06 May 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 3-3 Crystal Palace

Previous Match Infographics: Chelsea (h), Norwich (a), 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.

Well, even though it's completely against my natural inclination, let's start with the good.

Liverpool's attack, at least for the first hour, was much better in breaking down the ubiquitous parked bus. Liverpool's attackers varied their positions more often, with Suarez obviously aided by Sturridge's return, even if the latter was rusty while the former was ill. Liverpool played far more patiently, trying to build up attacks to make the breakthrough rather than ramming hopefully shots from distance, most evident in the second goal. And Liverpool took advantage of at least one of their set plays, as they'd done so often this season, the 24th goal scored from a free kick or corner this season. Liverpool had clearly learned something from last week's failings.

Against Chelsea, just five of Liverpool's 26 shots came from inside the box; 11 came from 30 yards from goal or farther. Yesterday, 16 of 26 shots came from inside the box, including two of the three goals; Sturridge's goal was from just outside the box in the penalty arc, which has been Liverpool's third-most prolific shot location this season (after, unsurprisingly, the six-yard box and the center of the 18-yard box). And just one Liverpool shot came from outside of 30 yards: Suarez's free kick, which wasn't far from hitting the target.

Liverpool scored three against a side that'd given up three goals just once in 25 matches under Tony Pulis, to Newcastle of all sides, way back on December 21.

But then the last 15-20 minutes happened.

And Liverpool promptly conceded three to a side that had scored three goals just three times under Tony Pulis: against West Brom in February, at Cardiff a month ago, and at Everton just over two weeks ago. And it took less than 10 minutes to do so.

All the good things in attack over the first hour, all the bad things in defense in the final 15 minutes. First, an unnecessary free kick, followed by standing off Jedinak then Delaney in acres of midfield space, capped off with an unlucky deflection. Second, caution to the wind with almost everyone forward for a corner kick, beaten all ends up on the counter when Bolasie sprinted past Johnson. Third, a tired Liverpool allowing Palace to pass pass pass in unthreatening positions, but then caught out by a long ball when Skrtel attempted to track Murray into midfield, leaving Gayle wide open when Johnson couldn't get over to cover the second ball.

Liverpool nearly did the same thing at Norwich just two weeks ago.

Yes, Glen Johnson was at the center of all three Palace goals: the deflection, the missed tackle, not tracking Gayle. But all season long it's been team-wide breakdowns coupled with individual errors. Which is why it's fitting that this is the way the world ends. The only error leading to a goal given by Opta was to Skrtel, for haplessly chasing Murray.

How much Liverpool had tired was evident in the tackles attempted in the final 20 minutes.

10 unsuccessful tackles, out of 12 attempted. Liverpool were successful with just 17 of 35 in total, the only time they've been successful with less than half of the tackles attempted this season.

And two of those unsuccessful tackles led to Palace's first two goals: Sterling's awkward foul on Jedinak for the free kick for the first; Johnson completely whiffing on stopping Bolasie's counter two minutes later.

Conceding three goals isn't in Tony Pulis' playbook, but taking advantage of the chances you get certainly is. Palace put six of 10 shots on target, and scored with three of those six. Liverpool have had 60% or better shooting accuracy just once this season, putting nine of 13 shots on target in the 5-3 win at Stoke. And Liverpool have the highest shooting accuracy in the league this season, the only side to put more than 40% of its shots on target (40.1%, if we're being precise).

Liverpool have now allowed three goals away from home against all three promoted teams: 1-3 at Hull, 6-3 at Cardiff, and 3-3 at Palace. I'm not sure what's more amazing: that it happened or that all three didn't end in losses thanks to Liverpool's formidable attack.

The last time Liverpool conceded 49 goals in a Premier League season was 1998-99. They finished 7th that season, which was the failed attempt to have Evans and Houllier as joint managers, ending up 25 points behind the league winners.

Every Liverpool manager since then has built from the back: Houllier and Benitez most notably, but even Hodgson and Dalglish to a lesser extent. With Liverpool having scored just 47 goals the season before Rodgers took over, he's gone about it in the opposite manner. And Liverpool's attack is, has been glorious, far better than we could have hoped, far quicker than we could have expected.

The next step forward will obviously be at the other end of the pitch.

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