20 November 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 3-0 Southampton

Previous Match Infographics: West Ham (a), Maribor (h), Huddersfield (h), Tottenham (a), 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. 

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

The international break certainly didn't upset the momentum built over the last month.

In isolation, it's a perfectly cromulent performance. One of those "professional performances" that pundits like to go on about. The better team plays better and the better team wins, fairly easily by the end of it. Once Liverpool scored, the result never looked in doubt. Liverpool's stars starred, but everyone truly played well.

Liverpool scored at least three goals for the sixth time in 12 league matches. Liverpool put at least 35% of its shots on-target for eighth time in 12 league matches.

All three of Liverpool's goals saw Liverpool reclaim possession in Southampton's half, most notably Firmino's perfectly timed and touched tackle to start move for the first, while the other two began with Henderson picking up poor Southampton clearances.

We got Mo Salah doing Mo Salah things, scoring his 13th and 14th goals of the season. Incidentally, Liverpool's top scorer in any season since 2014-15 was Coutinho last season. With 14 goals.

We got a goal and assist from Coutinho on his return after missing the last three matches, both dictating play from deep (that throughball for Salah's second goal, good lord) and an average position that's basically amongst the front three, making that map look almost like the 4-2-4 we saw at West Ham, which it certainly didn't feel like when watching the game.

We got actual, honest-to-goodness competent defending from the entire back four, including Trent Alexander-Arnold's most well-rounded game for the club and a monster block by Lovren on Boufal's shot in the 50th minute with Southampton pushing to get back in the game after halftime.

Liverpool had underwhelmed and under delivered in their last five matches against Southampton, failing to score in any of the four last season. Liverpool had been bad and gotten bad results in both matches following international breaks so far this season, the 0-5 loss at City and 0-0 draw against United.

So, yeah, this was quite pleasing. And in context of what we've seen in the previous few games, it's even better. Because it's the fourth consecutive match where Liverpool performed like this and won like this.

3-0 Huddersfield. 3-0 Maribor. 4-1 West Ham. And now 3-0 Southampton.

This is the first time that Liverpool have won three successive league matches since New Year's Eve 2016. Otherwise known as "the first time this calendar year." It's the middle of November.

All three of those wins saw Liverpool score at least three and win by three, as they also did against Maribor on the first of the month.

Liverpool's offense is humming along nicely, against the types of sides who've frustrated them in the past. That almost always leads to good things.

We've got Coutinho throughballs to Salah, Salah goals and Coutinho goals. We've got Firmino winning possession, dragging defenders, dropping into channels, tormenting the opposition and making space for teammates. We've got Sadio Mané, last season's goal talisman, as the Liverpool player with the joint-most key passes on Saturday.

And this was just the first time that Salah, Coutinho, Firmino, and Mané have started together in a league match this season. Not to mention that Adam Lallana will soon join that quartet.

But, almost as importantly, the defense has done its job as well.

Liverpool have conceded just one goal through this four-game stretch. Liverpool have conceded just two shots on-target through this four-game stretch. Liverpool's opponents have averaged just 4.25 shots per game through this four-game stretch, with none allowed more than six. Liverpool's opponents have had just three clear-cut chances through this four-game stretch, all in the 4-1 win at West Ham, one early from Ayew then two from Lanzini after Liverpool had taken a two-goal lead. No Liverpool player has committed a defensive error through this four-game stretch.

This was Liverpool's sixth clean sheet in the last eight games, the Tottenham bloodbath and West Ham's consolation the only aberrations. This was Liverpool's sixth clean sheet at Anfield this season; Burnley is the only Premier League side to score on Liverpool's ground this season, with Sevilla and Hoffenheim's two goals apiece the only others allowed at home.

This was the fifth time in the last eight games without an opposition clear-cut chance: Newcastle, United, Huddersfield, Maribor (h), Southampton. Unsurprisingly, four of those five matches were at Anfield. The last opposition clear-cut chance at Anfield was Ben Mee's header from a corner saved by Mignolet in the 1-1 draw against Burnley on September 18, five home matches ago.

Southampton failed to put a single shot on-target on Saturday. Both Arsenal and Huddersfield failed to do so earlier this season; a quarter of Liverpool's league matches this season have seen the opposition unable to test Liverpool's goalkeeper.

But Southampton also failed to put a single shot on-target in both of last season's league meetings as well. And both of those matches ended in a frustrating 0-0 draw.

When the attack is good, Liverpool are good. When the attack is good, the defense has a much better chance of being good.

Against Southampton, as in the last four matches – three and a half if we're being difficult – the attack was good. And so were Liverpool.

The next week will see Liverpool face an entirely different proposition. The change in formation and tactics at West Ham aside, there has been a lot of same again and achieved again, in needing to have both the nous and firepower to break through resolute mid-table sides.

The next week will see Liverpool travel to Sevilla and host Chelsea, two vastly more dangerous sides who'll look to beat Liverpool rather than contain them. I suspect both of those sides will attempt more than five shots, will put more than one shot on-target. The next six weeks will see Liverpool play at least two matches every week, and even more over Christmas and New Year's.

But with four comprehensive, professional wins in a month, Liverpool have set themselves up to succeed.

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