Previous Match Infographics: 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.
A fairly comfortable, fairly routine late-season home win, despite multiple changes to Liverpool's first XI. Watford weren't great, but Liverpool scored twice, Liverpool didn't concede, Liverpool weren't really threatened. Everyone who played pretty much did their jobs when called upon; if we're doing player ratings, there weren't any 9s or 10s, but there weren't any 4s or 5s either. Show up, do the job, get the win, go home.
There's simply not a lot to say. And that's absolutely not a bad thing.
Yesterday saw Liverpool's 34th different starting XI in 36 league matches. Klopp has yet to name the same eleven players in any league match; there's always been at least one change, if not the multiple changes we saw yesterday and over the last few weeks. It was the 14th different defense we've seen – Skrtel and Lucas had yet to start a league match as a center-back pairing – and Liverpool still, somehow, kept a clean sheet, its 11th of the campaign.
Despite all these constant changes – in defense, in midfield, and in attack – Liverpool are playing reasonably well. Finishing the season well. Becoming more cohesive no matter who plays and, last week at Swansea not withstanding, more consistent.
Aside from a wonky, injury-plagued January-February spell, when Liverpool conceded three against Arsenal, four at Norwich, and two at Leicester and against Sunderland, Liverpool's defense has been fairly competent (if, yes, still sometimes error-prone and bad at defending set plays) this season. Not great, but basically adequate, and at times quite decent.
But the attack's certainly improved over the last couple of months. Liverpool have scored in 12 consecutive matches; the last time Liverpool were held scoreless in the league was at Leicester on February 2nd. Liverpool failed to score in two Europa League matches during that stretch, at Augsburg and Villarreal, but won both ties on aggregate because of their performances at Anfield. They've scored at least two goals in 10 of the 12 matches, held to only one by a strong Tottenham and in last week's aberration at Swansea.
It's probably not coincidence that improvement's coincided with Daniel Sturridge's return, but Liverpool have scored almost no matter who's started up front. We got Coutinho and Benteke yesterday, neither of whom set the match afire, but both at least had a hand in Liverpool's first. Sturridge and Firmino started at Villa and against Stoke (and Villarreal), Origi led the line against Everton and Manchester City (and Dortmund), etc.
There are still blips. There are still some struggles, individually and as a whole in certain matches. But as Liverpool – not just the usual starters but the entire squad – gets more used to Klopp and Klopp's tactics, Liverpool's performances have improved and Liverpool's results have improved.
Hell, Lucas and Skrtel were the center-back pairing and Liverpool kept a clean sheet. Benteke didn't really link up well with anyone but Coutinho, but still took eight shots (by far his most for Liverpool, but please put more on-target) and played a role in both goals: an assist for Allen's opener, a surprisingly okay run to give Firmino space to fire in the second. Firmino now has 10 goals and seven assists – 0.81 goals+assists per 90 minutes – in his sometimes-criticized debut season in England. Sheyi Ojo now has three assists in barely 300 minutes of Premier League football. Kevin Stewart, nominally a right-back when joining Liverpool after his release by Tottenham, just started his fifth league match in the last five weeks; Liverpool won three, drew one and lost one. Joe Allen's become a box-to-box hair tornado; he's now scored three goals since the start of 2016. He scored just four in the three-and-a-half seasons before.
There's still obvious room for improvement, in additions to the squad and from players already in the squad. But from top to bottom, from the best to the worst, we've seen almost everything and everyone improve under Klopp: individually and as part of the team.
And that bodes incredibly well for the future.