15 December 2014

Visualized: Liverpool 0-3 Manchester United

Previous Match Infographics: Basel (h), Sunderland (h), 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.

There won't be many matches where Liverpool put at least 47% of its shots on-target and fails to score. That's happened just twice before under Rodgers: at Newcastle this season, with three of six shots on target, and against Southampton last season, with five of ten on target. Liverpool lost both matches 0-1. Liverpool took 19 shots yesterday, nearly double the output against Southampton last season and more than triple the output at Newcastle this season.

Prior to yesterday's match, Liverpool have had a shooting accuracy better than 45% in 17 of the 91 league games under Rodgers. They've scored 51 goals in those 17 matches, an average of three goals per game.

And eight of those nine shots on-target came inside United's penalty box. It's not as if Liverpool just let fly from distance and all De Gea had to do was scoop the ball up. Expected Goals certainly aren't the be-all, end-all, but Liverpool's ExpG tally yesterday was 3.1 (via Michael Caley), by far the high for the season.

There won't be many matches where Liverpool take at least nine shots in the Danger Zone (six-yard box + center of the 18-yard box) and fail to score. That hasn't happened since the start of last season (I don't have shot location data for 2012-13). Liverpool took at least nine Danger Zone shots in 10 of 38 league matches last season, scoring an average of 3.8 goals per game in those matches.

Yesterday was the first time this season that Liverpool took at least nine shots in the Danger Zone. The previous high was eight at Tottenham, where Liverpool scored three goals.

Despite failing to score, yesterday certainly was progress in an attacking sense. And it's probably not coincidence that output occurred, at least for the most part, with two players up front. Balotelli needs a strike partner to be effective, Sterling needs a strike partner to be effective. If Liverpool can replicate that performance in attack, they'll probably win more matches than they lose, as long as they're not facing David De Gea.

However, if Liverpool continue to defend like this (seriously, stop what you're doing and go read this from Mike Goodman, because I can't break down Liverpool's struggles in defense any better), they're going to lose a lot more matches than they win.

Liverpool put nine of 19 shots on target, but United put six of 11 on target (54.5%), and scored from three of those six *glares at Brad Jones*.

Liverpool's inability to find a balance between defense and attack has been a major narrative throughout Rodgers' tenure, in all three seasons, whether playing three at the back or 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 diamond. The problems often start with Gerrard as a defensive midfielder, whether at the base of a diamond or 4-3-3, whether partnered with another in a 4-2-3-1, or in yesterday's 3-4-3, but there are multiple other issues: the positioning of the center-backs, the fullbacks' inability to get back, poor goalkeeping, constant random errors (like Lovren's failed interception setting up United's third, among many other examples), etc. And that's not even taking into account Liverpool's recurring issues when defending set plays.

We're nearly halfway through the campaign, and Rodgers has tried nearly every formation under the sun, and the repeated issues are still repeating.

That bodes exceptionally poorly for both the rest of the season and Rodgers' Liverpool tenure.


Anonymous said...

The Goodman article was good Nate. Thanks for sharing. There were so many issues on that Rooney goal. Allen getting megged. Lallana not being able to match Valencia's run after he megged Allen. Coutinho not tracking Rooney. The biggest issue for me, and the one that Goodman highlights is Gerrard's complete lack of positional awareness on the play. His primary responsibility as "THE DM" is supposed to be providing defensive shielding to his back line. He just stands in no man's land, marking space and killing the grass. We desperately need a real DM in that position.

After watching yesterday's goals, I can't get out of my head that Migs in the net would have kept us in the game. That Rooney goal is his forte. Watching the ball onto Rooney's foot, and then reading the shot and laying his body completely out to tip the ball around the post. He makes that save. All day long.

Migs also contests and probably saves the RvP goal. No way RvP would have had a completely open net to just stroke the ball into. Of course, Lovren gets the primary blame, tapping the ball to Mata. But, Migs saves that shot too.

