08 December 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 0-0 Sunderland

Previous Match Infographics: Leicester (a), Stoke (h), Ludogorets (a), Crystal Palace (a), 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.

(Nota Bene: Here's the formation diagram usually included in match reviews.)

There's little more to say that hasn't been said in previous match infographic posts.

With Lucas and Toure back in the side, Liverpool have thankfully gotten better in defense. As against Stoke, Liverpool didn't make a single defensive error, for only the sixth time in 15 matches. Sunderland rarely had a threatening attack that didn't end with Wickham throwing himself to the ground and gesticulating for a penalty he didn't deserve. Liverpool only allowed seven Sunderland shots, with just one on target. Lucas made seven tackles and five interceptions, leading the team in both categories, while Toure and Skrtel also had high tackle and interceptions totals respectively.

But Liverpool are still terrible in attack. Absolutely terrible.

The home side took 15 shots, which isn't an awful total, but had an Expected Goal total of just 0.9 from those 15 (via Michael Caley).

Just two of those 15 actually forced Costel Pantilimon into a save, and neither was an especially difficult save. Liverpool's shooting accuracy in the last four games? 8.33% (at Palace), 18.75% (v Stoke), 27.27% (at Leicester), 13.33% (v Sunderland). That's beyond horrific. As a reminder, Liverpool's shooting accuracy was 39.63% last season, an average they've surpassed just twice since Sturridge's (first) injury, at West Ham and at Newcastle, matches where Liverpool took 11 and six shots respectively. And yes, matches that still Liverpool lost.

Against Stoke, Liverpool's first shot on-target came in the 64th minute. Against Sunderland, it was in the 63rd. Two matches at Anfield against bottom-half sides, and Liverpool needed more than an hour to hit the target.

Only one Premier League match this season has produced fewer shots on-target than Liverpool (2) and Sunderland (1) did on Saturday. That was Liverpool v Aston Villa in early September, where each side managed to hit the target only once. I doubt I need to remind that Villa scored from their one, though.

Liverpool are ponderous, unable to create chances on the counter despite playing for it in the first half – with just two shots to show for their troubles, both at least inside the box but both off-target – and unable to create good chances despite monopolizing possession in the second half because the slow play allowed Sunderland to get into position and Liverpool simply could not break them down.

The Liverpool Echo, among others, highlighted how the front players failed to link up, using Coutinho and Lambert exchanging all of three passes as the primary example (all three from Lambert to Coutinho), but the entire attack except Coutinho and Sterling were guilty of it. Just one pass from Sterling to Lambert. Just five passes between Coutinho and Lallana. Just five passes between Henderson and Lambert, all five from Lambert to Henderson. The players who played the most passes to Rickie Lambert? Mignolet and Johnson, each finding the striker four times.

And once again, Coutinho failed to create a single chance, despite his 14 passes to Raheem Sterling. Sterling was Liverpool's primary creator, while Coutinho took more shots than any other Liverpool player. That seems backward. Coutinho's last key pass came against Chelsea, on November 8th. He's played 273 minutes since. And that's the only chance he's created in the league since Liverpool beat West Brom on October 4th. He's played 500 minutes since. Coutinho is yet to register an assist this season in any competition, after tallying eight last season. I realize that Coutinho hasn't had much help from the players in front of him – and neither Lambert nor Balotelli make the runs that Coutinho thrives off of, the movement that Sturridge and Suarez constantly demonstrated – but that's still really, really bad and really, really, really unhelpful.

Last season's goalscoring, aside from Suarez and Sturridge's individual brilliance, was defined by two traits: hammering the opposition from the opening whistle and the ability to convert set plays.

Well, since beating Tottenham on August 30th, Liverpool have scored in the first 20 minutes in three matches: a draw versus Ludogorets, a loss to Chelsea, and a loss at Crystal Palace, equalizing against Ludogorets and maintaining a lead for just five minutes against Chelsea and 15 minutes at Palace. And Liverpool have scored on just three set plays in the league this season (if we're being generous and counting Lallana's opener at Leicester), with none of those coming from a corner. Liverpool have had 77 corners this season.

Yes, at least the defense has improved, even if neither Stoke nor Sunderland are the most dangerous of opponents. That's at least a little progress, and even if neither seem a long-term solution, both Lucas and Toure have made Liverpool a more resilient side.

But the attack still has a very, very long way to go.

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