18 August 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 2-1 Southampton

As always, match data from Stats Zone, except shot location from Squawka and average player position from ESPN FC.

As an FYI: the passing networks are still a work in progress. As of now, think I'll just be doing them for Liverpool and show the substitutes in reversed colors, but this may change as they become more familiar.

Compare yesterday to the same fixture 11 months ago. Liverpool were without Suarez, and in something of a 4-2-3-1. Liverpool similarly struggled for shots (with more than half from outside the box), had a similar amount of possession, made a similar number of tackles and interceptions. And Liverpool lost that match 0-1.

Southampton's personnel may have been different, Southampton's manager may have been different, Southampton's goalscorer from last season may have lined up for Liverpool, but the pattern mostly remained the same. Except this time, Liverpool scored two to Southampton's one.

Liverpool put just five shots on target – the same number as in this match last season – but two of those five ended up in the net, both defined by Opta as "clear cut chances." If you're limited to few shots, make sure at least a couple are high value shots. Liverpool did. And in different ways: the first from a jaw-dropping defense-splitting long ball from Henderson, taking Southampton's usually well-organized defense out of play; the second primarily thanks to crosses from the right, even though both were cleared. Lambert coming on a sub allowed Liverpool to adopt that tactic, something they most definitely lacked last season; even if he won neither, he caused enough hassle where Liverpool were able to pick up the second ball.

It was pleasing to see Sterling lead Liverpool in both shots taken and shot accuracy. Sure, he's only 19 (and for four more months), but a lot of the responsibility for Liverpool's attack in the wake of Suarez's departure will fall on his shoulders. And he did not disappoint yesterday. His assist might have been even more pleasing than the goal. We know he's capable of bursting behind the defense, and his finishing's improved over the last year. But the intelligence to get into position to win the header quicker than anyone else, the strength and leap to actually win the header ahead of Steven Davis, and the ability to direct it straight to Sturridge, measured perfectly over Fonte's reach and correctly assuming that the striker would get in front of his marker, is talent well beyond his years.

Southampton clearly identified Liverpool's right as a weakness, trying to test the young Manquillo. 46% of Southampton's attacks came down that flank. 11 of Liverpool's 16 successful tackles came on that flank, six by Manquillo. The debutant right-back also made four interceptions and five clearances, won two of his three aerial duels, blocked three crosses, and committed just one foul (which he was stupidly booked for). Not a bad debut.

So, unsurprisingly, Southampton's goal came from the opposite flank, with Liverpool's veterans sharing the blame.

In theory, there are four players who could have closed down Clyne. Lucas is facing the ball, trying to help Lovren ensure Tadic goes nowhere. He's the closest to Clyne, but what he's attempting makes a certain amount of sense, making sure the winger has no room to spin away from Lovren and closing off the angle for a centering pass to Ward-Prowse. Skrtel's helping Manquillo cover Pelle; again, logical given the possibility of a cross and the youngster's inexperience. Johnson and Gerrard are the furthest from Clyne, but neither's really marking anyone.

But, thanks to a clever back heel by Tadic, now Clyne's in space in the danger zone, with four players close but not close enough. No one single player is to blame, but any one of those four could have prevented the goal. I'm pretty sure Rodgers will be going over division of responsibilities when in that position during training this week.

But, to be fair, when in a similar position 12 minutes later, Johnson made sure to track Clyne's run into the box (with Allen also closer to Clyne rather than stacking on Tadic), a move which ended with Johnson and Skrtel combining to deny Clyne an effort, then Manquillo blocking Pelle's effort.

If you're going to make mistakes, you'd better learn from them. Last season, Liverpool often didn't learn from its defensive mistakes, and proceeded to make them again. This is progress.

1 comment :

Biggestfandownunder said...

Fantastic, mate. Here we go again.