02 May 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 1-0 Watford

Previous Match Infographics: Crystal Palace (h), West Brom (a), Stoke (a), Bournemouth (h), Everton (h), Manchester City (h), Burnley (a), 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.

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

Winning ugly is a process, it's not immediate.

2-1 Stoke, 1-0 West Brom, and now 1-0 Watford, in Liverpool's last three away matches. Against the exact type of sides who'd caused Liverpool countless, routine problems less than a month or two ago.

Sure, there are also 2-2 Bournemouth and 1-2 Crystal Palace in that run. With a similar paucity of shots and goals but also with dumb concessions, with late concessions. But there hasn't been a run like 2-2 Sunderland, 0-0 Plymouth, 0-1 Southampton, 1-1 United, 1-0 Plymouth, 2-3 Swansea, 0-1 Southampton, and 1-1 Wolves, despite Liverpool missing even more players than they were in January.

Because it's a process, it's not immediate. Even if we dearly wish it would be a much, much quicker process.

The last time Liverpool won consecutive league games away from home by a 1-0 margin was December-January 2014/15, at Burnley and Sunderland.

Compared to Liverpool's last match, even compared to Liverpool's last 1-0 away win, Liverpool were better in attack – but definitely needed Emre Can's hapax legomenon to open up space for the second half improvement – and were excellent in defense.

Liverpool still aren't getting or taking enough shots, too many still come from outside the box, the attack still breaks down too often in the final third, especially at the feet of Liverpool's full-backs, but at least Liverpool took double-digit shots, tested Heurelho Gomes with eight of them, and weren't reliant on set plays for their lone goal.

But yeah, it's all about Emre Can's strike. You know what, let's just watch that a few more times.

Good lord.

Incidentally, that was Lucas' third assist in his last five games. The last time Lucas had more than two in a Premier League season was 2007-08. Lucas has played 244 Premier League games for Liverpool over ten seasons. 20% of his Premier League assists have come in the last five. Each one's led to Liverpool's eventual winner: 2-1 v Everton, 1-0 at West Brom, and now 1-0 at Watford. Not a bad way to almost certainly end what's been an eventual Liverpool tenure.

And yeah, Liverpool were excellent in defense. Aerial duels, clearances, tackles. Goalkeeper claims and punches. Restricting Watford to just one in-box shot before second-half added time, Amrabat's effort in the 68th minute swiftly blocked by Lovren. Until the 93rd minute, that is, when Sebastian Prödl crashed the game's only clear-cut chance off the crossbar. It was reminiscent of Liverpool's 2-1 win at Swansea, holding onto a narrow lead away from home against diligent and determined, if not especially powerful opposition, only to see a clear-cut chance from an unnecessary set play narrowly miss Liverpool's goal.

I've said it before and I'll undoubtedly say it again. You need that bit of luck, at both ends of the pitch, whether you're fighting for the title, the top four, or against relegation. Especially when Coutinho goes off injured after 12 minutes. When Mané and Henderson are still absent, and the outstanding Adam Lallana's not really ready to play the 70+ minutes he simply had to play. When Firmino – in an unfamiliar left-sided role – and Wijnaldum are anonymous. When Origi still struggles in almost every aspect of being a striker except moments of decent hold-up play. When both Clyne and Milner demonstrably show just how many games they've played this season with every touch of the ball.

You still need Mignolet to make two necessary saves – even if both of Watford's shots on-target came from miles out – along with six claimed crosses and a couple of strong punches. You need Lovren and Matip to clear almost everything put in front of them.

But you also need Seb Prödl to smash the game's only clear-cut chance off the bar rather than the back of the net. And you need Emre Can to score the best goal we've seen in many, many seasons.

Those are the margins Liverpool have to deal with during this crucial run-in. There's Can's wizardry and Prödl's fortune. There's Mignolet somehow saving efforts from Berahino and Phillips. But there's also Josh King's late scrambled strike. There's Lovren twice losing his mind against Crystal Palace. Going further back, there's somehow conceding two stupid penalties at Sunderland, there's Llorente scoring two goals from two shots on-target against Swansea.

All Liverpool need to do is finish on the positive side of these fine margins.

Three matches left.


drew said...

"All Liverpool need to do is finish on the positive side of these fine margins."

oh god

Anonymous said...

Haha, loved your goal event graphic!

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