16 May 2016

Visualized: Liverpool 1-1 West Brom

Previous Match Infographics: Chelsea (h), Watford (h), Villarreal (h), Swansea (a), Villarreal (a),Newcastle (h), 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.

This was Jürgen Klopp's 30th league match, and this was Jürgen Klopp's 30th different starting XI.

It has been a season of change. Of change in style, of change in sides. A season where Klopp has needed to use the entire squad: because of injuries, because of the amount of games, and because he's needed to see just how full or empty Liverpool's pantry currently is.

Yesterday was Liverpool's 62nd match of the season. The Europa League final on Wednesday will be the 63rd. Liverpool played 58 matches last season, just 43 in 2013-14, and 54 in 2012-13. Liverpool have played 63 matches just one other time: 2000-01, when Liverpool won the League Cup, FA Cup, and UEFA Cup.

It has been a long season. It has been a long league campaign, one which ended after the collapse against Newcastle three weeks ago, if not after the collapse at Southampton two months ago. So it's no surprise that Liverpool have stuttered during the run-in, at least in the league. That Liverpool stuttered during the long winter, when injuries and fixture pile-up was at its worst. That Liverpool stuttered at multiple times this season, that Liverpool stuttered in the final league game.

Or that Liverpool stuttered against West Brom, a side that Liverpool's beaten just once in the last five meetings. Liverpool's record against West Brom in the last ten meetings is just 3W-4D-3L.

Or that Liverpool stuttered against Tony Pulis, who has a better record (3W-9D-3L) against Liverpool than Mourinho, Wenger, or Ferguson, and probably more than a few others.

Pulls knows how to Pulis against Liverpool. Four matches in row – three with West Brom, one with Palace – all ending level, although that Palace match was about as flukey as they come and let's not talk about it any more. Liverpool had at least 66% possession in each of those four matches. Liverpool played at least 300 more passes than the opposition in each of those four matches.

But yesterday was the first time that Liverpool was out-shot in those four matches. West Brom's 13 is three shots above its average; Liverpool's seven is nearly 10 lower than its average. Liverpool's 67% possession led to just seven shots – just one in the second half and none after the 57th minute – which is Liverpool's lowest total in a league match this season. The only match where Liverpool took fewer in any competition was six in the dead rubber at Sion to close the Europa League group stage: a match as meaningless in the greater scheme of things as yesterday's was.

It's completely unfair, but I can't help but glare at Liverpool's #9.

And it's even more noticeable when you see who's responsible for Liverpool's goals and assists when Benteke plays versus when he doesn't.

He (and Liverpool when he plays) has actually been better under Klopp, a trend I'm almost totally crediting to his play as a substitute. Six of his seven league goals under Klopp came as a substitute, as well as two of his three assists. The only match that Liverpool lost when he scored or assisted as a substitute was at Swansea three weeks ago, a dire Liverpool performance where he was arguably Liverpool's best player.

But when Benteke starts, as he did yesterday, and even as a substitute (to much lesser effect), Liverpool have to play through him. Change their style to suit him. And it usually makes Liverpool worse. Yesterday, Liverpool switched Ojo and Ibe from their usual flanks, ostensibly for better crossing to Benteke. Not one of Liverpool's 13 crosses found Benteke. Only three of those 13 were "successful." Not one of Liverpool's 13 crosses led to a shot. At least Ibe on the right led to Liverpool's goal.

But, again, the majority of these complaints about both Benteke and Liverpool's overall performance – at least in regards to yesterday – aren't fair, because yesterday didn't really mean much. Liverpool's earlier failings in the league (and successes in cup competition) ensured yesterday didn't mean much.

Roll on next season. But first, roll on Wednesday.

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