21 March 2016

Visualized: Liverpool 2-3 Southampton

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester United (a), Manchester United (h), Crystal Palace (a), 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.

Well, at least we're not going to see something like this happen very often.

This was the first time that Liverpool lost despite a two-goal lead in almost exactly four years: 2-3 QPR on March 21, 2012.

We've seen Liverpool draw after going 2-0 up, most recently against Sunderland last month, but I also remember both Everton and Arsenal in 2012-13: 2-0 up after 20 minutes, 2-2 after 35 minutes in the former; 2-0 after 60 minutes, 2-2 after 67 minutes in the latter. I'm sure there are a few other examples as well, whether Liverpool went on to draw or went on to find a winner despite initially throwing away a lead.

But despite how rare losing a two-goal lead is, Liverpool have seen similar carelessness this season.


Liverpool have done well to gain points from losing positions this season, with Liverpool coming back from a deficit in 11 of Klopp's 38 matches, but Liverpool have also dropped far too many points from winning positions.

Eight points gained from losing positions in the final 10 minutes of Premier League matches this season (as well as the goal which got Liverpool to penalties in the League Cup Final), but 10 points lost in the Premier League and Europa League combined (eight PL, two EL), as well as the FA Cup loss to West Ham.

At least the games are interesting, I guess, rather than last season's Bataan Death March of disappointing mediocrity.

Incidentally, Liverpool were winning with less than ten minutes to play in both league matches against Southampton this season. 1-0 at home, 2-1 away. Liverpool earned all of one point from those two matches. With the five more points that Liverpool should have taken from those two games, Liverpool would be just two points off fourth with a game in hand. Sigh.

As all but said in yesterday's match review, failure has many fathers.

We had Martin Skrtel's everything. Flanagan's positioning and losses of possession. Mignolet's kicking. Liverpool's attack-minded central midfield. Klopp's inability to make changes, either due to game plan or Liverpool's lack of midfield options on the bench. Two defensive errors leading to goals: Flanagan for the first, Skrtel for the third. Liverpool have committed two or more errors in a couple of matches this season, but hadn't had two lead to a goal until yesterday. Liverpool simply doing far too many Liverpool things in general. It's tempting to assume Liverpool both tired and became complacent with the two-goal lead, especially after last Thursday's exertions and adrenaline rush.

But you also have to credit Southampton, specifically Koeman's halftime changes.

I just want to highlight one moment, not necessarily indicative of the entire second half, but helpful to illustrate one of the crucial changes.

We saw Liverpool routinely expose Southampton on the counter-attack in the first half. Liverpool forced Southampton turnovers, Liverpool attacked at pace, Southampton had huge gaps at the back: two-v-two for Sturridge's goal, three-v-three for Allen's missed clear-cut chance, three-v-two for Sturridge's easily saved shot a minute after Allen's. After going two-down, Romeu and Clasie felt required to join the attack, leaving acres of space for Liverpool to attack when winning possession.

Now, it's the 51st minute. It's Liverpool's first attack after Mané's missed penalty. Liverpool look to attack quickly down the left after gathering possession on the halfway line.

Where's Wanyama? Barely ahead of the center-backs, closely marking anyone who comes into the middle of the attacking third (this time Coutinho, but also Lallana, Sturridge, Origi, etc at others).

And this is how the play ends: a decent, but well defended wide-box shot from Origi, encircled by four opponents, with Wanyama closing off passing lanes to Coutinho and Sturridge. All four Southampton defenders as well as Wanyama have gotten back into the box, with Romeu, Mané, and Davis (just out of picture) not far off.

It's not just Wanyama – all of Southampton's players made the effort to get back in position far quicker than in the first half, something clearly emphasized by Koeman at halftime – but he's the linchpin, here and throughout the half.

In 45 minutes, Wanyama attempted more passes than all but three other Southampton players – Davis, Bertrand, and Long, all on the pitch for 90 minutes – made two tackles, one interception, and blocked three passes. Mané and Pelle did the damage – it's no coincidence that Pelle won all three of his aerial duels after halftime, up against Skrtel for each – but, again, Wanyama was the base, responsible for both starting play and ensuring Liverpool didn't score more. And he did the job with aplomb.

I really, really want to write this off as a fluke. It's the sort of result which hasn't happened in four years. I highly doubt we'll see much of Martin Skrtel from here on out. Liverpool shot well, with 50% of its efforts on-target, Liverpool created good chances, Liverpool scored two good goals. Liverpool counter-attacked exceptionally well for the first 30 minutes. If Allen in the first half or Benteke in the second finish their respective chances, Liverpool almost certainly hold on for at least a draw, and more likely a win. Liverpool conceded the same number of goals in 45 minutes as they had in the eight previous matches combined. 45 minutes of bad can't and doesn't wipe away the eight matches of mostly good.

Shit happens, as we've well learned. But it's still another demonstration of Liverpool's inconsistency and Liverpool's failings. That inconsistency and those failings have become fewer and farther between, but they're still present. Liverpool have gotten better under Klopp – we've all seen it, regardless of PL points-per-game stats floating around the internet today – but that inconsistency and those failings are remain evidence of how much further Liverpool still have to go.

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