We needed a shot stopper yesterday. More than anything else. A shot stopper. We got a guy who dives before the shot is hit or the ball leaves the foot. Jones is also a guy who is NO better than Migs at commanding his area. What Rodgers needed to do was to inspire and bolster Migs' confidence. Any way that he could. Whatever was needed. Not to drop him.

Migs was creating panic in the defense? For who? I wouldn't expect Skrtel to be panicking. Gerrard and Lovren? That's their problem. They shouldn't be playing those positions to begin with. Gerrard is providing nowhere near the level of defensive solidity and shielding needed from a DM and Lovren is a car crash in waiting. The guy causing panic in the defense and needing to be dropped in Lovren. Not Migs.

Kindred Winecoff said...

Your conclusion is the key bit: it's not the players and it's not the formation; it's what Rodgers wants his players to do.

-- He wants his fullbacks high up the pitch, which leaves space available for counterattacks.

-- He wants his midfielders to press high and hard, which is a risky strategy that leaves acres of space behind if unsuccessful.

-- He wants his CBs to space themselves out and maintain a very high line. This, again, exposes them to quick strikes and one-on-ones.

-- He wants the whole team to be spaced wide and in an advanced position in attack, which makes it very difficult to suddenly become compact if possession is lost.

That is Rodgers' philosophy, and it carries over to whatever formation or personnel he uses. Sure, Lovren should have done better with that clearance, but it also went exactly where a CDM would be in a more compact system. Sure, Coutinho should've tracked Rooney's run, but Coutinho at the time was pushing forward as a RAM/CAM... that's really the guy you want to be responsible for tracking a run into the box?

The philosophy is a good one if you generate sufficient offense to overcome to gaps you're going to have defensively. But if you're not creating chances, or not finishing them when you do, then it's the worst of all worlds.

Anonymous said...

Just need a DM that can provide the defensive side of the game and we'll cut down on a large percentage of the goals conceded without curtailing the offense.

Need a keeper who excels at stopping shots and not diving until the ball is struck. Will cut down on goals conceded without impacting the offense.

The goals yesterday were not counterattacking goals where we couldn't get back to defend. Simple defensive positioning by Stevie cuts out the Rooney goal. With Lucas on the field that goal never gets scored. With Migs in the goal it gets saved and pushed around the post. The 2nd goal, Young should not have been allowed to get the cross in. Hendo was on him. RvP should not have gotten his head on the ball. Mata should not have been open at the back post. We had plenty of defenders back. And Mata was offside as well. The third goal Lovren swings wildly at the ball and directs it a few yards right to Mata. Lovren had time on the ball. It was a HORRENDOUS defensive error. He had "plenty" of time on the ball. No need to panic and swipe at it. It would have went to where our DM should have been? No way. Unless the DM would have been right on Mata. Hard to say. Very unlikely. Even with Lucas in there that's small odds that Lucas picks it up. That ERROR is on Lovren. ALL. DAY. LONG. He does that ignorant stuff every game he plays. Every. Single. One. I've never, ever seen a center back who could be standing a few yards from a striker getting ready to shoot on goal and just stand there and watch the striker shoot. It doesn't enter his mind that the striker is about to score from 10 yards out. And he's done this a few times this season. His positioning is often terrible causing goals. There are so many issues. He's horrendous. Full stop.

The part about Rodgers setting the team up to be much more offensive in nature is somewhat the case. It works when you have 2 "world class" strikers scoring 50 goals for fun. There are very few other scenarios where it works. It certainly doesn't work when there is not any effective striker on the team. Most cases will result in a loss, like against United, Villa, West Ham, Newcastle, Chelsea and Palace. We could have had virtually the same offensive production last year with Lucas at DM and conceded far fewer than 50 goals. Rodgers is unfortunately shoehorning Gerrard in to the team at DM at the expense of the team. We could certainly have virtually the same offensive output this year with Lucas at DM.

Time for more drinking. It's the only solution.

Vercingetora said...

Gerard is correctly positioned on the Rooney goal.

