25 January 2016

Visualized: Liverpool 5-4 Norwich

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester Utd (h), Arsenal (h), Stoke [League Cup] (a), West Ham (a), Sunderland (a), Leicester (h), Watford (a), 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.

How do you summarize that? I guess we'll start with something that Liverpool did surprisingly well, for a pleasant change.

Liverpool actually finished their chances, for the first time in a long time. 13 shots is Liverpool's fewest since Watford (a), and the third-lowest since Klopp became manager. At the least, it's the first time in a long time without Daniel Sturridge – 6-1 at Southampton a mix of his prowess and opposition which seemingly gave up after conceding a third.

Seven of 13 shots on-target – 53.8% – is Liverpool's third-highest in the league this season behind 63.4% in 4-1 City (Liverpool at their absolute best) and 57.2% in 3-2 Villa (Sturridge).

Firmino's second, Henderson's, and Milner's goals were wonderfully taken, shots that each have struggled with this season. Firmino's first, which I initially thought was off-target, was probably going in anyway, and from a very acute angle. Only Lallana's winner seemed fortunate, hit into the ground, looping and unsaveable.

Saturday also saw the first time Liverpool have scored two clear-cut chances since that 4-1 win at Manchester City, only the second time it's happened in a league match this season.

Roberto Firmino finding form is, unsurprisingly, a massive part of these positives. Two braces in his last three starts, five goals and three assists (which should be four, if setting up an OG actually counted as an assist) in his six league starts as the lone striker: Norwich, United, Arsenal, Watford, City, and Chelsea. Three wins – where Firmino has three goals and three assists – two losses, and a draw.

But while Firmino has been crucial, Liverpool's improvement when it comes to both mid-game alterations and overcoming setbacks have been just as important, if not more so.

We've now seen eight goals from substitutes since Klopp became manager: six the league, one in each domestic cup. Those six substitute goals in the league have earned Liverpool seven points: a point against Southampton (a draw that should have been a win), a point against West Brom, two points against Leicester, a point against Arsenal, and two points at Norwich. Five substitute goals, five of the eight, with Liverpool either level or behind, all in the league.

The last time a Liverpool substitute scored under Brendan Rodgers? Mario Balotelli's penalty against Besiktas in the Europa League 11 months ago. In the league? Again, Balotelli, the winner against Spurs a week before Besiktas. Liverpool substitutes scored seven goals in total last season: four in the league, two in the League Cup, one in the Europa League: Balotelli 3; Coutinho, Lambert, Sturridge, Suso 1.

And then there's the fact that Liverpool actually came back to win despite going behind, something else that rarely happened under Rodgers. Last time it happened in the league? 3-1 at Leicester, December 2014. Under Klopp, Liverpool also did it at Chelsea in the league, against Bordeaux in the Europa League, and at Southampton in the League Cup.

The last time Liverpool came back from a two-goal deficit under Rodgers, in any competition? Never. Not even to draw, let alone win. If Liverpool went two goals down under the previous manager – which, to be fair, didn't happen all that often – that was it. Game over.

For all Liverpool's faults, for all the lingering issues that haven't improved under the new manager, self-belief and an ability to recover from misfortune have certainly gotten better. We've come a long way since Klopp mused about how alone he felt after Southampton's late equalizer at Anfield three months ago.

But there's also the argument that Saturday was irregular, out of the ordinary, and probably not often repeatable. Liverpool haven't won by this scoreline since May 2001, the UEFA Cup Final against Deportivo Alaves, needing extra time to achieve that result. That was the last time Liverpool let in four goals but still won the match; it hasn't happened in the league since April 1991, a 5-4 win at Leeds. Nearly 25 years ago. Before the Premier League was actually the Premier League.

Liverpool conceded three in the league three times yet still won in 2013-14 – 5-3 at Stoke, 4-3 v Swansea, 6-3 at Cardiff – but that was a nonsensical season in so many ways. Yet Liverpool never conceded four in a match that season, despite that defense's propensity for hilarity.

Since the beginning of 2005-06, in the last decade, Liverpool have conceded four in a league match just six times: Saturday; 1-6 at Stoke and 1-4 at Arsenal in 2014-15; 0-4 at Tottenham in 2011-12; 4-4 v Arsenal in 2008-09; 1-4 at Chelsea in 2005-06. It's not a common occurrence. It shouldn't be a common occurrence. And half of them have happened in the last calendar year.

So, yeah, there are still multiple problems at the other end of the pitch. Again. Conceding from a corner for the eighth time in the league. Conceding from the first shot on-target for the 13th time in the league. Conceding an equalizer just 11 minutes after taking a 1-0 lead; Liverpool have conceded within 20 minutes of taking the lead 10 times this season: Bordeaux, Norwich, Carlisle, and Sion under Rodgers; Southampton, West Brom, Arsenal (twice) and Norwich (twice) under Klopp.

These are issues we've encountered before.

And every single goal that Liverpool conceded seemed preventable. Uncleared set plays for the first and fourth. Lucas and Can both fully aware where Naismith is before he starts his run for the second, both in position to track his run, neither bothering to actually track said run, with the added bonus of Naismith's no-angle shot sneaking in under Mignolet's wrist. An absolutely brain-dead Moreno penalty for the third, and another shot Mignolet could have saved – although, to be fair, any penalty save is an unexpected bonus.

Liverpool again allow few shots, but the ones they allow are good chances, even if Saturday's were less good than usual: needing a back heel, wide-box shot, out-box shot, and penalty. Still, six Norwich shots in total, four goals. One shot on-target saved from the last seven shots on-target faced. Liverpool's save percentage in the league is now below 60% for the first time this season, and still the second-worst in the league behind only Bournemouth.

Of course, I'm sure every single Norwich supporter feels the opposite about the goals. 'Ours were the good goals! Yours were either preventable or flukes! A back-heel! Naismith's excellent run! A deserved penalty! Bassong from long range! Rudd nearly saving Firmino's first, only for his touch to spin it into the net off the post; Henderson not tracked for the second, with another lucky touch from Firmino to set it up; the entire defense stupidly out of position for the third; an insane back pass for the fourth; two failed clearances and a mis-hit lucky finish for the fifth.'

But, yeah, that's football. And what Saturday reminded me, more than all the above statistics and opinion, is that football can be really, really fun. We haven't been reminded of that nearly often enough.

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