23 November 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 4-1 Manchester City

Previous Match Infographics: 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.

As said in Saturday's match review, that was the first time we can actually compare Liverpool to the 2013-14 version. In potency, in counter-attacking ability, and even in a surprisingly effective defensive shell once taking a lead. They're not yet that side, they're not yet close to that side, but there were actually signs. Even if it's just one match, that's a tremendous positive.

Liverpool put nine of its 14 shots on-target against City. That's the second-most shots on-target in total this season, behind the 12 (of 21) at Aston Villa. Liverpool's 64.3% shot accuracy was, by far, the highest of the season. As was Liverpool's goal conversion (which excludes blocked shots): 27.3%, which isn't even that impressive, but still the highest since last season's 2-0 win at Southampton, where Liverpool scored twice from five non-blocked shots.

Manchester City's defense is very different, and vastly weaker, without Kompany at center-back or Fernandinho screening the defense, but that's still an impressive total.

Besides Manchester City, there are only two other teams on that list which could be classified as top opposition: 2013-14 Tottenham, where Liverpool won 5-0, and 2014-15 United, where Liverpool lost 0-3.

10 of 14 shots came inside the box, seven of 14 inside the Danger Zone. More importantly, six of the seven Danger Zone shots (85.7%) and eight of the 10 inside-the-box shots (80%) were on-target. Prior to Saturday's match, Liverpool had averaged 37.3% shooting accuracy inside the box and 31.5% accuracy in the Danger Zone. Which is horrific. Really, really horrific.

Liverpool created five clear-cut chances: Coutinho's goal, Firmino's goal, Firmino's shots saved in the 35th and 60th minutes, and Benteke's shot saved in the 80th minute. Prior to Saturday's match, Liverpool had created just 13 clear-cut chances – an average of 1.1 per match – with a single match high of three, against both Norwich and Bournemouth, scoring just once in each. It's no small matter than all five were on-target either.

And it led to the first time that Liverpool have scored four goals in a match since the 4-1 win against Swansea on December 29, 2014. 50 matches ago. Coincidentally, that was also the last time Liverpool scored an own goal. More own goals = better results. Correlation is obviously causation. Q.E.D.

Liverpool have now scored as many goals in their last two away league matches (7) as they managed in the 11 before that, going all the way back to the 1-0 win at Swansea last March. If Liverpool scored away from home – which had been a big if – Liverpool scored just once; prior to the 3-1 at Chelsea, you've got to go back to the 2-0 win at Southampton in February for the last time Liverpool scored more than once away from home in the league. The last time Liverpool scored four or more away from home? The 6-3 win at relegated Cardiff in March 2014. Otherwise known as 20 months ago.

Meanwhile, Liverpool's 67.9% pass accuracy was lower than any total in a league match under Brendan Rodgers; the previous low was 72.3% in the 3-0 win at Southampton in 2013-14. Liverpool completed fewer than 265 passes just once under the previous manager: the 0-0 draw at Arsenal earlier this season.

Worse pass accuracy and less possession clearly isn't why Liverpool won. But it shows how Liverpool's tactics – no messing around at the back, get it out, get it up to Coutinho and Firmino – worked exactly as planned. If Liverpool lost possession in doing so, fine, press quickly then get back into position. Liverpool's top five passing combinations were Can and Firmino, Coutinho and Firmino, Lallana and Milner, Lallana and Clyne, and Can and Firmino. Skrtel, Lovren, and Lucas – the players who usually lead Liverpool in passing – were nowhere to be seen.

It's also similar to how Palace and West Ham beat Liverpool this season. Liverpool won't be able to play in this manner against most opponents, but it's nice not being on the receiving end of that game plan.

Finally, Liverpool weren't just potent – at long last – up front.

Since 2012-13, Liverpool made more than 32 successful tackles in a league match just three times, all in 2013-14: 37 in the 3-0 at Manchester United, 36 in the 3-2 at Norwich, and 35 in the 5-1 v Arsenal. All matches, I suspect you remember, where Liverpool scored early, defended deep, and tried to pick opponents off on the counter.

Since 2012-13, Liverpool have never come anywhere near 32 interceptions in a league match. The previous high was 22, twice, both times at Arsenal: the 0-0 draw earlier this season and the 2-2 draw in 2012-13. Ten fewer than Liverpool made on Saturday.

Liverpool's highest tackles and interceptions total under Brendan Rodgers was 53, in the aforementioned 3-2 win at Norwich in 2013-14: 36 tackles and 17 interceptions. But it's not as if Liverpool just sat deep and hoofed clear when under pressure on Saturday; the two teams made a similar amount of defensive clearances – 28 for Liverpool, 26 for City. Liverpool actually won the ball back, and looked to start the break.

It was nearly as good an away performance against top opposition as possible. And it was a very Klopp performance: a mobile side, a fervent press, quick attacking transitions, counter-attacking fluidity, reasonably secure at the back. Limit the opposition's chances and take yours.

As against Chelsea, we've now seen what Liverpool are capable of in these types of matches. And it's something that Liverpool were rarely, if ever, capable of under the previous manager. But now we need to see Liverpool succeed in the other types of matches: the 1-2s against Palace, the 1-1s against Kazan. Because, with Liverpool now finished with its brutal away schedule to start the season, Liverpool will have a lot more matches where they need to break down determined opposition rather than given the opportunity to thrive on the counter.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Excellent, Nate.

Now to conquer the Anfield conundrum.