24 November 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 1-3 Crystal Palace

Previous Match Infographics: Chelsea (h), Real Madrid (a), Newcastle (a), Hull (h), Real Madrid (h), QPR (a), West Brom (h), Basel (a), 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.

Once again, a midfield gone missing, an error-prone defense, and an impotent attack, and all three are at fault for Liverpool's result.

There have been times in each of Rodgers' three seasons where one or two of those occurred. It happened more in Rodgers' first season (today's infographic looks very similar to this with the same scoreline), but there were multiple matches last season where either the defense or midfield were terrible but the attack saved the day. Or, when Suarez was suspended, where the defense shelled and prevented damage when Liverpool only scored once.

This season, we've seen all three phrases broken at the same time all too often. Against Villa, at West Ham, at Newcastle, and now at Palace. The only reason Hull isn't on that list is because Hull didn't spend a single second attacking.

So it's hard to point out a single problem or solution. Liverpool have Laurel and Hardy at center-back, but Sakho's still injured and Kolo Toure's still Kolo Toure. Liverpool have the player that once was Glen Johnson at full-back, but it's not as if Moreno and Manquillo have been faultless. Liverpool are blunt up front whether Balotelli or Lambert or Borini starts, whether Liverpool plays 4-3-3 (as in the second half yesterday) or the diamond (as in the first half yesterday).

And Liverpool have Steven Gerrard as its defensive midfielder, a midfield who doesn't do any defending.

Gerrard's movement, or lack thereof, on Palace's first two goals yesterday is painful, whether he was watching Bolasie steam through the middle towards Skrtel and Lovren on the first or not marking Ledley's run into the box on the second. And not only did Gerrard not make a successful tackle yesterday, he didn't even attempt one.

And, similar to last season's demoralizing loss to Chelsea, he seemingly put the attack on his shoulders yesterday with Liverpool unable to conjure much else from open play against a deep, well-organized defense, attempting five non-penalty shots – more than in any other match since the start of last season except (you guessed it) that loss to Chelsea. All five were from outside the box, which were all five of Liverpool's shots from outside the box. Four were off-target, one was blocked.

If Liverpool wanted to go guns-blazing (or as blazing as Liverpool's guns get this season), with Sterling, Lallana, and Coutinho all involved, hindsight suggests that Liverpool probably should have used Lucas to protect against the counter. But, again, yesterday wasn't all on Gerrard's shoulders. Lovren and Skrtel combined to make all of one tackle and three interceptions as well. Lovren and Skrtel were just as responsible for Liverpool's goals conceded: both backing off Bolasie on the first then Skrtel unable to beat Gayle to the rebound; Lovren beaten left, right, and center by Bolasie on the second; Skrtel's unnecessary foul to set up the brilliant third.

Yesterday was just the third time since the start of 2013-14 that Liverpool put just one shot on-target: at Villa last season and against Villa this season the other two. But there were excuses for both of those performances. Last season, Liverpool scored an early goal, attempting just four more shots for the rest of the match as they soaked up Villa's pressure, hanging on for a 1-0 win. This season, Villa blocked seven of Liverpool's 18 shots, and more than a few of those would have ended up on target.

Palace blocked just two of Liverpool's shots yesterday. Liverpool put nine off target, an 8.33% shot accuracy; that and the 5.6% accuracy against Aston Villa are by far the worst of Rodgers' tenure, the only times that Liverpool have been below 20% accuracy. Four of Liverpool's nine off-target shots were in the danger zone: two Lambert headers off-target, Skrtel's wild set play chance, and Borini's errant stab from a corner. Manquillo's excellent opportunity in the 71st minute, which nearly hit the corner flag, was just to the right of the danger zone. Seven shots inside the box, but only four from open play. Palace had just two danger zone shots, but both ended up in the back of Liverpool's net.

12 shots is well below Liverpool's average last season, where they attempted slightly more than 17 per match, putting 39.6% on-target. And it's below this season's mark, where Liverpool are averaging 14.5 per match this season, but putting just 31% on-target.

But the attacking failures aren't all on the strikers or this summer's signings. For all of Coutinho's involvement – 50 passes attempted, 51 passes received – he didn't create a single chance or attempt a single shot. Sterling was similarly shut down, one blocked effort and two key pass layoffs for Manquillo and Gerrard the sum of his shot involvement.

Once again, credit were due. Palace had a plan, and Palace defended excellently, keeping Liverpool's "dangerous" attackers quiet; interceptions clustered in the middle of the pitch outside the penalty area, tackles on the flanks. And then Palace broke at pace through Bolasie and Gayle.

But it's easy to plan against Liverpool at the moment. Villa did similar, West Ham did similar, Newcastle did similar, Hull (sans the attacking at pace) did similar.

It's gotten to the point where Liverpool have to make radical changes: whether it's Gerrard pushed further forward, Lucas as defensive midfielder, three at the back and a more counter-attacking style, dropping Lovren and Gerrard and Johnson no matter the alternatives (or lack thereof). I honestly don't know. I'm not the defending Manager of the Year.

But Brendan Rodgers is, and now he has to earn it.


Anonymous said...

One shot on goal in 90 minutes. Says it all.

Hammered by a newly promoted team that should be battling relegation. We look and have looked like a bottom half of the table team for awhile now.

So many problems. Can't score. Rarely look dangerous in the opponents third. Can't stop the other team from scoring. We hit the trifecta.

As soon as something goes wrong, we just cave in. No fight out there. We too easily accept it. The team looks to the captain to find some sign of a fightback, but he's too gassed to bring it. It's past 20 minutes and the legs are gone.

No easy answers. No good answers. There might not be a solution before January. And probably not then either. Too many issues.

Time for Rodgers to earn his corn.

Anonymous said...

Mate thanks for writing these, heavens knows I'd have packed it in a while ago due to depression.

Probably would have given up after Villa, or Newcastle, or Basel, or...