20 August 2016

Liverpool 0-2 Burnley

Vokes 2'
Gray 37'

One step forward, two steps back. The more things change...

This is where everything's gone wrong. This is where Liverpool have failed. Not away against good opposition, where Liverpool have space, where Liverpool over-perform. Not in the marquee matches. Away against teams that Liverpool *should* beat, away against teams Liverpool seem to assume they'll beat.

And then they don't. Because Liverpool perpetually struggle to break down a deep defense and Liverpool perpetually do something stupid in defense.

It's made vastly worse, and vastly more difficult when you unnecessarily concede in the second minute. That's when you get 0-3 at Watford and 0-2 at West Ham and 1-3 at Swansea and countless other matches in seasons past.

This match saw every one of Liverpool's previous failings, exacerbated ad infinitum.

Liverpool concede early because they gave the ball away in their own half. Liverpool concede later on a counter-attack with everyone upfield. Liverpool routinely and horrifically fail with everything in the attacking third. Liverpool resort to speculative-at-best shots from distance that almost totally fail to trouble Tom Heaton.

Liverpool haven't been able to break down teams who sit deep and are well-organized for so many seasons in a row it's not even funny. Yes, it happened less with Luis Suarez, but it still happened with Luis Suarez. It was a distinct problem under Brendan Rodgers, and with nine months of Jürgen Klopp, it remains a problem.

And when that's the case, you probably shouldn't gift the opposition a goal within 90 seconds: Clyne's give-away to Gray with Liverpool trying to build from the back, the striker sliding a pass through to his partner for a wonderful finish from the top of the box, Liverpool's defense completely out of position because they're transitioning to attack and don't expect to concede possession in that position.

You may remember similar happening for Arsenal's first goal just six days ago.

Unlike last week, Coutinho couldn't conjure an equalizer from nothing – not for a lack of trying. And failing. Unlike last week, Burnley didn't give Liverpool an inch of space in the final third.

And when Liverpool conceded a second – Sturridge losing possession in the final third, Defour charging upfield, somehow getting around Klavan before finding Gray, who cleverly worked space for an impressive left-footed strike – that seemed that, despite 53 minutes remaining.

Incidentally, Liverpool have now conceded from each of the last five shots on-target they've faced. The only shot Mignolet's saved since the 7th minute against Arsenal was a penalty. Taken individually, it's hard to fault him for any of the goals, but it's also a trend we've seen before.

The struggle is real, and we've also seen that before. Liverpool completed almost six times as many passes as Burnley, Liverpool had 81% possession. Liverpool completed more than twice as many final third passes as Burnley completed passes in total. Liverpool took 26 shots, Burnley took three shots. But 17 of those Liverpool shots came from outside the box. Just five of those 26 shots were on-target: four from outside the box, and only two which remotely troubled the keeper. 23 Liverpool crosses, but just three found a Liverpool player, and just one – a set play in the last minute – led to a shot. 12 Liverpool corners, zero chances created.

The 4-3-3 formation seemed a problem, weak and uncreative in midfield, without the space needed for runners to make an impact. Sturridge ostensibly on the right seemed a problem, putting Liverpool's best natural goal-scorer further away from goal. Milner rather than Our New Favorite Scapegoat seemed a problem, Liverpool missing width and pace on the left. The substitutions seemed meaningless – Origi for Sturridge, Moreno for Milner, Grujic for Lallana – just different pegs in the same problem holes with the game probably already gone. It's easy to scream, "play 4-2-3-1, play 4-4-2, do something different!" But we've seen Liverpool similarly bad in similar matches with different players, different formations, and different managers.

Let's be fair to the opposition. Burnley's shape was fantastic; Burnley's center-backs blocked, headed, and cleared everything; Burnley's two goals were exceptionally well-taken. But Liverpool seem to have a special talent for making the opposition look that good.

This couldn't have gone worse. The players were bad, the tactics were bad, the substitutions didn't help. The only positive is that no one got hurt.

Well, that and Liverpool might learn a lesson. It is only the second week of the season, after all. That they haven't yet doesn't bode well, but we needed the reminder. Not everything was fixed with last week's euphoric win. There are more matches like this than there are matches like last week's.

There are still miles upon miles to go to even come close to achieving anything.


Aaron said...

Great review of a frustrating match - both to watch and to analyze. That initial gaffe by Clyne just totally changed the tone of the match and allowed Burnley a cushion to just absorb pressure and counter. That said, some initial thoughts that will hopefully find the ground between over- and under reaction.

1. Width - with Sturridge and Coutinho as the wide players in a front three there just isn't going to be width. Add in the late runs of Lallana and Wij and you will have basically 5 Liverpool players looking to play in the same 30 square yards of space. This just made to too easy for Burnley to pack the middle and take away any space within 25 yards of goal

2. Width (2) in such a setup you need to have your fullbacks driving wide and getting to the touchline. Milner lacks the pace and comfort on his left foot, and Clyne appeared unwilling to run to the byline to stretch the defense. Their cutbacks just meant all of the offensive movement was funneled right into the teeth of the Burnley defense.

