05 October 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 1-1 Everton

Previous Match Infographics: FC Sion (h), Aston Villa (h), Norwich (h), 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.

Unfortunately, this was a fitting capstone to Rodgers' Liverpool tenure.

Some ways, it was a typical Merseyside derby: both sides well below their usual output in both passes and shots, a potential sending-off or two ignored by a referee who wanted to "let them play," a match without a plethora of individual brilliance, a slog rather than a showpiece.

Liverpool weren't bad, considering form, fixture, opponent, and venue. Liverpool started well enough, not great in open play, but at least a little dangerous from set plays, finally converting through Ings from a Milner corner in the 41st minute. But, admittedly, it was as much Everton as it was Liverpool; we'd all be screaming had Liverpool's set play defense broken down in such a manner: Barkley not close enough to Ings, Howard failing to come just two yards off his goal-line.

Incidentally, it was Liverpool's first goal directly from a corner since Gerrard's winner against QPR last May.

Liverpool took decent enough shots, if not enough of them, even if the best of the bunch were from set plays. Nine in the Danger Zone. 11 of 13 from inside the box. Three shots in the six-yard box, which is the most that Liverpool's had in that zone in a league match since the 3-0 win at Tottenham in August 2014. 44 league matches ago.

And once again, Liverpool underperformed their Expected Goals total, converting their best chance, but only their best chance. Liverpool underperformed Expected Goals in three of Rodgers' four full seasons, 2013-14 the only exception. Meanwhile, Everton had the best three chances of the match, but little more.

And then, not long after scoring, Liverpool conceded, through both a mistake and an unfortunate ricochet. And then Liverpool fall apart. And Liverpool were subsequently under pressure for the majority of the second half, and Liverpool were unable to change proceedings through substitutions. And that's basically the story of the last 16 months. It's the same process and same result we've seen in five of the last six matches.

Aside from the same old, same old, there were two features of Liverpool's play which disappointed: Sturridge and Coutinho unable to get into the game and Liverpool's midfield once again unbalanced and unable to control proceedings.

For the most part, Everton marked Coutinho with McCarthy and Sturridge with Funes Mori. And both players did an excellent job on their respective opponents. McCarthy made seven successful tackles, of eight attempted; three were on Coutinho, two on Sturridge. Three of Funes Mori's four successful tackles came against Sturridge. The two were held to six shots, five off-target or blocked, with only Coutinho creating a single chance. Neither player did much with the ball at their feet.

That Coutinho pulled out of the Brazil squad today suggests he was carrying an injury yesterday, something his limited involvement also suggests.

As for Liverpool's midfield. Coutinho's limited involvement is part of the explanation. Average position is always somewhat of a lie, an average position based on where players touched the ball rather than where they were throughout the match, but it was still odd to see Milner as Liverpool's most-advanced player, even ahead of Sturridge and Ings in the above passing network chalkboard. Yes, Liverpool need its midfielders to get beyond the strikers on occasion, to make meaningful runs into the box, but Milner so far forward meant that there were few options available when Lucas or the center-backs wanted to make a short pass out from the back. And so, Liverpool looked long.

Everton unsurprisingly attempted more long passes – that is one of Lukaku's great strengths, after all, especially when he's working against Skrtel and Can – but Liverpool also attempted a surprisingly large amount, bypassing the midfield, looking for Ings to play like Liverpool seemingly wants Benteke to play. Danny Ings is not Christian Benteke.

And it left Lucas with a lot of work to do in defense. That he successful completed eight of nine tackles, spread across the width of the pitch, demonstrates how much work he put it, and that he was fairly successful at doing so. That he committed seven fouls, breaking up Everton attacks, while also only picking up a single yellow card, shows some veteran guile (in addition to demonstrating that Martin Atkinson, thankfully, didn't want to "ruin the game"). Along with Mignolet, for his two outstanding first-half saves, and Ings, if only for his goal and work-rate, Lucas was Liverpool's main contender for man of the match.

Thus marks the end of Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool tenure. Not with a bang, but a whimper. With Liverpool not especially good, but not especially bad. With Liverpool scoring first, then conceding, then unable to change the tenor or tempo of proceedings through substitutions or tactical tweaks. It was all rather mundane, only lightened by handbags at ten paces from Can and Barkley, than Sakho and Lukaku. That seemed the sum of Liverpool's fight. Sure, there are excuses for the performance: new players, key absentees, away from home, etc. etc. It's not as if Everton didn't have similar handicaps. Ennui and mediocrity, in a Merseyside Derby.

It wasn't the straw that broke the camel's back. It wasn't the worst we've been subjected to, but it wasn't the best. And, after more than a season of similar, it just wasn't good enough anymore.

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