Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), 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.
Yesterday's first and second goals were Liverpool's 57th and 58th first half goals this season, which accounts for 60% of Liverpool's league goals this season.
That's an amazing amount.
Compare that to 2012-13 or 2011-12, where Liverpool scored 42.9% and 40.5% of the goals in the first half (all competitions). Or 2008-09, where 64 of Liverpool's 106 goals (again, all competitions) came in the second half, including 36 after the 75th minute. So many late comebacks that season.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's a good thing when you blow teams out of the water before they even settle: Arsenal (h), Everton (h), Tottenham (home and away), etc. But it can be a bad thing when Liverpool sits on said lead, inviting teams onto a defense too often prone to mistakes: Stoke (a), Swansea (h), and Norwich yesterday, as well as a fair few more. It'd be a different story if Liverpool could hold onto a lead, could strange the life out of a match when two goals up. But, despite the unbelievable league position, this is still very much a team in progress. And yet, Liverpool somehow keep winning.
It's also easier to get back into a game when you've nothing to lose, as Sunderland demonstrated against both City and Chelsea this week. That's not to take anything away from Neil Adams and Norwich; the tactical changes at halftime most definitely improved the home side, and they were able to take advantages of the weaknesses in Liverpool's system and personnel.
Matching Liverpool's christmas tree with a diamond meant Liverpool's five central midfielders were able to cancel out Norwich's strength in the middle. Liverpool's threat on the counter-attack through Suarez, Sterling, and Coutinho – even with Sturridge absent – helped to restrain Norwich's fullbacks, which is where the width almost always comes from in a 4-4-2 diamond.
But when Norwich switched to a 4-3-3, getting Redmond and Snodgrass into wider positions, pinning Liverpool's fullbacks back and forcing Lucas and Allen to do more defensive work wide, Norwich were the better side. Just as an example, Joe Allen led Liverpool with 10 tackles, but seven of those ten came in the first half. And it's no coincidence that both of Norwich's goals, as well as van Wolfswinkel's chance to equalize in the 83rd minute, came from crosses.
From 34.1% possession in the first half to 50.9% possession in the second. The passing chalkboards are even more emphatic, both for Norwich and for Liverpool.
Norwich using more of the pitch in the second half, getting the ball out wide in the final third. Liverpool much more reliant on long balls, and unable to pass across the back to take the sting out of the match.
Norwich did a much better job pressing Liverpool's defenders in the second half, ensuring they couldn't rest on the ball and hold possession as they did in the opening 45 minutes, pressing more effectively with three front players spread across the width of the pitch than with the two out-and-out strikers in the first half. Eight of Norwich's 22 successful tackles and eight of the 17 interceptions came in Liverpool's half. Seven of those eight tackles and four of those eight interceptions came in the second half.
But Liverpool still found a way to win, have found a way to win for the last 11 matches, with six of those wins by a solitary goal (including four of the last five). Liverpool's mentality, Liverpool's resiliency, has been the most amazing facet of this amazing run-in, keeping their just enough of their nerve to do what's required, no matter the set-backs endured in the previous four seasons.
Long may it continue. At least for the next three matches.