07 March 2016

Visualized: Liverpool 2-1 Crystal Palace

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Manchester City [League Cup] (n), 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)

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

It's hard to overemphasize just how unlikely yesterday's result was.

Liverpool have had 55 players sent off in 51 different league games since the beginning of the Premier League in 1992-93. Liverpool won 16, lost 27, and drew eight of those games. But the vast majority – 37 of 51 – saw no difference to the result. If Liverpool were winning when the player was sent off, Liverpool usually won; they drew when drawing, they lost when losing, etc.

Liverpool were already losing in 24 of those 51 matches. Liverpool went on to lose 21 of the 23 before yesterday, drawing twice – Nottingham Forest in 1994-95 and Arsenal last season, both featuring injury time equalizers – before yesterday's win.

Even despite Liverpool's performance after the red, despite Liverpool's tactical adjustments, despite Liverpool's overall improvement in pretty much every aspect you can think of, yesterday was very much a freak occurrence, and that's not even considering what needed to happen for Liverpool to score their goals.

But, yes, Klopp's response to the red card was clever, and very much worth highlighting. The back three defended wonderfully: getting back despite needing to go forward, holding the offside line against long ball counters, blocking shots and making strong tackles, and with Can still able to stride into midfield when Liverpool were in possession. Moreno and Lovren were especially impressive in this formation, as was Emre Can.

Liverpool remained defensively secure despite the disadvantage, but still had six or seven players getting forward in attack, with more space for Coutinho and Firmino to operate after Milner's dismissal. The first hour saw the opposite effect of the same style as used at Manchester City: Liverpool congested by Milner, Lallana, and Firmino's constant movement, with Dann and Delaney refusing to be pulled out of position as Otamendi was, with Palace's midfield providing far more protection than Fernando and Fernandinho did.

Never underestimate how important space – and the use of said space – is to Liverpool's attack. Philippe Coutinho used it especially well; he played for just half an hour, yet only Lallana created more chances yesterday, and he completed 25 of his 27 attempted passes, a vastly higher pass accuracy than usual.

Palace's replies – first switching to 4-2-3-1 when Mutch replaced Cabaye just before Firmino scored, then reverting to 4-4-2 in the 80th minute – changed nothing. If anything, they made Palace worse: increasingly more open in midfield after Mutch replaced Cabaye, and even more so after Sako replaced Ledley. But more than anything else, Crystal Palace shot themselves in both feet – the mistake for the equalizer and subsequent scrambling and subsequent penalty; wasteful passes in attack, from open play and set plays and especially from Bolasie and Sako, and an inability to understand how to attack Liverpool's new formation – and then proceeded to collapse, as befitting a side that's fallen from joint-fourth to 15th since Christmas.

But that can't obfuscate the fact that Liverpool weren't good for an hour, for similar reasons as we've seen before, against opposition that Liverpool haven't been good at for the last couple of seasons. Too many blocked shots, too many shots from distance, mediocre chances created, an inability to even test the opposition goalkeeper, and conceding the 16th goal from a set play this season (13, of 37 total goals conceded, in the league).

Liverpool replied well to the red card – in tactics, in performance, in that ubiquitous "passion," "character," etc. – but Liverpool needed a goalkeeper error (something they're more than familiar with) and a contentious (if deserved!) penalty to get their goals. Liverpool needed to do something they've probably never done before, at least in Premier League history.

Somehow, Liverpool did.

1 comment :

E Coutinho Can said...

It is definitely true that we were flat for most of the game. In fact Firmino got our first shot on target only around the 60th minute mark! But as they say fortune favours the brave and even with a man down we were still positive in our play and that was what impressed me the most.