26 October 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 1-1 Southampton

Previous Match Infographics: Rubin Kazan, Tottenham (a), Everton (a), 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.

Shot accuracy? Shot location? Speed of Liverpool attacks? Yep, yep, yep. We've covered those before, in minute detail. They're still issues.

To sing a slightly different song, two of the above sections stood out: Liverpool's passing network and each side's tackles and interceptions.

The former clearly shows Liverpool's slow build-up and disconnect in attack. The latter shows how Southampton pressed more frequently and more effectively, and shut down Liverpool on the left – where Coutinho, Can, and Moreno attacked much more often than the players on the opposite flank.

Origi, his average position deeper than both Lallana and Coutinho, neither creating a chance nor taking a shot. Coutinho was on the pitch at the same time as Benteke and Firmino for 32 and 16 minutes respectively, but combined for just two passes with those two players: one to Benteke, one to Firmino, none in return. That's a terrifying lack of interplay from Liverpool's three best attackers. Also annoying: Coutinho once again led Liverpool in shots but created just one chance. Which was actually one of Liverpool's better chances: an excellent pass over the top to Lallana breaking into the Danger Zone, controlled but shot wide. Liverpool need more of that, and fewer speculative blasts from distance.

It was direct, it was quick, it was the type of pass that took multiple Southampton defenders out of the play. It was the type of pass that Liverpool didn't play nearly enough, far more comfortable poking and prodding and getting nowhere and then either losing possession or shooting from distance. Similarly, there was a lot of poking and prodding in the run-up to Liverpool's goal – a goal which also admittedly featured a fortunate poor touch from Mane to set up Milner – but it was Can's long cross-field pass to switch play, followed by a quick deep cross from Milner, which got Southampton's defense moving and created the space for Benteke to Benteke.

Yesterday's match actually saw Liverpool with more possession than in all but one fixture against Southampton since their promotion in 2012-13, with the 1-0 win over the Saints in December 2012 the only aberration, back in Rodgers' first season when Liverpool were still pretending at the "death by football" mantra.

After two difficult games this week, we saw an awful lot of Liverpool resting on the ball. We saw a distinct lack of counter-press, shown only by the away side, who had a full week between games. The only league matches where Liverpool had more possession than yesterday were the 3-2 win over Villa and 0-3 loss to West Ham, both at Anfield, and both against sides – West Ham's away form notwithstanding – worse than Southampton, at least at keeping the ball. Which allowed Southampton time to get settle and secure the defense, close down passing lanes in the final third, and block attempted shots.

Both Wanyama and Soares were outstanding defensively, combining for 12 tackles (all successful), the vast majority on Liverpool's left. 46% of Liverpool's attacks came down the left flank (21% central, 34% on the right), but Lallana and Milner – stationed on the opposite flank – created eight of Liverpool's 13 chances, including Milner's assist for Liverpool's lone goal.

Yet the following is arguably more important than any of the above statistics.

“What I saw after the draw (the equaliser), maybe this is the problem, when they made their goal, they were all so disappointed but it's football - you can receive goals, it's normal. But after this I think we had nine, ten, minutes to play so there is another chance, but there was no belief any more in the eyes and I told them – no contact between the players in this moment, nobody was able to push to say something positive in this moment.”
-- Jürgen Klopp

Which, I guess, is understandable after seven draws in the previous eight matches, six of those 1-1, five of those six finishing 1-1 after Liverpool scored first.

This, more than the impotence in attack, more than any errors or set play weaknesses in defense, is what needs fixing, is Klopp's biggest challenge. Both attack and defense will improve with more training time (the defense already has, to a certain extent, especially Sakho and Moreno), as the squad and manager become acclimatized to each other, as key players – Benteke, Firmino, Sturridge, Henderson – return to the side and to full fitness.

Liverpool needs to rediscover its self-belief. Good thing they now have a manager who specializes in that.


Andy Lott said...

I really enjoyed reading this, hopefully that self belief will return soon. It's something similar to what I am saying on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Self belief. Build it. Relax the mind, even when competing in top gear, so that the decisions are clearer and easier to make. Enjoy the game and challenge of competition.