As always, match data from Stats Zone, except shot location from Squawka and average player position from ESPN FC.
(Nota Bene: Here's the formation diagram usually included in match reviews.)
A handful of things sum up yesterday's match.
• Jurgen Klopp:
The first 15 minutes were great – wonderful football without scoring. I said to my players after the game that this was the most important game of the season because we could learn from most of it. We showed in the first 15 minutes what we are capable of but obviously we were surprised about ourselves. There was not enough trust and faith in our own quality. So we lost patience and when you lose patience in football it’s always difficult. With patience, we lost formation; we had a lot of moments around the box when we shot when we should have still passed. When you have three players around the ball and one of them shoots and the ball is blocked, you have no formation for winning the ball back.
• For long stretches, especially after those first 15 minutes, Liverpool looked like 11 players trying not to get hurt, fully conscious that they'll probably be starting a Europa League final in a week.
• Liverpool again came back to score late on, from a substitute, to at least gain a point.
• And Eden Hazard remembered how to play football. Or just decided to play football this month rather than the full nine months of the season. I haven't watched much Chelsea this season (thankfully), but has it been injury or tactics or he's just trying to force a move away? Because that was the player who won all of those awards last season. A team doesn't usually finish in 9th if they've got a player like that.
Once again, Liverpool frustrated with outside-the-box shots. 15 of 28 shots – 13 of Liverpool's 19 between the 29th and 80th minutes – from outside the area, with just three on target. It seems like Liverpool's firing from any and all angles way too often this season, to their detriment, unable or unwilling to work their way through a deep defense. And it's led to multiple opponents happy to sit deep, waiting for Liverpool to become frustrated, waiting for Liverpool to fail, and then counter-attacking. And then punishing Liverpool.
Only Tottenham have taken more shots from outside the box this season. But only Tottenham are the only team to take more shots than Liverpool in total. Only Stoke, Bournemouth, and Swansea have taken a higher proportion of shots from outside the box. But no one's scored more from outside the box than Liverpool, with 15 this season from seven different players: Coutinho 4; Origi 3; Firmino, Lallana, Milner 2; Can, Moreno 1.
And Liverpool aren't taking more shots from outside the box this season than they did in the previous two.
Maybe Liverpool need to shoot less from inside the box. That's where Liverpool have been worse, at least in accuracy, this season.
Regardless, Liverpool have now scored in 13 consecutive league matches. Only Leicester have registered a longer streak this season, scoring in 17 straight. It's obviously not 2013-14, where Liverpool scored in 28 consecutive matches in all competitions from November through April, but the longest run last season was eight. Liverpool are improving, have improved. We've clearly seen evidence over the last month.
And Liverpool are scoring late goals. 14 of them in the last 10 minutes of matches this season, with six of those coming in the 90th minute or added time: 2-2 v West Brom, 3-3 v Arsenal, 5-4 at Norwich, 2-1 at Palace, 4-3 v Dortmund, and 1-1 v Chelsea. They've earned Liverpool seven points in the league and got Liverpool past what was arguably the best team in the Europa League.
It's impressive. It's also almost exactly the same as last season, where Liverpool scored very late against Ludogorets, QPR (twice), Swansea (LC), Arsenal, and Bolton (FA).
Granted, the opposition's been a bit better this season. They were more meaningful goals. Liverpool probably are more confident and more resilient this season than they were last, and Liverpool are certainly in a better place than they were last season. But it's not an exemplary amount of late goals. And, I hesitate to remind, Liverpool have conceded 13 goals in the last 10 minutes of matches this season, including exceptionally punishing ones to Southampton (h), Sunderland (h), and Southampton (a), all three where Liverpool had the lead (twice) or a draw at the 80th minute and either drew (twice) or lost.
Swings and roundabouts.
One thing that has changed is the impact of Liverpool's substitutes. Substitutes scored just seven goals last season: Suso v Boro (LC), Coutinho v QPR, Balotelli v Swansea (LC), Lambert at Villa, Sturridge v West Ham, Balotelli v Tottenham, and Balotelli v Besiktas. Liverpool have scored 16 substitute goals this season – Benteke 6; Origi 4; Allen, Ibe, Firmino, Lallana, Ojo, Sturridge 1 – all since Klopp became manager. Seven of those substitute goals rescued a draw or earned Liverpool the victory, a total of 10 points gained by substitutes' goals. And a few more – e.g. Benteke at Chelsea, Origi v Stoke, Firmino v Watford – gave Liverpool a welcome two-goal lead to make the margin and match that much safer.
Klopp has shown much, much more aptitude for changing the game, through tactics – like yesterday's switch to a diamond formation – and/or personnel alterations. And it's a trait that Liverpool very much needed, and has served Liverpool quite well so far.
But the main takeaway from yesterday's match is that it's over. Liverpool got through it. The same starting XI we'll almost certainly see in Basel made it through with no injuries nor any truly disappointing moments. Liverpool didn't win, but Liverpool didn't lose either; the last match at Anfield this season saw Liverpool good enough to get a point, with the added bonus that it came so late, a fun stomach punch against opposition that's so fun to hate.
So be it. Liverpool are what we've known they are. A team that can frustrate, a team that has bad shooting games. But a team capable of fighting back and playing until the final whistle. A team and manager capable of changing proceedings when they aren't going Liverpool's way.
A team that can play a lot better, and has played a lot better, in cup competition, when the spotlight's on.
Yesterday decided nothing that hadn't already been decided. Liverpool have an away match to close the league campaign, with what will be certainly be the much-changed second team, before the match that will actually decide Liverpool's season.