25 April 2016

Visualized: Liverpool 2-2 Newcastle

Previous Match Infographics: Everton (h), Bournemouth (a), Dortmund (h), Stoke (h), Dortmund (a), Tottenham (h), Southampton (a), 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.

After a month where we'd mostly forgotten all of Liverpool's issues because of those results against United, Dortmund, Stoke, and Everton, it all came rushing back. Two steps forward, one step back.

19 points dropped despite Liverpool having the lead, the most in the Premier League. Seven of nine matches at Anfield. Three matches where Liverpool had a two-goal lead ending in two draws and a loss, against two sides threatened by relegation and one which sits just a point and place below Liverpool. Four matches where a 1-0 lead ended 1-1, which also happened three times in the Europa League and once in the League Cup.

In two of those nine league matches, Liverpool took the lead only to fall behind by a goal, but at least clawed a late point back from both West Brom and Arsenal. To be slightly fairer, Liverpool have gained 11 points from losing positions in the league, coming back from a deficit to beat Chelsea, Norwich, and Crystal Palace in addition to the draws against West Brom and Arsenal.

Incidentally, those three league wins from losing positions all came away from home. Liverpool also came back from a deficit in four Europa League matches (two wins, two draws; three at home and one away) and two League Cup matches (a win and the "draw" in the final which Liverpool eventually lost on penalties, at Southampton and Wembley respectively).

11 points gained from losing positions is certainly better than Liverpool did last season, with all of those points gained from losing positions gained this season coming under Klopp. But it still hasn't made up for the points which Liverpool dropped from winning positions.

The above graphic is the long, pictorial way of saying that Liverpool have been pretty decent when the scores are level. Which is good, because Liverpool have spent a lot of time with the score level. Unfortunately, Liverpool have been a lot less good with a one-goal lead. Which is little surprise given how many times that Liverpool have dropped points this season. 17 of the 62 opposition's goals have been equalizers – 13 of 45 in the league.

And more than a few have come in matches where Liverpool's goalkeeper made an error which directly led to an opposition goal. Mignolet's committed six this season, Bogdan two. And Liverpool won just one of the eight matches where the keeper committed an error: the 2-1 victory over Bordeaux in the Europa League, with goals from Benteke and Milner after Mignolet's blunder led to Saivet's indirect free kick. Bogdan's errors were probably more hilarious than costly: the first in the 0-3 loss at Watford, the Olímpico conceded in the 2-2 at Exeter – matches where Liverpool were losing regardless and a cup tie that Liverpool ending up easily winning on replay respectively.

Mignolet's, unfortunately, are a bit more meaningful. Aside from the 2-1 win over Bordeaux, Liverpool drew the other five matches where he made an error leading to a goal: 1-1 v Norwich, 2-2 v West Brom, 2-2 v Sunderland, 1-1 with City in the League Cup Final, and now 2-2 with Newcastle. Four Premier League matches against sides near the bottom of the table. Liverpool were leading in those four matches when Mignolet committed said error and went on to drop two points. All four of those errors happened at Anfield, with three of the four (all except Norwich) in front of the Kop.

If Liverpool holds onto its lead in those four Premier League matches, Liverpool have eight more points. Don't look at the league table. You don't want to know where eight more points would put Liverpool.

Again, no offense to Newcastle (well, not much), but the opposition doesn't really matter much to yesterday's result. Sure, Newcastle's defense was very Benitez, especially in the second half; Newcastle played without fear in the second half; and Newcastle's second half changes, especially Wijnaldum for Perez, improved the side.

But this is on Liverpool, and it's down to what Liverpool did or didn't do, and what Liverpool's done before in similar situations against similar opposition. We saw this game against Palace, against West Brom, against Sunderland, etc. A stingy, compact defense limits Liverpool's shots. Liverpool usually score at least once, sometimes twice, but Liverpool get comfortable, Liverpool make mistakes, and Liverpool's opponent takes advantage – often on either set plays or counter attacks. If Liverpool don't score in bunches, Liverpool struggle to see out the game.

Liverpool, to put it bluntly, are bad against bad teams at Anfield. In the seven Anfield matches against the bottom seven sides – West Brom, Swansea, Palace, Sunderland, Norwich, Newcastle, and Villa – Liverpool have taken just 10 points from a possible 21. They smashed a horrible Villa; narrowly beat Swansea thanks to Milner's penalty; drew against West Brom, Sunderland, Norwich, and Newcastle despite taking a one-or-two goal lead; and lost on an 82nd-minute set play goal to frequent bete noire Crystal Palace.

There are, of course, extenuating circumstances for Saturday's result. Shit happens in games, even if it seemingly happens too often to Liverpool. It's still Klopp's first, partial season with a squad that's not his own which is missing key players. Sakho's suspension, not known until late on Friday, assuredly altered the XI and game plan. Clyne's illness forced Randall to step in for only his second start. Injuries in midfield kept Stewart in the line-up. Liverpool started with a diamond formation for the first time since the Southampton League Cup win, which featured a very different XI; it's usually only seen as a game-changing alteration and then with Origi playing a crucial role. The spine has been ripped out of the side by Henderson, Can, Sakho, and Origi's absences – four players who'd feature in the middle, near-certain starters, all unable to play.

But we've seen matches like this too often this season. It's easy to blame Mignolet, the defense, the side's focus in general. All are at fault. Liverpool simply need to do better: better in matches with a one-or-two goal lead, better at home, and better against opposition that Liverpool need to be able to beat if they're going to accomplish anything in the league.

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