29 February 2016

Visualized: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City aet [1-3 pens]

Previous Match Infographics: Augsburg (h), Augsburg (a), Aston Villa (a), Sunderland (h), Leicester (a), Stoke [League Cup] (h), Norwich (a), 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)

All data from WhoScored.

Once again, give Liverpool the ball and wait them out. Manchester City definitely learned from the last meeting between these sides.

Liverpool had a shade under 58% possession against City yesterday (although it was 61.1% after 90 minutes), but the larger point still stands. If you sit deep, stay defensively organized, let Liverpool control possession, and congest space in your defensive half, chances are you'll succeed. If you attack Liverpool, giving them space to counter, giving them opportunities to press midfielders and defenders, Liverpool are more likely to score and much more likely to win.

Sitting deep against Liverpool denies space to the sometimes-tricky diminutive attacking midfielders, and doesn't allow strikers like Sturridge to run beyond the defenders. Liverpool's midfield – Can, Henderson, sometimes Lucas and Milner – aren't especially good at creating chances through the middle. Neither Lallana nor Coutinho make runs for throughballs, like that which Sturridge created for Milner in the 56th minute yesterday but Milner put wide.

And when the opposition can counter quickly, it exposes Liverpool's back-line and error-prone goalkeeper. City's goal was a good example: Sterling winning the aerial duel from Mignolet's goal kick, a quick cross-field pass to Agüero one-on-one with Lucas, Fernandinho on the overlap into space where Moreno wasn't, capped off by Mignolet failing to stop a very stoppable shot. But Agüero's chances in the 23rd and 48th minutes, Sterling's chances in the 60th and 80th minutes, and the non-penalty in the 63rd are even better examples.

Comparing where each sides' defensive actions took place in November and yesterday is telling. Liverpool's were much, much deeper than City's at the Etihad and compared to yesterday, and not just because Liverpool's fast start in the last meeting allowed them to sit deep. They denied space in midfield and defense from the opening whistle, and then more so once they took a one-goal lead, after which City quickly grew into the game before Liverpool's second and third.

So what's the solution? Excellent question; I wish I knew. Against different deep defenses, this side's tried pressing more fervently, tried using more crosses, tried using Benteke, tried overloading the middle with midfielders (both attacking and central), tried both higher and deeper defensive lines. Liverpool's switch to two strikers and a diamond midfield late on yesterday seems a definite possibility, but that improvement was also aided by an increasingly frantic end-of-game situation, where space arose because of tiring City legs as well as Liverpool's different formation and personnel. Firmino and Sturridge have pretty much played as two strikers in the three previous matches anyway, succeeding against an absolutely terrible Aston Villa but nowhere near as impressive in both legs against Augsburg.

I suspect it's mostly a matter of more training, more acclimatization to Klopp's tactics, more match time for returning players, and one or two new attackers in the summer. Now that this chance for success is gone, and Liverpool seem certain to finish somewhere between 6th and 8th in the league, it seems time for more experimentation: maybe more of the diamond midfield, more Flanagan and or Brad Smith at full-back, more Ibe, etc., at least in the league, with all of Liverpool's eggs now in the European basket.

But, as said yesterday, even despite these recurring issues in both attack and defense, Liverpool were a penalty lottery away from winning a trophy against the most expensively assembled side in England. Liverpool were a goalkeeper error away from somehow keeping a clean sheet with Lucas and Kolo Toure as center-backs – although mention must also be made of four outstanding goalkeeper saves to go along with said error, perfectly encapsulating Mignolet's peaks and valleys. Liverpool stayed close to a side that's more cohesive, more experienced, and more settled, featuring the most dangerous striker in the league and which both out-shot Liverpool and nearly doubled Liverpool's xG. This Liverpool side is still adjusting to Klopp's tactics (and the return of both Sturridge and Coutinho, who clearly make the side better but also remain rusty) and isn't yet close to being built in Klopp's image.

A trophy would have put some shine on what's been a fairly disappointing and dismal season, as it did in 2011-12. Nonetheless, Liverpool still seem in a much better possession than they were after that season and than they were a year ago.

1 comment :

Máté said...

I have two other classifications for our games.

Under Klopp:

Benteke starts: 1,5 PPG, 18,25 shots per game, 5,08 shots on target per game, 1,17 goal scored per game. 59,05% posession, 78,91 pass accuracy

Benteke not start: 1,73 GGP, 16,05 shots per game, 5,09 shost on target per game, 1,73 goal scored per game. 57,42% posession, 78,57 pass accuracy.

The other one is. Divided per games under or over 10 allowed shots.

More than 10 shots allowed: 1,53 PPG, 14,2 shots allowed per game, 4,2 shots on target allowed per game, 1,07 goal conceded per game. 54,01% posession, 76,89 pass accuracy.

Less than 10 shots allowed? 1,74 PPG, 6,47 shots allowed per game, 2,05 shots on target allowed, 1,00 goal conceded per game, 61,14% posession, 80,11 pass accuracy.

These stats fog all the games not league games only. But there are a classification where the more posession is a good thing.