18 May 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 1-3 Crystal Palace

Previous Match Infographics: Chelsea (a), QPR (h), Hull City (a), West Brom (a), Newcastle (h), Blackburn [FA Cup] (a), Arsenal (a), Manchester United (h), Swansea (a), 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.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This match, aside from the Gerrard eulogies, may have seemed familiar. Because we saw it back in November.

Seven months earlier, a different Liverpool formation, slightly different personnel from both sides, and a different manager for Crystal Palace. But the same script, and the same result with the same scoreline.

Liverpool scoring first, but Crystal Palace following with the next three: a first half equalizer about 15 minutes after the opener, then two second half goals as Liverpool looked increasingly unable to get through their opponents. A similarly outstanding direct free kick from Palace. The same vulnerability on Crystal Palace counter-attacks and the same player – Yannick Bolasie – terrifying the life out of Liverpool's defense, especially Dejan Lovren. If you look at the goal chalkboards for both matches you'll notice a similar run from Bolasie down Liverpool's inside left, around and past Lovren, to set up Palace's second.

And the same Liverpool inability to take decent shots or put enough shots on-target. A feature we've seen in far too many matches this season. At least Liverpool put more than one shot on-target this time?

I know you're sick about me writing about Liverpool's shooting. I'm sick of writing about Liverpool's shooting. But – despite Liverpool's continuing defensive weaknesses, from direct counter-attacks and on set plays, whether it's a back four or back three – that is the main issue, the most galling recurring feature, the alpha and omega which doomed Liverpool's campaign.

16.7% shot accuracy is really, really bad. And it's only the sixth-worst accuracy Liverpool's posted this season, bettering the performances against Villa, at Palace, against Sunderland, against United, and at Arsenal. Liverpool never shot worse than 20% last season, and shot worse than 16.7% just twice in 2012-13: the 10-man loss at West Brom and 0-0 draw with Stoke, matches in August and October respectively.

Nine of Liverpool's last 10 shots came from outside the box. The only inside-the-box shot in the final 40 minutes, from Sterling in the 75th, was immediately blocked. Unsurprisingly, seven of those nine were off-target, with one blocked and one on-target: Gerrard's placed effort easily saved in the 54th. Liverpool were desperate, Liverpool were increasingly impatient, and Liverpool were easily frustrated by a Palace side that had lost its last four matches.

Meanwhile, seven Danger Zone shots from Crystal Palace, with 11 of 15 shots inside Liverpool's box. Only the loss to Chelsea in November saw Liverpool's opponent with more In-Box shots, only the 3-2 win at QPR at the end of October saw Liverpool's opponent with more Danger Zone shots (although multiple teams registered seven, both with Liverpool playing four or three at the back).

For all the tinkering, for all the different formations, despite Liverpool's improvement from January through March, we end up back here. Another little bit of history repeating when we'd hoped that nightmare was long over.

For all the tinkering, for all the different formations, despite Liverpool's improvement from January through March, Liverpool hasn't been able to fix the season-long problems in front of goal. You can't always make chicken salad from summer transfer chicken shit, but that Liverpool have consistently remained direly impotent falls on the manager's tactics and the manager's head as well.

And those two things may well doom Brendan Rodgers' tenure at Liverpool.

No comments :