21 December 2015

Visualized: Liverpool 0-3 Watford

Previous Match Infographics: West Brom (h), Sion (a), 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, match data from Stats Zone, except shot location from Squawka and average player position from ESPN FC.

Honestly, you might as well just re-read the Newcastle and West Brom infographics. It was basically those all over again, but worse, most likely because Watford are a better side.

To some extent, these teams have done to Liverpool what Liverpool did to Manchester City. And Liverpool have not been able to cope, Liverpool have not been able to fix the continuing issues.

Liverpool took all of two shots in the first half, in the 9th and 11th minutes, both from outside the box. That hasn't happened in a half in a league match since the dismal 0-3 loss at Manchester United back in September, when held to a single off-target shot for the first 45 minutes. Similar happened at Southampton last season, but Liverpool scored from that lone shot, and simply focused on keeping Southampton out for the next 85 minutes. Similar happened in the 0-1 loss at Newcastle last season, a day where Liverpool were even worse than they were yesterday. Still, comparisons to last season's loss at Newcastle are not comparisons you want to see made.

Those are the only other league matches since the start of 2014-15 where Liverpool failed to take at least three shots in a half of football.

I doubt I need remind that Liverpool were two goals down for the majority of the first half yesterday. Two goals down within 15 minutes, and you can't manage a single shot – a blocked shot, an off-target shot, any kind of shot – for the rest of the first half.

That's a comprehensive failure, and deserving of a comprehensive beat-down.

Watford did well to recover possession and deny Liverpool space, especially in the middle third and especially in the first half; Capoue in the middle and Abdi on Liverpool's left were the most impressive. Watford's two open play goals came from Watford winning possession in midfield: Deeney stronger than Lucas, Capoue stronger than Coutinho when Liverpool looked to have initially stopped Watford's counter. Watford's early corner also came from a move which started when Watson intercepted Clyne's attempted clearance in Liverpool's half.

So, sure, Watford had a lot to do with it, but Liverpool's passing was also simply bad yesterday. Sakho, Clyne, Henderson, Lucas, and Can all struggled to find Liverpool's front players, to set up any potential attacks where Liverpool would, you know, actually find a way to shoot at Watford's goal.

Liverpool's 75% pass accuracy is the worst in a Liverpool loss since the 1-3 defeat at Southampton back in March 2013. Nearly three years ago. Liverpool have had worse a few times since, but it's been in matches where Liverpool shelled and tried to counter-attack, matches like the 4-1 victory at Manchester City last month, the 0-0 draw at Arsenal earlier this season, the 2-0 win at Southampton last season. None were matches where Liverpool so thoroughly dominated possession.

To put it another way: not since Rodgers took over (which is when I began tracking passing totals) has Liverpool attempted as many passes in a match and completed fewer.

Only in the Manchester City match – where Liverpool had just 41.6% possession and played for the counter-attack the entire time – did Lucas, Can, and Clyne complete a lower percentage of passes. For Henderson and Sakho, who didn't feature against City, yesterday's accuracy was their low for the season.

So while Firmino, Coutinho, and Lallana (and then Benteke and Ibe) were mostly invisible yesterday, it has a lot to do with how little service they were provided. None – except maybe Ibe, who only played 15 minutes and is still more potential than realized talent – are capable of the Suarez or the Sturridge, single-handedly creating chances by running at or in behind defenders. All need service. None got it.

And then there's the other end of the pitch.

Watford scored three goals from five shots on-target yesterday. Last week, West Brom scored two goals from two shots on-target. Newcastle somehow scored twice from just one shot on-target.

Three matches. Eight opposition shots on-target. Six goals conceded. One point earned. When Ighalo scored his first in the 15th minute yesterday, Liverpool had given up six goals from the last five opposition shots on-target. That's actually impressive. You almost have to try to concede that frequently.

And Liverpool have certainly tried. Watford's opener came from a Liverpool error: Bogdan dropping a routine corner into the path of Ake. West Brom's opener came from a Liverpool error: Mignolet unnecessarily flapping at a corner before Dawson poked in. Newcastle's opener pretty much came from a Liverpool error – even if it wasn't an Opta-defined error – when Skrtel conceded the first Liverpool own goal of the season.

Liverpool unsurprisingly lead the league in defensive errors with 18. Six have led to a goal conceded. Arsenal, in second, have 14, but only two of those errors have led to a goal. It could be worse: West Ham and Bournemouth with eight and six goals conceded respectively from 11 errors.

Mignolet's responsible for two (three in all competitions). Can's responsible for two (one while at center-back, one defending a corner), Bogdan and Lovren are each responsible for one.

An insipid attack. An inability to break down determined opposition, an inability to cope with more physical sides. An error-prone defense and set play failings. Those are all traits that Jürgen Klopp inherited, and it's admittedly an excuse for continuing issues despite some initial improvement.

Still, it's very much a concern that Liverpool have reverted to form after that initial improvement. And, over the last three league matches, it's actually getting worse.


Soccer prediction game said...

Merry Christmas

Jonny S said...

My take on this was Watford's offside trap. Firmino constantly offside, then Henderson too. All our attacks were snuffed out before anything could happen.

Add to that Coutinho was hot garbage and Lallana just got dispossessed each time he got into the Watford half and every attack we tried just died. Maybe we needed better from the deeper midfielders so that our AMs could push up further?

We dealt with a lot of their high press well and frequently passed our way through them into their half and, when Lallana wasn't in possession, up to their box, only to be snuffed out by the offside trap usually if Lallana hadn't been dispossessed already.

In the second half with Origi on we were in their box much more often but lacked any quality on the final ball / shot / pass.

Our AMs really worry me, they don't seem to be up to the job.