Previous Match Infographics: Swansea (h), Burnley (a), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (a), 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.
In isolation, I'd like to think that was just "one of those days."
A fatigued side at the end of the festive period, just as Chelsea, Arsenal, United, West Ham, and Swansea were yesterday. Fatigue which saw the side struggle to create concrete chances or hit the target with their few decent efforts. Fatigue which saw the side unable to press as they did against Swansea. Fatigue which saw the side able to keep possession fairly easy once gaining a foothold but unable to do much with it, lucky to get two penalties to establish a lead. Fatigue which let the opposition take the early initiative, even if Liverpool went unpunished for it, and fatigue which saw the side take its foot off the gas with a 2-0 lead in the second half, leading to those two goals conceded in quick succession. It wasn't individual mistakes or systemic failings which led to Leicester's goals, but defensive malaise out wide, in central midfield, and from the center-backs. That's still bad, but easier to fix than the usual issues.
Which still doesn't make it any easier to swallow. Two points dropped against the bottom side are still two points dropped against the bottom side, points which Liverpool very much need. But these things happen.
Unfortunately, a lot of those failings are traits we've seen before. Which makes it harder to write off as a one-off following Monday's excellent performance. It makes Monday look like the fluke rather than yesterday.
Everyone's focused on the news of Gerrard's departure at the end of the season, and it feels callous to pile on by criticizing yesterday's performance. But Liverpool's midfield was at the heart of Liverpool's failings. Pass accuracy below both's usual average (84.3% for Gerrard, 82.6% for Lucas). Gerrard and Lucas combining for just three tackles, successful with just 33% of their attempted tackles (2/5 for Lucas, 1/4 for Gerrard). 2 interceptions for Lucas, none for Gerrard. Both missing from both of Leicester's goals. Just two chances created by Gerrard (and none from Lucas): one from open play, one from a set play. Henderson created four by himself on Monday, while Lucas also created two.
It was a far cry from what we saw out of the Henderson-Lucas pairing against Swansea, made worse because moving Henderson from midfield made him vastly less effective as well.
But Liverpool had other issues, as is usual for Liverpool.
Liverpool couldn't put an open play shot on target until the 66th minute. From 52.3% shot accuracy against Swansea to 33.3% yesterday (and without the two penalties, it's 25%). And Liverpool had the same issues in the reverse fixture. Just 11 shots taken, and the only three on-target were the three goals.
Skrtel's nowhere near the quickest, but Toure's even slower, with Liverpool's defensive line deeper than it's been in the last few home games. And that deeper line contributed to the acres of space that Leicester exploited with their goals, obviously not helped by the midfield's lack of pace.
Liverpool's substitutions were the opposite of helpful, especially the first one, the enforced one. Lallana going off was a blow in an of itself – he remains one of Liverpool's only consistent performers this season – but it was also incredibly surprising to see Borini preferred to Markovic, especially considering Borini's performance against Arsenal. But it's not as if Markovic did much after entering 17 minutes later. And I honestly forgot Lambert came on until collecting the stats.
Liverpool need to ensure that we look back and think it, "yep, just one of those days." There are nine days until the next league match, plenty of time for the side to recover and rebound. Yes, there's an FA Cup tie on Monday, but that XI should be radically different than we've seen in the league of late.
This is certainly a setback, but Arsenal, West Ham, and United's results means that Liverpool didn't lose much ground in their attempt to get back in the European places (even if Tottenham's certainly didn't help). And Liverpool's schedule for the next month, at least in the league, remains conducive to picking up points.
But that opportunity to climb up the table won't last long. Especially if yesterday's performance remains par for the course.