23 October 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 1-4 Tottenham

Previous Match Infographics: Maribor (a), United (h), Newcastle (a), Spartak Moscow (a), Leicester (a), 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 the SofaScore app.

Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool have lost by three or more goals just three times in the 114 matches since he became manager. The first was in his 15th game – 0-3 at Watford in December 2015 – something of an aberration featuring a heaping helping of Adam Bogdan.

The second was five weeks ago at Manchester City. The third was yesterday.

Despite all of the defensive shenanigans we've seen over the last few seasons, Klopp's Liverpool went 89 games without losing by three or more. And now they've done it twice in the last ten games. Both times away against Top-6 rivals, in fixtures that both ended 1-1 last season.

That's not good. And more frighteningly, that's not progress.

Tottenham only added a couple of players last summer, but those added were at the heart of their defensive performance yesterday: Davidson Sanchez anchoring the back three and Serge Aurier doing a commendable job on Mo Salah. And, more importantly, Tottenham had a stronger base to build from. An attack as young and potent as Liverpool's, but a much, much better defense to begin with.

We've all become so, so tired writing about Liverpool's failure to upgrade the defense last summer, but it can't be helped. Liverpool added one defender, and the one added can't get into the team because the player he was supposed to replace has revived his career, and is currently the best performer at the back. Meanwhile, we get to see Lovren and Matip flail and fail at least one every couple of matches, and sometimes more. And, sometimes, as happened yesterday, a lot more.

Wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which keeps more clean sheets first.

This remains a Liverpool side capable of shutting down and shutting out consecutive opponents – only two, but two's at least a start – but then having the first 30 minutes we saw on Sunday. Only one Opta-defined defensive error in those first 30 minutes, but at least four failures. One very defense-wide, with at least four players to single out, but three others starring Dejan Lovren, and all four featuring Dejan Lovren seeing a ball sail parabolically over his head.

So, yeah, the Opta definition of defensive errors is narrow. Yesterday saw Liverpool commit two of the four we've seen this season. Sample size remains an issue. This still isn't fun.

Four Tottenham goals, and all you can truly credit them for is a well-placed assists from Trippier and Kane and excellent finishing on the first three goals. Yes, they out-Liverpool'd Liverpool in the first 30 minutes – some pressing, but more importantly swarming pace and counter-attacks against an exposed defense – but it seemed more meaningful that Liverpool gift-wrapped everything else, whether it was Matip, Lovren, Gomez, and Mignolet on the first; Lovren on the second; Matip on the third; or Mignolet on the fourth.

It's also worth pointing out that Tottenham's final two goals were set up by Liverpool touches. That's the sixth time that's happened this season. Exactly a quarter of Liverpool's goals conceded came from touches from Liverpool players: Matip and Alexander-Arnold, then Mignolet at Watford; Klavan against Burnley; Matip at Newcastle; Matip, then Mignolet at Tottenham.

I'm seeing similar names in the previous list, and they're not "Dejan Lovren." Lovren was unconscionably, there-must-be-something-wrong bad yesterday, but there's more than enough blame to go around. Including for the manager. He's not out there watching the ball fly overhead with a stupefied look on his face, but he's picking this side, he's setting up this side, and – as far as we know – he's got the final say on Liverpool's transfer dealings.

At what point do we stop blaming individual errors and start blaming the system?

I'm serious; this isn't a rhetorical question. I truly don't know. Six times out of 10, when Liverpool concede stupidly, there's an elemental, you-should-not-have-done-that error involved. I want to believe that means it's not the system, but it also keeps happening again and again and again so maybe? But Lovren and Mignolet did this sort of nonsense under the previous manager as well. But Matip had his faults at Schalke. But Gomez and Alexander-Arnold are still babies.

We're nowhere near KLOPP OUT. We've seen too much good, too much promise over the last few seasons; FSG clearly trust him with everything; he ain't out here missing easy defensive headers or spurning clear-cut chances; and I doubt it'd improve a damned thing when looking over this squad. But I can't help thinking he's got too much faith in his ability to coach players that have made the same mistakes for three or four seasons now. It's become too difficult when I have to do this Groundhog Day shtick seemingly every week.

Through nine league matches, Liverpool's opponents are averaging 8.78 shots per match and 4.22 shots on-target – a shot accuracy of 48.1%. That's 38 shots on-target through nine matches, and 17 of those shots on-target have been clear-cut chances – 44.7% – with 12 scored and five saved. Only two opposition clear-cut chances in the league have been off-target.

That's very bad. You will drop a whole mess of points allowing that many shots on-target and that many clear-cut chances. Meanwhile, Liverpool are putting 35.7% of their shots on-target. Only 23.3% of Liverpool's shots on-target have been clear-cut chances (14 of 60). Liverpool have put six clear-cut chances off-target.

So, yes, Liverpool's defense – I reiterate, again – is what truly cost Liverpool this match, but I can't help condemning the attack at least a little bit. As against Sevilla, Burnley, Spartak, Newcastle, United, etc.

Only 12 shots despite 64% possession. Eight of those 12 shots from outside the box, just two in the Danger Zone. A good goal from Mohamed Salah, but one which also featured a heavy Dele Alli deflection on the assist and a shot that bobbled in off the far post.

Look, it's hard to attack when you're 0-2 down within 12 minutes, but this is still bad. You'd still hope your top chance-creator wasn't also your top scorer. You'd hope your central midfield would create more than two chances: Henderson's deflected assist – which arguably should get taken away because of the deflection – and Milner's deep cross-field pass to Moreno for a long shot from distance. You'd still hope your central striker who played 77 minutes would, you know, take a shot or create a chance. Just one.

This was primarily, obviously a defensive failing, but it was also an attacking failing. It was also a midfield failing, whether in providing for the attack or protecting the defensive against a team obviously built to swarm and counter.

For all the emphasis on individual errors, it was a Liverpool failing. And we've already seen too many Liverpool failings this season.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Nate, I don't say it often enough, but thanks for doing this so tirelessly. Its my go-to place after every game.

A quick comment on the game: I am not convinced that it is entirely a defensive-line failing. Sure, individual errors happen too often. But Matip and Lovren arrived with good reputations. We have a habit the past five years of turning good defenders into unconfident shell-shocked half-men. (to say nothing of the travesty of the Sakho issue).

The real issue for me is the midfield. We do not have anyone with gravitas and control - ever since Alonso or Mascherano, actually. Any defense will be under pressure with Kane, Trippier, Son and Ali running at them - Spurs have developed into a masterful and beautiful side. So the first thing you need to do is try and control the pace from the midfield.

Henderson is over-rated, Can is inconsistent and loses his head, none of the others are really holding players.

In fact, I might play Milner in the holding role, only because he is the calmest player on the field.