03 January 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (a), Stoke (h), Everton (a), Middlesbrough (a), West Ham (h), Bournemouth (a), Sunderland (h), Southampton (a), Watford (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Brom (h), United (h), Swansea (a), Hull (h), Chelsea (a), Leicester (h), Tottenham (a), Burnley (a), Arsenal (a)

All match data from Stats Zone and Who Scored.

The moral of the story remains the same as yesterday. If Liverpool hadn't committed two avoidable, asinine penalties, Liverpool win a difficult game, despite the lack of rotation, fatigue, relative mediocrity, etc. Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Still, there's more than a bit of aberration in this match and result.

The last time Liverpool committed two penalties in a match was the first match of Brendan Rodgers' tenure, at West Brom in August 2012. Pepe Reina saved one, but Liverpool still lost 0-3. The last time Liverpool conceded from two penalties was (again) at West Brom, this time under Dalglish, in April 2011.

It's not something that happens often.

Before yesterday's match, Liverpool put 15 or more shots on-target just once since the beginning of 2013-14: against Watford two months ago, where Liverpool put 17 on-target and scored from six.

The previous high for shots on-target away from home in a Premier League match this season was 10. No keeper has made as many saves in a league match as Mannone did yesterday.

Liverpool surpassed yesterday's 71.4% shooting accuracy just twice since the beginning of 2013-14: last season's 6-0 win at Aston Villa and a 0-1 loss at Hull in April 2015.

Incidentally, Liverpool didn't put 15 shots on-target or have a shooting accuracy above 70% in any match during the 2013-14 Suarez-led attacking tornado. For what's it's worth.

In the three above matches, you've got two six-goals-scored wins and a 0-1 loss.

That Hull game is probably a decent comparison. Away against a soon-to-be-relegated side. Nine of 12 shots on-target, but a lot of low-value chances, with almost half of those shots on-target came from outside the box. That day, Liverpool lost because Liverpool did something dumb – the then-frequent and still-possible inability to deal with the second phase of a corner. At least Liverpool didn't lose yesterday? Not that striving to match results from 2014-15 is any sort of goal.

But putting that many shots on-target – even if too many are soft or speculative – and having such a high shooting accuracy but still failing to win is not something that happens often.

Liverpool were the only side who played both Saturday and Monday and made just one change. Southampton (L) made six; United (W), Boro (D), and Leicester (D) made five; City (W) and Everton (W) made four; Sunderland (D) and West Ham (L) made three; West Brom (W), Burnley (L), and Hull (L) made two.

I can't help but wonder what would have happened had Liverpool made just two more, say Stewart for Can or Wijnaldum and Moreno for Milner (which happened at halftime anyway). But that's obviously moot now.

Sturridge's potent return was a welcome sight. Mignolet made three excellent open play saves and also prevented Defoe from getting a shot off when through on goal. Firmino was again more influential on the left than he had been. Emre Can did at least improve as the deepest midfielder in the second half. Liverpool were reasonably creative on a ground and against opposition where it's often tough to do so under normal circumstances. Liverpool scored two goals from corners in one match for the third time this season. All things considered, it really wasn't that bad, except for those penalties.

Liverpool still sit second, even if the gap to third has lessened. Liverpool still have one of the highest point totals they've taken from the first 20 games in the club's history. Both the fixture schedule and Liverpool's injury concerns will ease over the next few weeks, starting with rests for the majority of first-team players in this weekend's FA Cup match. Hell, Liverpool might even add a player or two in January (I recommend doing this if possible).

As annoying as yesterday was, there's still some aberration about it and it still isn't the end of the world. The title race has gotten harder, the top four race has gotten narrower, but we'd still have grabbed this position with both hands at the start of the season.

Liverpool can be better, Liverpool should be better, and Liverpool will be better. You know, as long as they just stop doing dumb, avoidable things.

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