30 November 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 1-0 Swansea

Previous Match Infographics: Bordeaux (h), City (a), Crystal Palace (h), Rubin Kazan (a), Chelsea (a), Southampton (h), Rubin Kazan (h), 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.

Liverpool were very good in defense – albeit against opposition that rarely attacked until conceding – and just barely good enough in attack. And not for the first time under Jürgen Klopp.

Liverpool allowed zero shots on-target four times during Rodgers' 166 games as manager: 1-0 Burnley (a) and 0-0 Bolton (h) last season, 2-0 Hull (h) and 5-0 Tottenham (a) in 2013-14. It's now happened twice in Klopp's 10 games: at Rubin Kazan and yesterday.

Five of Swansea's nine shots came from outside the box, with only three in the Danger Zone, all from headers and all well off-target. Five of Swansea's shots came after the 75th minute, increasingly desperate in the hopes of maybe possibly getting something from the match. Liverpool blocked four of those five.

Liverpool's pressing game worked reasonably well, especially considering midweek exertions, with 13 of 24 successful tackles and seven of 20 interceptions in Swansea's half.

At the same time, Liverpool took just 10 shots, despite being at home, despite having the majority of possession (at least until Milner's penalty opener). 10 shots are the fewest that Liverpool have taken in a match at Anfield this season in any competition; Liverpool took eight at both Stoke and United in the first month of the campaign.

And Liverpool put just two of those ten shots on-target; that's the second time that Liverpool have had just two shots on-target under Klopp. The 1-1 draw with Southampton was the first. And both were at Anfield. To be fair, the same happened twice under Rodgers: against Bournemouth and West Ham, both at Anfield as well.

For the most part, the shots Liverpool took were in good positions – eight of 10 in the box, five of 10 in the Danger Zone – but far too many were blocked, with Swansea's deep defense permanently in position, and there were nowhere near enough. This was one of the few times I've missed Coutinho's long-range shooting. Sure, they don't often go in, but they go in more often than when you don't shoot at all. He'd have fired at least four frustrated, speculative efforts by halftime.

Liverpool also struggled to find Benteke, receiving the fewest passes in a league start since joining the club, and subsequently attempted and completing the fewest passes in his eight league starts – even fewer than when he played just 45 minutes against Norwich.

Five of Liverpool's eight key passes came from the fullbacks, with none from Firmino, Benteke, Ibe, Milner, or Sturridge. Otherwise known as "every attacker except Lallana."

Where each side recovered possession seems telling: almost exactly equal amounts, but Liverpool in the middle third, Swansea in their defensive third.

Swansea blocked 50% of Liverpool's shots, Liverpool blocked 44% of Swansea's shots. Neither side allowed a clear-cut chance from open play; the lone was Liverpool's goal from the penalty spot.

It was a defensive battle played in difficult conditions, with Klopp focusing on the strong wind in his post-match comments. It came after a midweek Europa League match. Liverpool were without Coutinho, Lucas, and Sakho – Liverpool's best attacker, best holding midfielder, and best center-back – with both Henderson and Sturridge returning as substitutes but clearly lacking match fitness.

It wasn't a great performance, and Liverpool still need to improve quite a bit in attack. Except for the two away matches against Chelsea and City, we've seen these shooting and scoring issues all season, and for the majority of last season. But, even against this type of opposition and even at Anfield, we haven't seen that sort of defensive solidity anywhere near enough. And that's no small matter.

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