13 March 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 2-1 Burnley

Previous Match Infographics: Arsenal (h), Leicester (a), Tottenham (h), Hull (a), Chelsea (h), Swansea (h), Manchester United (a), Sunderland (a), 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.

As long as Liverpool win, it's hard to complain. Sure, it wasn't good. But it was better than Swansea, Hull, and Leicester since the start of 2017, with a vastly better result. And, nearly midway through March, fighting desperately for a top four spot with ten league matches remaining, that's all that matters.

But it's certainly not as if Liverpool's solved their issues against the league's lesser lights.

Burnley held Liverpool to ten shots yesterday. Only Manchester City (5), Chelsea (7), and Manchester United (9) – all at Anfield – have held Liverpool to fewer.

Liverpool had just one big chance – scored by Wijnaldum – but coming because of a fortunate rebound which not only presented the opportunity but took Mee out of the picture. Which, admittedly, is better than zero big chances against either Hull or Leicester, but far fewer than the four against Tottenham or three against Chelsea and Arsenal.

Yesterday saw Liverpool's lowest tackles total and joint-third lowest interceptions total this season, with fewer Liverpool interceptions in only 2-3 Swansea (h) and 5-1 Hull (h), matches where Liverpool had a lot more possession.

I posted this table after the Tottenham match, and it's only gotten worse with the fixtures against Leicester, Arsenal, and now Burnley.

That Bottom 10 opposition shot accuracy. That Bottom 10 Big Chances per game. Oof. And remember, the Bottom 10 averages remain inflated because of much earlier big victories over Leicester, Hull, Watford, and Palace.

Paul Tomkins hits on the biggest problem. Liverpool often aren't physical enough to deal with the bottom half sides, many of whom rely on physicality. On long balls, crosses, and set plays.

This chart seems the most crucial. Liverpool are not only the shortest side, they're nearly the lightest, behind only Manchester City. Another side who's had problems against the sides that Liverpool have problems against.

One more note, this time from Andrew Beasley, although I thoroughly encourage you to go read the whole thing.

Teams know they can "get at" Liverpool. We've seen it in each of the previous three matches we're still moaning about – Swansea, Hull, and Leicester – as well as the first meeting against Burnley.

Here are yesterday's aerial duels, via WhoScored.

This actually isn't bad; there aren't a vast amount in Liverpool's final third, even though Burnley's possession total is slightly higher than the opposition's had in similar matches. There's a lot more than usual in Burnley's half, showing Liverpool's proclivity for long passes in an attempt to get around Burnley, especially in the first half.

Liverpool average 69 long passes per game. They attempted 83 yesterday. And Burnley's center-backs won 21 aerial duels.

Who won the most for Liverpool? Emre Can, with seven. Even when he's not good – see: the entire first half – his physicality is often necessary, because Liverpool's so otherwise lacking in it.

Which makes it fitting that he also scored Liverpool's winner. Liverpool's first outside-the-box goal since December 4th, also from Can. Liverpool took 124 shots from outside the box between those two strikes, 72 in the league and 52 in the FA and League Cups, over 18 matches.

Liverpool's longest stretch without an out-box goal last season was seven matches. Finishing variance is fun. At least Emre picked a hell of a time to break that streak.

And at least it's a start. It's better than we've seen in these matches for a few months, with a vastly better and much-needed result. One which hopefully helps to cure Liverpool's seemingly mental fragility in these fixtures.

It's only the second time Liverpool "won ugly" against a bottom side this season, joining the 2-1 victory at Swansea back in October. It's the third time Liverpool won despite conceding an opening goal within 20 minutes, along with that 2-1 win at Swansea and a 4-1 win over Stoke.

Liverpool needed to prove to itself, as well as the rest of the league, that they can actually do this and win these.

Liverpool's remaining games:

Five against the Top 10, five against the Bottom 10. But more specifically, it's two against the Top 7 – the next two games – six against the middle tier, and two against bad teams, both at Anfield. And there are some very worrisome games in that middle tier: sides that beat or held Liverpool this season (Bournemouth, West Ham, and Southampton), and sides whose style can trouble Liverpool (Stoke and West Brom), both away from home.

There are a lot of potential problems in these final ten matches. Liverpool finally took the necessary first step, but there's quite a long way to go.

No comments :