17 September 2016

Visualized: Liverpool 2-1 Chelsea

Previous Match Infographics: Leicester (h), Tottenham (a), Burnley (a), Arsenal (a)

All match data from Stats Zone and Who Scored.

(Nota Bene: Here's the formation diagram usually included in match reviews.)

That was a lot more narrow than Liverpool fans may want to remember or acknowledge.

Antonio Conte's sides aren't supposed to have complete and utter breakdowns when defending set plays, a manager often known for his defensive organization. But there Liverpool were, with three men unguarded at the back post after a short free kick. The only defender to have been in the area – Gary Cahill – somehow left it, either following an already-marked Matip or bafflingly returning to his position while the move's still going. Liverpool's movement was clever: Lovren delayed his run, Sturridge waited until the last second to return from an offside position, Mané drifted into the area upon seeing the overload. But those breakdowns shouldn't happen. Even Liverpool, who we've often excoriated for set-play defense, rarely make fall apart in such a manner.

Jürgen Klopp's sides aren't supposed to allow 16-pass goals where every outfield player touches the ball at least once. Where Liverpool attempt to press the opposition in its own half, but the opposition neatly plays around them, then are beaten all ends up when trying to press in the middle third, with Matic breaking past Lallana, untracked by both Henderson and Lallana, beating a slid-in-too-soon Matip before picking out Costa. Liverpool's defensive organization had been quite good to that point – quickly recovering after losing possession, quickly getting men behind the ball when needed, getting into position, forcing Chelsea to play wide and a subsequent struggle to get into the box – but one failed press and Liverpool are diced through the middle. One opportunity swiftly taken; mistakes from Lallana, Henderson, and Matip swiftly punished.

Liverpool's previous league goals conceded? Two passes (Arsenal), four passes (Arsenal), one pass (Arsenal), two passes (Burnley), one pass (Burnley), 11 passes (Tottenham), zero passes (Leicester).

Honors even in the "first goal conceded is an out-of-character goal conceded" challenge. So the match was settled by a galaxy-class strike by Jordan Henderson. As wonderful as it was and forever will be (here, let's watch it again), that ain't happening often.

Liverpool should have won its last trip to London, unlucky to not score more than once against Tottenham, a 1-1 draw not entirely fair on balance of play. Liverpool easily could have seen this match finish level, just as five of the previous ten meetings finished. Maybe this season it'll actually all even out in the end. It's also hard to complain about getting a result, moderately deserved or marginally deserved or not, when you've won just once against your opponent in the previous ten meetings. Klopp's now done it twice in a row at Stamford Bridge after Liverpool's previous manager failed in all eight attempts at either ground.

Credit where due. Liverpool made us nervous, because Liverpool either can't or won't go through a single match without making us nervous, but Liverpool were also very good after conceding. Chelsea took just two shots in the ~35 minutes after scoring: Diego Costa saved in the 65th minute, Fabregas's free kick into the wall in the 89th. That's it. At home, dominating possession, down by a goal, and unbeaten in five matches.

Chelsea, allowed just 12 shots all match. Chelsea, who took 16 and 22 shots in their two previous home matches. That's their second-lowest home total since being held to eight by Liverpool last season.

And credit where due. Just like last Saturday, Simon Mignolet made a massive save with the score at 2-1, this time denying Diego Costa from 15 yards. It wasn't a clear-cut chance, as Jamie Vardy's was. It was, fortunately, hit almost directly at him. But he stopped it, a threatening shot from one of the league's best strikers, and Liverpool stayed ahead, and Liverpool didn't allow an open play shot for the rest of the match.

For some reason, a lot of y'all act like Liverpool have never been here before. Which, to be fair, is almost accurate. Everyone remembers the multiple 1-0 and 2-0 leads lost. But it's not as if Liverpool are never able to lock the door after conceding. The best example is the 1-1 draw at Borussia Dortmund last season, where Liverpool held Dortmund without a shot for the final 30 minutes to keep the crucial away goal advantage. But we've also got last month at Arsenal, where Arsenal took zero shots in the last 15 minutes after getting back to 4-3. We've got 1-1 at Tottenham, with just two opposition shots, both off-target, after Rose's equalizer.

Clearly, it doesn't happen often enough. And Liverpool conceded at least once in all four of the above examples. Liverpool are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season, Liverpool have kept just three clean sheets in the league since March, all at Anfield: 3-0 v City, 4-0 v Everton, and 2-0 v Watford.

But Liverpool do have the capacity to close down games and Liverpool are slowly (very slowly, especially compared with Liverpool's improvement in attack) getting better at closing out games.

As with everything good we've seen so far this short season, Liverpool just need to do it more often.


Anonymous said...

Defense was very good last night. Lovren and Matip had Costa locked down the entire match. Except for the goal, Costa was virtually invisible. William and Hazard were held to zero shots. Oscar had 1 shot. We shut down that match after their goal. Only allowed 2 shots with 1 of those from a direct kick. This is excellent defending against a very good team at a very tough away venue.

And we still have not yet seen our top defensive spine combo in Can, Lovren, Matip and Karius.

Milner got a 7.5 player rating while Azpilicueta got a 4. Maybe Klopp knew what he was doing bringing in 4 starting players (and losing none!) and waiting to bring in a left back until he can get a player he wants and rates? Also, Hendo DM'd the shit out of that match while we still have Can to come into the team. Just saying. Trust Klopp and stop the freaking moaning!!!!!!!!! The team/squad is significantly better than last season. Be happy with that. Takes time for Klopp to build the squad he wants. It's not simply a snap of the fingers, eh?

Tom said...

Was going to say the same thing as above. The fact that Liverpool have been suffocating games when they need to this season without Can coming in to help them do it bodes well for everyone. Once he is healthy, whether he is starting right off the bat (and right now I'm not sure who he comes in for) or coming in to kill off the game once the attack secures the goals, that's an exciting prospect.