There are two tactical problems. First, Lovren hasn't shifted towards the ball leaving a huge gap between himself and Allen (covering Moreno's position) that Valencia can get into. This is Lovrens fault. Second, Moreno's out of position having made a run into the box on Sterlings failed goal attempt. This means Allen has to shift to fullback and all players need to shift accordingly. Gerard correctly shifts into Allens zone. Continuo correctly shifts back into Gerrards zone and tracks Rooney when he moves into it, but then inexplicably stops when Rooney reaches the hole. This is Coutinhos fault for not tracking.

Execution-wise, Sterling and Allen are to blame. Sterling has to finish and opened up the team to counter when he failed to do so. Allen got schooled by Valencia.
Credit should go to Valencia and Rooney who executed the attack perfectly.

Vercingetora said...

One more thing. I thought this was our best performance in a while. We finally began pressing and this was a huge success as we dominated the first half. The problem was simple: we don't have a player who can finish.

Sterling and Balotelli both had an incredible amount of chances including 1v1s against the keeper. They blew those chances.

Sterling is fast, wiry and clever, but still has a lot of developing to do re crossing and finishing. That is to be expected and he needs to have less responsibility at this age.

Balotelli is an overhyped celebrity who has never been a prolific scorer and whose manner suggests lack of interest and effort.

Anonymous said...

Some good points Vercingetora.

Gerard is the “most culpable” on the Rooney goal. As the DM he has to be in position to cut out that cutback from Valencia. His positioning does absolutely nothing to be able to impact that play. And he knows it! He should be deeper towards our goal. So that if Allen gets beat he can immediately challenge Valencia or get back to cut out the cross. Gerrard knows this and does not want to have to challenge Valencia in this situation. He also knows that he should be back further to be able to get in position to cut out a cross. Again here, he is thinking to himself. Screw it let someone else deal with that. For me, Gerrard is the most critical element that should have been able to blow up that play. Lucas would have, if he were in the game.

I see that you have watched Carragher’s critique on Lovren and his incorrect positioning too far to the center of the pitch.

On this play, Lovren is marking RvP. He can’t just move over to his left to fill the space and leave RvP unguarded. The two defenders immediately behind him are also marking men. Only Jonno, the 4th defender at the back is not marking someone. In order for Lovren to move to his left and leave RvP, all 3 defenders behind him would have to be on the same page and move over in sync to leave their current marks and pick up that next guy. All 4 guys would have to be on the exact same page. It would never happen. Lovren staying on RvP, their most dangerous striker, made sense. Remember, Valencia was at the time marked by both Allen and Lallana. Not until Allen gets left for dead does Lovren move out to try to contest Valencia. There was no one on United that was in position to run into that space.

Carragher highlights one of 10 issues that Lovren has. He picked the one that seems the most simple to correct. Just don’t leave space for the attackers to run into. Carragher is, of course, right about this and it is fairly simple to fix. But, Lovren has so many more BIG issues with his defending. I could highlight 10 of them, but let me just mention a few. He gets attracted to the ball too easily and completely loses sight of what is happening around him. This causes him to lose his marking assignment or miss attackers running in behind him that he should be covering. The Mata goal is a good example. He concentration was fixed on Young’s cross. He should have realized that the defender to his right would contest the cross. His assignment was Mata at the back post. That’s why Mata was so open. He lost him watching the cross.

He so often makes the wrong decisions in pressure situations. The frightened swipe at that “clearance” that went 7 yards right to Mata’s foot is a good example. He needs to make a split second decision on that play with what to do with the ball that is about to hit him in the foot as he is running back to cover. He makes the wrong one. He swipes at the ball, making almost no contact and it goes straight to Mata for the pass to RvP for the goal. He was not under any pressure in that position from attackers. No one was any closer to him than 10 yards. He had time on the ball. He should have stopped it and made the easy clearance. That would have made it a simple play. The play was correctly considered a defensive error leading to a goal. There is nothing worse than that for a defender.

Lovren should never play without a true DM in front of him. This way he has to make many less split second decisions. The DM will clean up a lot of those plays.

If we could copy Kolo’s brain and paste it into Lovrens head, like you do with a file or a hard drive, then we would have something. Lovren’s physical capabilities paired with Kolo’s intelligence and cool decision making.