17 March 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 1-0 Swansea

Previous Match Infographics: Burnley (h), Manchester City (h). Besiktas (a), Southampton (a), Besiktas (h), Tottenham (h), Everton (a), West Ham (h), Chelsea (a) [League Cup], Chelsea (h) [League Cup], Villa (a), Sunderland (a), Leicester (h), 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.

Yes, Liverpool were lucky to finish the first half level. Swansea dominated possession, dictated the tenor and tempo, and their four-man diamond midfield utterly outclassed Liverpool's box setup, forcing Coutinho and Sterling (then Lallana) to help cover, thoroughly isolating a still-finding-his-form Sturridge. They were pretty much the first side to do so since the switch to 3-4-2-1 – a stretch that includes matches at Manchester United, against City, against Arsenal, and the two legs against Chelsea in the League Cup – although a case could be made for Southampton and Besiktas (a).

Liverpool had Mignolet's saves, Skrtel's (and Allen's, to a lesser extent) clearances, a fortunate Moreno deflection, and Swansea's lack of a potent attack since selling Wilfred Bony to thank for the score being level. Two outstanding saves from distance, one close-range block on Sigurðsson, two vital clearances, one incredible tackle, and Shelvey's set-piece effort ricocheting off Moreno across the face of goal.

I've written it before during this unbeaten streak – this 13-match unbeaten streak with 10 wins and three draws. It's better to be lucky than good, but it's best to be lucky and good.

The last time Liverpool matched a diamond midfield with a diamond midfield, Liverpool were absolutely overrun, switching formations after 30 minutes, already behind 0-2, to try to rescue the game.

Admittedly, that was a very different Liverpool than the current Liverpool, but when Liverpool matched a diamond with a diamond yesterday, Liverpool seized control of proceedings. Any advantage Swansea had was nullified, and the second half was a very different animal than the first.

That's a fairly radical difference. Especially in the final third (First Half) (Second Half). And full credit to Rodgers for both recognizing the failing and subsequently fixing it.

All told, only three Swansea players attempted a shot. No Swansea player created more than one chance. So while, yes, Swansea could easily have had a first-half lead, Swansea's attack remained fairly unimpressive. You can't be unimpressive when facing a defense that's now kept six consecutive clean sheets away from home in the league, the first time that's happened since 1972.

Swansea's league goal-scorers since Bony left (9 matches): Ki 3; Own Goal 2; Gomis, Shelvey, Sigurðsson 1. Yikes. And it didn't help that Swansea's most "prolific" scorer in 2015 didn't even attempt a shot yesterday.

Liverpool had one of Liverpool's all-too-frequent disappointing shooting performances – only five of 16 on-target, 10 of 16 from outside the box, two clear-cut chances missed (one off the woodwork), one very fortunate goal – but it was still vastly better than Swansea's. Combine that with the continued resolute defense and clever in-game alterations, and it's a deserved win. At a ground where Liverpool haven't won since Swansea were promoted, a ground where both Manchester United and Arsenal have lost this season.

Three points is three points, vital three points given the amazingly narrow gap between second and fifth. Even if it was much more difficult than we'd have liked.


Anonymous said...

Again, games like this are banana skins when you have one eye on the next game i.e. Utd!

Credit has to go to Monk to for moving to a diamond in the first place to put us under that pressure. When we analyse results, we sometimes forget that there's another team involved that has a say in the outcome of a football match!

John said...

On the 1st half formation wasn't Sterling where Lallana is on your graphic and vice versa?

nate said...

Sterling started as attacking midfielder, Lallana at wing-back (which is the opposite of the last two matches). Then they switched around the 18th or 19th minute, staying that way for the rest of the half.