25 September 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 3-2 Leicester City

Previous Match Infographics: Burnley (h), Sevilla (h), Manchester City (a), Arsenal (h), Hoffenheim (h), Crystal Palace (h), Hoffenheim (a), Watford (a)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from Liverpool FC

There truly isn't much to say that hadn't been said after Watford, Sevilla, or Burnley. Except that Liverpool won, which makes all the difference.

Liverpool's attack remains really good.

They've now scored at least two goals in six of ten matches in all competitions. Four of those matches have seen Liverpool score at least three, and each of those four had goals from three different players. Liverpool have spread goals around, but Mohamed Salah also has six goals in just eight starts. Liverpool have only failed to score twice: at Manchester City, where a red card explains a lot, and last week in the league cup with a much-changed XI.

And Liverpool are doing it in different ways, from different players, despite Salah's incredible individual output. Each of Liverpool's three goals on Saturday was impressive in its own way. Each came in a difference phase: open play, set play, fast break.

First, a smart switch of play from Can, control and that cross from Coutinho, and Salah's well-taken difficult back-post header for the first.

Second, Coutinho's individual brilliance from a direct free kick – Liverpool's second direct free kick goal of the season and Coutinho's fourth since the start of last season.

Third, a well-timed tackle from Henderson as Leicester are pressing, and the counter's on. Quick to Coutinho, quick to Sturridge, a run at the retreating defense before picking the right pass to Henderson, who's clever enough to take a touch to put off both defender and keeper.

They're good goals, Brent.

Incidentally, this was only the fourth time that Liverpool have scored three or more goals without Sadio Mané in the starting line-up, in 21 matches since the start of last season where he didn't start. 3-0 Derby in the League Cup, 4-0 West Ham, 3-0 Boro, and now 3-2 Leicester.

But, obviously, Liverpool are still allowing too many goals. Again. Either canceling out all the good work in attack or, as on Saturday, coming too damned close for comfort. Liverpool have scored at least two in six of ten matches? Great! Liverpool have conceded at least two in six of ten as well: Watford, Hoffenheim, City, Sevilla, and Leicester (twice). Draw, win, loss, draw, loss, win.

Liverpool have scored in eight of ten matches, Liverpool have conceded in eight of ten matches. They only two where Liverpool kept clean sheets were against Crystal Palace, a narrow 1-0 win where Benteke missed a clear-cut chance – Palace is still yet to score in any league match this season – and against Arsenal, where Arsenal failed to put any of their eight shots on target.

Only Manchester City and Manchester United have scored more goals than Liverpool this season, while Chelsea have the same total as Liverpool, and those are the top three sides in the division. But only Palace, West Ham, and Leicester have allowed more league goals than Liverpool this season. Palace are currently 20th, West Ham are 18th, and Leicester are 17th.

Liverpool are allowing too many easy goals. Because Liverpool are allowing too many good chances.

Through six league matches, Liverpool have had 15 big chances and allowed 15 big chances – an average of 2.5 each match. Last season, Liverpool averaged 1.89 per league match and allowed 1.42.

In the league, 29.4% of the shots Liverpool have faced have been clear-cut chances. In all competitions, it's 20.2%

They're good shots, Brent.

Leicester's clear-cut chances all came from different situations as well. First, Okazaki's goal, from a corner, still Liverpool's bane. Yes, it's all different had the foul on Mignolet been correctly called, but it's still annoying marking with an annoying result. Then, Gray's shot saved directly to an unmarked Vardy, with Matip caught ball-watching. Then, Vardy's penalty – soft but Mignolet kicked through him after barely kicking the ball, and shouldn't have been in that situation.

And, yes, corners. Four of the 18 goals allowed so far this season have come from corners: Watford's opener, Watford's equalizer, Leicester's opener in the League Cup, and Leicester's opener to get them back into the game on Saturday. Only Okazaki in the League Cup, which was second phase after an initial clearance, wasn't a clear-cut chance.

There's a reason why loads of articles came out with Klopp talking about the defense yesterday.

He can't avoid mentioning individual errors – even if he unsurprisingly doesn't (and shouldn't) single individuals out – but this seemed more meaningful to me.

“We had a formation which they could not really cope with. Where we are, where Roberto (Firmino) is, where the ‘third eight’ is in between, where Phil (Coutinho) is, where Mo (Salah) is. So how we build up, that’s all.

“We play with three at the back in the build up, Roberto is a bit higher, that was really difficult for them. But then we stopped doing that, we wanted to control the game but we have to make these small ways still. Then we played the balls a little bit too late, and so they came up.

“As long as we are in a good rhythm and play the ball at the right moment, and good orientation, we couldn’t come in pressing situations after that. They could. So it opens the game a little bit. It’s not a physical thing, we just have to keep our concentration, to want to be dominant still, go and go on.

“If we decide to be a little bit more (controlling), use another rhythm if you want, we have to do it active, not passive."

Individual errors will remain an issue. But defending is first and foremost an entire-team problem, whether in the backline, midfield, or the front. Passivity when out of possession is a problem, in all phases. Fix that, and individual errors will almost certainly subside.

And, yes, Liverpool have been unlucky. Watford's third goal was offside. Maybe Mané isn't shown a red card by most referees. Ninety nine times out of a hundred, Lovren doesn't whiff when trying to clear that cross for Sevilla's opener. An accidental touch from Klavan set up Arfield's goal against Burnley, in a match where most referees would have given Liverpool a late penalty. Even Saturday, despite winning, as Vardy dove for the free kick to set up the corner where Mignolet was fouled for Leicester's opener, and Mignolet's save went straight to Vardy for the second. Individual errors that don't happen all that often, even given Liverpool's proclivity for individual errors, and less than helpful refereeing.

You have to believe that Liverpool's luck will improve, but there's also that old, true cliché about making your own luck.

So, in my mind, the only new takeaway is that Liverpool got away without punishment this time, after failing to do so in similar circumstances against Watford, Sevilla, and Burnley. Thanks to that attack, thanks to Mignolet's redeeming penalty save, thanks to an improved defense performance after that penalty save. They did so against a side seemingly built to exploit Liverpool's issues, and a side that's caused Liverpool numerous problems over the last few seasons, with Leicester having beaten Klopp's Liverpool by two goals in each of the three previous away meetings.

But, as matches against Watford, Sevilla, and Burnley have demonstrated, Liverpool won't get away with it often without improvement.

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