08 February 2016

Visualized: Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland

Previous Match Infographics: 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)

As always, match data from Stats Zone, except shot location from Squawka and average player position from ESPN FC.

Ten bad minutes can erase the 20 good ones which came before. As well as the 60 indifferent minutes that came before that.

Another late goal conceded? Yep. Two, in fact – the tenth and eleventh goals that Liverpool have conceded after the 75th minute this season in all competitions (ten in the league, one in the Europa League). Liverpool have won just one of the matches where they've conceded in the last 15 matches: the 5-4 victory at Norwich. In total, Liverpool's record when conceding in the last 15 minutes is 1W-3D-6L.

Another set play goal conceded? Yep. The 14th set play goal that Liverpool have conceded this season, from 45 goals conceded in total. That's nearly a third of Liverpool's goals conceded. To be fair, this was the first direct free kick that Liverpool have conceded from this season, but dead ball situations are dead ball situations, and Liverpool remain bad at them. Those 14 goals have come in 12 matches (two set play goals for both West Brom and Norwich). In total, Liverpool's record in those 12 matches is 2W-6D-4L.

Another goal conceded due to a goalkeeper error? Yep. It's the sixth time that's happened; those goals were 2-1 Sunderland, 1-2 Exeter, 0-1 Watford, 1-1 West Brom, 0-1 Bordeaux, and 1-1 Norwich. Which is probably being generous (at the least, Crystal Palace's winner should count as one, and probably some others I've repressed), but those are the Opta-defined goalkeeper errors. Four from Mignolet, two from Bogdan. Six times it's happened, and Liverpool have won just one of those six matches. Liverpool's record in those six matches is 1W-4D-1L.

Liverpool let a lead slip for the eighth time this season, failing to win despite taking the lead: 1-0 against Bordeaux, Norwich, Carlisle, Sion, Everton, Southampton, West Brom, and Arsenal turns into a draw, six of the eight finished 1-1, with a 2-2 and a 3-3 draw as well. Liverpool also went 1-0 up on Norwich, which turned into 1-3, which turned into 5-4.

To be fair, five of those nine matches happened under the previous manager. But this is the first time this season that Liverpool let a two-goal lead slip. Of course, Liverpool have also rarely had a two-goal lead this season: 11 minutes against Villa, eight minutes at Chelsea, 67 minutes at City, 45 minutes at Southampton in the league cup, 16 against Exeter in the FA Cup, and 12 minutes on Saturday. And that's it. 159 minutes, out of 3570 minutes of football in total this season.

When you so rarely out-score the opposition, and every single match seems to be paper-thin, knife-edge narrow, you can't keep doing stupid things in defense.

I've gotten a lot of mileage out of the "Liverpool have conceded from the first shot on-target in 21 of the 26 games where Liverpool have conceded this season" stat. Sure, there's more than a bit of misfortunate in there, but it's also a condemnation of the entire defense, not just Mignolet, and it's still an unfathomable record. Saturday was a helpful example of how pretty much everyone's at fault: the first goal completely on Mignolet's shoulders, the second a comprehensive breakdown where Liverpool gave the ball away from a throw-in, failed to clear, allowed Sunderland to play across the width of the final third, allowed van Aanholt an easy entry pass to Khazri in the box, before Khazri turned Toure and Defoe turned Sakho.

It'd make up for it if Liverpool were doing even close to similar at the other end of the pitch. Unsurprisingly, they aren't. Liverpool have scored in 28 matches this season. They've scored from the first shot on-target in just nine: 5-4 Norwich, 2-2 Exeter, 6-1 Southampton, 2-1 Bordeaux, 4-1 Manchester City, 1-0 Kazan, 1-1 Sion, 3-2 Villa, 1-0 Bournemouth. Seven wins, two draw. Four in the league (all wins), three in the Europa League (two wins, one draw), once in the League Cup (win), once in the FA Cup (draw). That's, uh, somewhat worse than the opposition's record.

Liverpool are averaging 5.31 shots on-target per match in all competitions. Which is okay! They're fourth-best in the league for total shots on-target. On average, in matches where Liverpool have scored, they're scoring with their 2nd or 3rd shot on-target (2.43, if we're going by the exact average). And in total, Liverpool are averaging 3.98 shots on-target per goal. That's less good. Liverpool simply aren't converting enough, not that this is news to anyone. The best attacking performances have few and far between, and otherwise, Liverpool are infinitely frustrating at worst and mediocre more often than not.

Meanwhile, Liverpool's opponents are averaging 2.6 shots on-target per goal. Liverpool's save percentage in all competitions is 61.54%. The opposition's save percentage in all competitions is 74.88%. In the league, it's 58.8% for Liverpool and 73.7% for Liverpool's opponents. And the league average is 69.4%. Conceding twice from just two shots on-target yesterday, Liverpool have now passed Bournemouth for the worst save percentage in the league. Only Tottenham have faced fewer shots on-target than Liverpool this season.

If it's not one end of the pitch, it's the other. And sometimes, it's both. Again.

Are there any bright spots? Well, football folks who know a lot more about this nonsense than I do think there's a fair bit of flukiness involved in Liverpool's woes. That's something.

Otherwise, at least Roberto Firmino's becoming one hell of a player. A goal and an assist on Saturday, involved in seven of Liverpool's last ten league goals (five goals, two assists), involved in pretty much everything good that Liverpool did against Sunderland. He's scored with his left foot, his right foot, and his head; he's scored from crosses, from distance, from pressing opposition defenders into mistakes; he's assisted with layoffs, cutbacks, and crosses.

By my count, Firmino has played as a striker in nine league matches this season: eight as the lone striker, once in a partnership with Origi/Benteke (1-0 at Leicester). In those matches:

He still can go missing in games (0-2 Leicester, 0-3 Watford), his shot accuracy can still improve (five of those nine matches were without a single shot on-target). But he's finally fully adapting to a new team, new league, and new position, and he's done it without a lot of help from his teammates.

It bodes well for the future. Unfortunately, not enough else does.

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