Previous Match Infographics: Stoke (a)
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.)
Liverpool won, again. Liverpool took 18 shots compared to last week's eight at Stoke, seven Danger Zone shots (including the goal) to last week's two. Had Coutinho (44'), Milner (55'), or Benteke (90') buried glorious chances, the result would have been much more emphatic. Liverpool displayed better interplay between the attackers, although, to be honest, there was nowhere to go but up.
Of course, just two of those 18 shots were on-target, both from Benteke. Liverpool's goal shouldn't have counted, Coutinho clearly offside and going for the ball. Liverpool were lucky that Bournemouth had a 5th-minute goal ruled out from – surprise! – a corner, although it seemed a pretty clear foul with Elphick climbing on Lovren.
Obviously there's still a fair bit of work to be done.
Christian Benteke Shots: 2 on-target [GOAL], 1 off-target
Other Liverpool Shots: 0 on-target, 10 off-target, 5 blocked.
Liverpool's 11.1% shot accuracy would have been third-worst last season, behind the 1-3 loss at Palace and 0-1 loss to Aston Villa. And, as I'm sure you remember, Liverpool had more than a few horrific shooting performances that season.
Coutinho was clearly the most profligate, with three off-target shots (including the one clear-cut chance) and five blocked shots, all five of the shots Liverpool had blocked. Since joining Liverpool, Coutinho's taken eight or more shots just three other times: 0-0 v West Brom last season, 4-1 v West Ham and 4-0 v Fulham in 2013-14. Bournemouth clearly wanted to deny the little magician space in the final third, and, for the most part, succeeding in doing so.
That he found the space to at least attempt eight shots is kind of a good thing, even if there's more than a whiff of "if not Suarez than no one" to it, and Coutinho is not Luis Suarez. That all four of Benteke's key passes – the most created by a single player in yesterday's match – went to Coutinho is a good thing, further proof that both are nearing the same page. But Liverpool still need its best and most important player to do more when in those positions.
Liverpool's fullbacks were very good yesterday, especially Nat King Clyne (the effect he's had on the defense is obviously), and Liverpool's defense did what it had to do, but for the most part, Liverpool can thank its marquee £32.5m summer signing for all three points yesterday.
We saw Benteke receive the ball higher up the pitch, in more dangerous positions. We saw more variance between long and short passes, a greater versatility in Liverpool's attacking style. Sure, some of this has to do with the difference in opposition and in venue, but it also seems a positive development.
All told, Liverpool were better than last week, although that should be the case in the second match compared to the first, against Bournemouth rather than at Stoke. And that was with continuing – albeit less – disconnect in midfield, and fairly uninspiring performances from both Lallana and Ibe.
Liverpool have won their first two league matches, something that's happened just four times since 2000, also doing so in 2002-03, 2008-09, and 2013-14. And I'm sure you remember that the latter two were Liverpool's two best seasons in recent memory. Liverpool have kept two clean sheets in the process; Liverpool didn't have two clean sheets in the league until October 25 last season. Liverpool have taken five more points than in last season's comparable fixtures, which saw that humiliating loss at Stoke and a home draw against the promoted Championship winners (2-2 v Leicester).
That Liverpool have started slowly, with a bunch of new players and something of a new system, is little surprise. That Liverpool have started slowly yet still won both matches can't be anything other than a positive.
So yes, there's an awful lot left to be desired. There's an awful long way to go. And it's going to get an awful lot harder in the next few weeks. But, despite some poor play and performances, some seemingly poor line-up and formation decisions, this is still about as good as we could have reasonably expected.