3. Pace - the lack of pace and the early goal meant we were always going to struggle to get behind the defense. Burnley had no reason to leave a low block and little fear that the front three was going to be able to play through 2 blocks of 4. Late runners in the middle didn't matter. We also had no threat in the box (an Origi would have been nice to see, for example). We offered so little threat to their backline I don't remember an offside called the entire game. That tells me there is a major issue with our forwards not being, well, forward.

4. Consistency. I find it interesting that, for all the stick Moreno has gotten, Clyne has statistically been worse. Most of the scoring chance at Arsenal came from his side (4 vs 1, if I recall correctly), and his giveaway in the 2nd minute was absolutely dreadful. The second goal today was arguable the fault of Sturridge, and Coutinho was a detriment to the offense today. Lallana was probably the man of the match and that is almost by default. It seems weird after giving up 5 goals in two games, but I think the center back pairing have been the most consistently good players in the team.

So, a few questions hopefully for discussion:

1. Do we have a Coutinho problem? His tendency to cut inside and take 25 yarders has become predictable. He shows up in the big games, but against packed defenses he has been pretty bad.

2. Midfield - does Wij come out for Can moving forward? Whatever the plan has been in the midfield it doesn't seem to be working.

3. What do we do with Sturridge and Origi? Firmino is good for keying pressing actions and floating across the front line, but I don't think I would classify him as a striker.

Dale said...

Thanks, Nate. You always make sense, and that's not easy after a game like that.

arena lfc said...

Ah iam confused whit klopp

Jonny S said...

Unfortunately that was about the perfect write up Nate. Good to see you back for the season btw, fabulous articles on here ALWAYS.

So revealing that half the world's bloggers say we have a defence problem and the other half say we have an attacking problem. The biggest disappointment as you say is that we're still talking about those things.

I placed Utd and Chelsea at the top of the table this season because Mou teams and Conte teams are tough to beat, that's how they are set up. It may not be an all action game for 60 minutes but the opposition get very few chances. Unlike us.

And then they have the quality that afforded a little space or a mistake they capitalise without doing anything spectacular (that goes for Utd but Costa's goals were taken well).

So my points.
- A high defensive line to compact the field is always a problem against a counter attack. Even if Sakho is there, he will look to commit and make a challenge so the result could easily be the same. You have to blame the quality of players or the coaching or say that we'll improve over the season dealing with those breaks (unconvincing). Sure we shouldn't give the ball away so much but you can't assume we won't at all.

- When Klavan tried to tackle Defour he should also have taken out the player, he didn't and it led to the goal. That's what a DM does. We don't have any DMs to speak of.

- Fergie's Utd used to lay siege on packed defence and just go at it at ever increasing intensity. Using width, crosses and strikers in the box. All our players want to do things outside the box and expect someone else to be in there, or won't run in because there are too many defenders in there already. We don't lay siege on penalty boxes, it's that simple.

- Mou's united let the other team play and get up the pitch but they still don't / are prevented from creating chances.
So the opponents get quite tired and eventually exhaust their ideas / lose inspiration.
They will also make mistakes which is what Mou counts on to capitalise. It always amazes me when teams try to take on Utd but it's because they let them. We decide we're going to be the whirlwind side and attack. That's perfect for a parked bus strategy and it means we're not managing the game, we're taking our chance against the opponent that we'll deal with their break aways. They do, we don't. Repeat ad nauseam.

This is all disturbing because we haven't seen Klopp deal with this and we're expecting him to be as smart as necessary. In the early days of this season he looks as one dimensional as Brendan Rodgers was.

Lastly we've very much glossed over the fact that we lost 3 goals against Arsenal. That isn't good. From losing the ball, to Clyne not showing Ox onto his weaker foot, to Lallana selling himself in the tackle, to Lovren kneeling down to block (!) there are a host of mistakes here that aren't being fixed. That's a worry. We need 2 fullbacks to challenge, we need midfielders that have more of a defensive sense. It's very worrying.

Some positives - next post.

Jonny S said...

Positives: continued....

Regardless of how you get possession, 80% (85% in the 2nd half apparently) is a lot. It means you can do things and try things. We need to learn to lay siege with intensity so the other team doesn't get a rest. We're not big and over powering but there is skill and Grujic/Wiji/Firmino/Origi can all be threatening with full back service and crossing. Sturridge won't play that game.

Klopp & his assistants are smart, he does see problems and he does look for solutions so it's important not to lose faith with him just yet.

And lets not forget players have bad days and there were a lot of them. Same against Hull in THAT season where we lost 3-1 away then crushed spurs the next game and "even Flanno scored" as one Spuds supporter lamented.

Nothing to do but put this game away and look to the next challenge. Let's hope this is a one off game where everything came back to haunt us.
At the very least the players will have to come up with a whole lot better performance next time.