02 October 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 0-1 Basel

Previous Match Infographics: Everton (h), West Ham (a), Ludogorets (h), Aston Villa (h), Tottenham (a), Manchester City (a), Southampton (h)

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

Rodgers tried to adapt a more counter-attack strategy, which was an understandable gambit away from home in European competition. It failed for two reasons. Liverpool constantly mis-controlled or chose the wrong pass when attacking (while Basel also defended well, especially on their right flank, where Liverpool focused its attacks), and Liverpool yet again conceded from a set play despite looking reasonably secure in open play.

Liverpool's attacking third passing and play was reminiscent of the West Ham loss, which – I doubt I need remind – was very much not good.

Liverpool were caught offsides seven times yesterday, more than double the previous high for the season (three each against Villa and Ludogorets). Twice those offside decisions came with the ball in the back of the net: Sterling in the third minute, Balotelli in the 88th.

We covered pretty much all there is to cover about Sterling's performance in yesterday's match review – and I'm still quite angry he played the full 90 minutes – but it's also worth noting that he was dispossessed four times and turned the ball over four times, more than any other Liverpool player, another sign of the "mental fatigue" hypothesis, dwelling long enough on the ball for a defender to get involved. This season, he'd averaged 1.46 dispossessions and 1.79 turnovers per 90 minutes prior to yesterday's match.

Two more things mentioned in yesterday's match review that bear repeating.

First, not one of Liverpool's front three created a single chance. That's happened just once before under Rodgers – the 1-3 loss at Southampton in 2012-13 – whether counting the striker and wide attackers in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, or both strikers and the central attacking midfielder in the 4-4-2 diamond, or just when counting the front two strikers the few times Liverpool have played 4-4-2 or 3-5-2. That's a startling lack of creativity, and a sign that there's no coordination in attack at the moment, just a bunch of individual attackers hoping that something comes off.

Second, Mario Balotelli did not touch the ball once inside Basel's penalty box.

We've excused a fair amount of Balotelli's play because he's still adapting to a radically changing team and he's been mostly as advertised, but that's still inexcusable. You're the central striker. Get in the box.

That 10 of Liverpool's 15 shots came in the Danger Zone surprised in retrospect, but not many were especially viable chances. Five were blocked, three were off-target, and two on-target: Lovren's 44th minute header hit into the ground rather than directly at goal, easy for Vaclik to claim, and Markovic's close range bicycle kick taken right atop the keeper in the 54th. Three of those DZ shots came from corners: two headers from Lovren, one from Gerrard. All five of the blocks came after Basel had taken the lead, which – yet again – allowed the defenders to sit deeper to deny Liverpool space in the final third.

And, interestingly, Liverpool didn't take a single shot from wide areas, either inside or outside of the penalty area. Against Everton and West Ham, that's where the majority of Liverpool's shots came from.

Despite Basel's overwhelming edge in possession, Liverpool did fairly well in denying open play chances. Just five of Basel's 11 shots came inside the box, just two inside the Danger Zone. Mignolet made smart saves of Basel's best two opportunities from open play. Had Liverpool not failed yet again when defending a corner – even if it was failing just once from seven corners and four attacking third set plays – Liverpool would at least have taken a point, which is no small matter away from home in Europe, up against the side likely to be the closest competitors for that second qualifying spot.

But Liverpool failed yet again on a corner, and a still broken side is now returning to England with no reward and more headaches.


Anonymous said...

I'm melting.

Someone please make it stop.

West Brom at the weekend after a CL trip to Switzerland is not going to be an easy game. Not by any stretch. Fail to win this one and we're in full crisis mode.

Something is missing. Goals? Coordinated attacking play? Sturridge? A DM that can actually, you know, DM? A free Hendo? Team intensity? Players that can pick a pass? Dangerous shots? Suarez? Definitely Suarez!

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