21 September 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 1-1 Norwich

Previous Match Infographics: Bordeaux (a), Manchester United (a), West Ham (h), Arsenal (a), Bournemouth (h), Stoke (a)

As always, match data from Stats Zone, except shot location from Squawka and average player position from ESPN FC.

Rather than complaining about Liverpool's attack – which actually kinda sorta almost was better! – in general for the nth consecutive match, I'd rather focus on a single part of that attack, one which had played far too large a role in determining the outcome of Liverpool's attacks.

We might have to get the shock collar out of storage.

You may notice the insanely large shot total which Coutinho accumulated in the above graphic. 10. Ten shots. Two on-target, four off, four blocked. Yesterday, Coutinho took three more shots than Norwich took in total.

Ten shots is the most that Coutinho's ever taken in a Liverpool match. He took eight against Bournemouth last month, nine in the 0-0 at West Brom last season, eight in 4-1 against West Ham in 2013-14, and nine in 4-0 against Fulham in 2013-14. In both 2013-14 matches, he was still out-shot by Luis Suarez; that's how dominant Liverpool's attack was that season.

So, Coutinho putting up eight or more shots happened twice in almost two full seasons, and it's now happened three times during this dismal 12-match run starting last April. Liverpool's results in those three matches? 0-0, 1-0, and 1-1. Of the 27 shots he's taken in those three matches, Coutinho has put just four shots on-target. Four. Of 27. And failed to score.

His shooting through the first six matches – well, five because of his red card against West Ham – has left something to be desired.

Is this bad? This is probably bad.

Six on-target, including one goal; 12 off-target, including one off of the woodwork; and 10 blocked. Eight in the Danger Zone, six from wide box areas, and 14 – 50% of his shots! – from outside the box. Coutinho's 28 shots account for 33% of Liverpool's total shots – nearly a third – and he's missed almost a match and a half of Liverpool's six.

It didn't used to be like this.

• Coutinho last season: 3.3 shots p90, 1.9 KP p90
• Coutinho this season: 6.3 shots p90, 0.7 KP p90

Yes, yes, it's only six games into the season, Coutinho's only played in five, but so far he's taking almost double the amount of shots, but providing fewer than half the amount of key passes. Not only is Coutinho wasting Liverpool's possession in the final third with errant, unlikely shots, but if Coutinho's taking the shot, Coutinho's not creating chances. And that's where he's far more valuable.

Coutinho was Liverpool's third-most creative player last season; only Sterling and Gerrard played more key passes per 90. In 2013-14, he was second, behind only Suarez. This season? He's 10th – behind Moreno, Firmino, Milner, Lallana, Lucas, Benteke, Ings, Can, and Ibe. And I'm not even counting Origi, Sturridge, or Sakho, who have all played 90 minutes or less.

Alberto Moreno created more chances yesterday than Coutinho has in five league matches this season. In fact, Moreno created twice as many chances yesterday as Coutinho has this season. Yikes.

Granted, it's not as if Liverpool have been overflowing with players willing to shoot or capable of shooting all that often this season. Coutinho has necessarily had to pick up that slack, especially in the first couple of matches. But Liverpool played with two strikers for slightly more than an hour yesterday. Coutinho still took double the amount of shots than Ings, Sturridge, and Benteke combined. His lone key pass was pushing the ball wide to Moreno, who cut inside and hammered a shot at Ruddy.

There have been multiple issues, discussed at length, in Liverpool's attack. But one step towards fixing those issues seems to be having the scorers shoot and the creators create.

As per usual, it's not as if Liverpool have been much better at the other end of the pitch. But yesterday's goal continued a worrying trend of Liverpool players' involvement in opposition goals.

Four of the eight Liverpool goals conceded this season have had a Liverpool player's touch set up the opposition goal. Mignolet punching to Martin yesterday, Can's attempted tackle falling to Jussie against Bordeaux, Lovren's attempted clearance deflecting off Moreno for Sakho against West Ham, and Clyne's interception deflecting off Lucas to step up Noble against West Ham. That's an egregious amount of both individual mistakes and unfortunate bounces.

In addition, despite keeping clean sheets from the first three matches, Liverpool haven't been great at preventing threatening shots or saving those threatening shots.

37.9% of all shots allowed have come inside the Danger Zone (the middle of the penalty box). Seven goals, 10 off-target shots, four shots blocked, and just four on-target shots saved. For comparison, just 34.1% of Liverpool's shots in the league (29 of 85) have come in the Danger Zone, leading to two of Liverpool four goals. All seven goals conceded have come from the Danger Zone. At least, other than that – other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? – Liverpool have done well to deny wide box shots and force their opponents into a fairly high percentage of difficult long range shots, and they've conceded no goals from those two zone. Still, those Danger Zone shots…

But yesterday was better. Yes, yes, Norwich, but Liverpool allowed just two Danger Zone shots, both coming from Liverpool errors. One, from Sakho, somehow wasn't an actual Opta-defined error, ending with an excellent Mignolet save. The other, from Mignolet, was most certainly an error, ending with Norwich's goal. That's at least a modicum of progress, at least compared to the matches against West Ham and United.

Liverpool's attack, probably unsurprisingly, has been slow to take shape, diabolically bad last season and full of new players this season. Liverpool's defense, probably unsurprisingly, has been both unlucky and prone to individual mistakes.

These are reparable problems. Admittedly, they're reparable problems we've been complaining about for a full calendar, but nonetheless, Liverpool do seem to have the potential to fix them. And, as infuriating as it was, and as little margin for error Liverpool currently have, yesterday was at least a small first step.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

When Coutinho is the guy looking around and not seeing anyone better so decides it has to be him pulling the hero act...I mean that's a low point. Prime Gerrard did that, then prime Suarez, and with both those guys you sort of got the "if not me than nobody" shtick, but not Coutinho. If he's the fourth best player in your team you're Champion's League level, if he's your best player something's not right.

There's just loads of players in this team who are nice to have, who do lots of things at a decent level, but don't excel at anything. Lallana is this side's spirit animal.