from Sterling and Coutinho with both Suarez and Sturridge off-form. Part of that was due to City's defense, even with a mistake prone Kompany. They'd conceded the second-fewest goals in the league prior to this match, behind only Chelsea, for a reason. In addition, Zabaleta and Clichy were more hesitant to get forward than usual, much more concerned with doubling up on Liverpool's strikers, sealing off the channels where both can be so dangerous.

Combined, Suarez and Sturridge took just three shots, all off-target; created just one chance, which was Suarez's throughball for the first goal; and completed just two of 17 attempted take-ons. Sterling, in contrast, was successful with six of his eight attempted take-ons. Yes, Suarez should have also won a penalty – Clattenburg most likely ignoring the shout because of his previous histrionics – but City could have won two. And we've still no word on whether Sturridge will miss any time having gone off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury in the 66th minute. It was more than encouraging to see Liverpool able to beat one of the best (if not the best) sides in the league without those two on form, demonstrating how impressive Liverpool have become as a team, but they'll definitely be needed over the next month. At least next week's match is at Norwich. Suarez is already sharpening his knives in anticipation.

All five of yesterday's goals were fairly respective of the sides that scored them. Three from Liverpool: some Suarez brilliance as well as a killer throughball; a set play; and ruthlessly capitalizing on an opposition mistake. Two Manchester City strikes from patient build-up play with short passes, triangles, and one and two touches per player.

Both City goals came during the 10-15 minute period where Liverpool were flagging. Liverpool have allowed very few opposition goals that looked like City's two. More often, at least one Liverpool player is able to press, hassle, harry the opposition out of possession before they can pass pass pass pass pass through the midfield. But after an all-guns-blazing opening 45 minutes, the midfield had tired, and it was strange to see neither Allen nor Lucas come on. And those two goals were partly the result.

Milner, on in the 50th minute, made a massive difference – tucking instead where Navas stayed wide, drawing the fullbacks out of position, another attacker that actually linked with the others – but David Silva was the epicenter, far better able to find space amidst the tiring Liverpool midfield.

A similar amount of passes received in each half, but in much more threatening positions in the second half. Silva scored the first, set up the second, and could and probably should have added a game sealing third, inches away from connecting with Agüero's slightly-too-heavy centering pass.

It was worrying to see Liverpool tire so quickly in the second half. They still have four furious games left, games that will take a lot out of them no matter the opposition. It's no coincidence that City didn't score another Allen came on – not only providing a fresh set of legs but changing the formation to a more secure 4-1-4-1 – although City had two glorious chances to do so (both chances presented by Liverpool mistakes in their own half).

And Liverpool will be without its Energizer Bunny for three of those four matches. Henderson's late red card was Liverpool's first of the season. There have been just three Premier League seasons where Liverpool failed to pick up a single red card: 1995-96, 2006-07, and 2008-09. Only four teams are yet to have a player sent off this season: Aston Villa, Cardiff, Southampton, and West Brom.


Anonymous said...

Can someone explain to me what Rodgers sees in Moses? Also have Teixiera and the invisible Spaniard disappeared? I'd rather see any of those two or even Agger brought on instead of Moses.

Marque Pierre Sondergaard said...

Indeed on Moses... Unless he has done some brilliant stuff in training.

On Coutinho, surely you meant tackles attempted not passes?