07 December 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 0-2 Newcastle

Previous Match Infographics: 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, match data from Stats Zone, except shot location from Squawka and average player position from ESPN FC.

Yesterday saw Liverpool's worst shooting performance since Klopp became manager. 10 shots are the joint-fewest, along with last week's narrow 1-0 win over Swansea; 10% shooting accuracy is Liverpool's lowest since the 0-3 loss to West Ham back in September. Only Liverpool's match at Tottenham – the other match when Liverpool failed to score, and Klopp's first game in charge – saw fewer Danger Zone shots and a higher percentage of outside-the-box shots.

And it happened against a Newcastle side that averaged 16.93 shots allowed, 5.71 shots on-target allowed, and 2.14 goals conceded through its first 14 league matches. Only Sunderland and Stoke took fewer shots against Newcastle, nine each, but neither side conceded a Newcastle goal. No Premiership side allows more shots per match than Newcastle, no Premiership side concedes more goals than Newcastle (joint-worst along with Bournemouth).

Needless to say, the majority of blame will fall on Liverpool's £32.5m focal point.

• Liverpool Goals per 90 with Benteke as starter: 1.12 (403 minutes)
• Liverpool Goals per 90 with Benteke as a substitute: 3.24 (111 minutes)
• Liverpool Goals per 90 without Benteke: 1.91 (566 minutes)

Yesterday wasn't all Benteke's fault; with Firmino and Ibe in attack, and Milner and Allen in midfield, Benteke had few runners in behind to head on or pass to when Liverpool played it long to him. Which Liverpool did a fair amount. Ibe tries, but Ibe's 19 (for a couple more days) and Ibe's final ball is often not good. But Coutinho, and to a lesser extent, Lallana make those runs. Sturridge and Origi, had Klopp attempted to play Benteke with a strike partner, make those runs. And aside from Manchester City and Southampton (in the League Cup), Liverpool's attack hasn't been all that impressive without Benteke either. But still.

Benteke's passing yesterday:

Benteke's pass recipients yesterday:

• Ibe (6)
• Lucas (3)
• Milner (2)
• Allen (2)
• Clyne (2)
• Skrtel (1)

Ibe, unsurprisingly, was the only player who received forward passes from Benteke. Both of them. Otherwise, backwards or sideways passes to the three midfielders, a full-back, and a center-back.

These three videos from Simon Brundish highlight three moments when Benteke did very not good things, focusing on both his final third movement and (lack of) pressing. And I'm sure there are more examples.

If you're not going to shoot, not going to create, and not going to press, what are you playing for?

Again, Firmino wasn't any better, slightly more involved in the build-up and pressing, but with just one off-target shot and one chance created. Firmino found Benteke with just one (1) pass in 62 minutes of play. For comparison, in 28 minutes, Lallana passed to Sturridge six times, including Liverpool's best (and pretty much only) open play chance in the final half hour.

Both Benteke and Firmino often want to drop into midfield to receive possession; they do different things with the ball once in possession, but want to start from similar locations. Firmino can play differently, as we saw when he led the line against City, surrounded by Coutinho and Lallana, who both got forward and drifted inside from the flanks, who both pressed and hassled and harried City's defense into mistakes.

After this and after Swansea, it's one or the other. Not both. Please not both.

It was a comprehensive failure in attack, from all involved. Credit to Newcastle, who ran more, pressed more, and seemingly "wanted it" more. But this was still much, much more a Liverpool loss than it was a Newcastle win, mainly because of Liverpool's failings in Newcastle's half of the pitch. And it's not as if this is the first time Liverpool have comprehensively failed up front, especially when Benteke, Firmino, and Ibe all start.

All that complaining said...

On a different day, this ends 0-0 or 1-1, and we gripe – rightfully so – but move on. Shit happens in football, to everyone, even if it's seemingly more to Liverpool than others (except Chelsea this season, at least). You are not going to lose many matches when conceding just one shot on-target, even when you play that badly in attack.

Even if it's not the first time Liverpool have been bad in attack, it's one match. One very bad match, with a front six I'd rather not see again. One very bad match, which was all too similar to this fixture last season, which is about the biggest insult you can come up with.

Learn from it. It has, after all, only been 12 matches since Klopp took over, with only seven of them in the league.

After this, coupled with a similar performance from Benteke, Firmino, and Ibe against Swansea, I have to believe it'll be a while before we see an F.B.I. attack again. At least in the league. Liverpool desperately missed Coutinho, Lallana, and Sturridge, and those three (along with Henderson and Emre Can) will assuredly improve Liverpool up front.

That can't come soon enough.

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