11 December 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 0-0 Sion

Previous Match Infographics: Newcastle (a), Swansea (h), 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 for Europa League matches, all data from WhoScored.

(Nota Bene: Here's the formation diagram usually included in match reviews.)

If I were someone in charge of investing match fixing, I'd be very tempted to investigate this match for fixing.

Maybe that's a little harsh. I certainly don't want to allege any illegality. But it was very Serie B; it's little surprise that when both teams need a 0-0 to qualify for the knockout stage, the end result is 0-0. Liverpool top the group, unbeaten in the stage, with two wins and four draws – the same record as when Roy Hodgson led the side in 2010-11. Sion, predicted by most to finish last, come second, celebrating the dire home draw as if it were a win.

So be it. Survive and advance. Forget and move on.

I'd feel an awful lot better about yesterday's dreary 0-0 had Liverpool's attack looked anywhere remotely near competent more than twice over the last month.

Liverpool took all of six shots; only once since the start of 2012-13 did Liverpool take fewer: five in a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in August 2013, when Liverpool took an early lead through Sturridge and defensively shelled for the rest of the contest. The first five Liverpool shots came from outside the box, all speculative at best, only Firmino's straight at the keeper even close to on-target. The last, the only Liverpool shot in the final hour of the match, almost didn't happen – Origi just barely got a touch on Smith's excellent cross, unable to steer it past Vanins. At least it took place inside the box.

So, out of context, whatever. Liverpool didn't need to attack, so Liverpool didn't attack – a glorified training session when Liverpool just played keep away and made sure Sion didn't score either. In the context of the last month, it's less encouraging.

Incredibly potent, incredibly impressive at both Manchester City and Southampton – bringing Liverpool's goals, shots on-target, and shot accuracy averages to a respectable level – but Liverpool haven't taken more than 14 shots since the 1-2 loss to Crystal Palace a month ago. That loss to Palace, as well as the two matches against Rubin Kazan, are the only matches where Liverpool took more than 16 shots since Klopp became manager. Three matches out of 13. That's not good. That's pretty much the opposite of good.

Yesterday was the first time Liverpool have been held scoreless in successive matches under Klopp. That happened once under Rodgers earlier this season, and four times last season. But, to be fair, it's only the third time Liverpool have been held scoreless in Klopp's 13 matches.

And, somehow, Sion were even worse in attack. Six shots, same as Liverpool. None on-target. Two inside the box: one swiftly blocked, the other a set play header not even close to Mignolet's goal.

That Liverpool once again prevented the opposition from getting easy chances – or, really, pretty much any chances at all – remains a massive positive. Liverpool are undeniably more secure against counter-attacks and set plays, two phases which consistently and constantly undermined Rodgers' sides.

It was cold. At least a third of the pitch appeared frozen. Liverpool didn't need to score, Liverpool only needed a draw. It was a much-changed Liverpool side, even if slightly stronger than expected. Henderson made his first start after injury, Brad Smith his first start for Liverpool, Coutinho his first substitute appearance after injury, 18-year-old Rossiter and 19-year-old Brannagan were Liverpool's two other substitutes. Liverpool have vastly more important matches, and quite a few of them, over the next month.

Those are all valid excuses. Especially the one about Liverpool not needing to score and already qualified for the knockout rounds. So it's hard to read too much into Liverpool's performance. But even accounting for all of those excuses, Liverpool's attack remains incredibly worrisome.

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