23 November 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 3-3 Sevilla 

Previous Match Infographics: Southampton (h), 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.)

I can't help but start with a table I posted after Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Sevilla.

Liverpool have now lost or drawn 21 matches where they've had the lead under Jürgen Klopp. It's happened five times when Liverpool have had a two-goal lead or – following this collapse from 3-0 – better. Jürgen Klopp has been manager for 119 games. In 17.6% of Klopp's Liverpool games, Liverpool have had a lead but failed to win.

To break it down even further. Liverpool have taken a lead in 81 of those 119 games. Liverpool have won 60 of those 81 – 46 times by holding onto an established lead, 11 times by coming back from a deficit, and three times where Liverpool had a lead, lost the lead, then retook the lead.

81 times where Liverpool had a lead. 21 times where Liverpool failed to win with said lead. 25.9% of matches where Liverpool have had a lead. Yikes.

That seems like a lot of lost opportunities. On the plus side, at least Liverpool have yet to lose after taking a lead this season, something they did twice in each of the previous seasons.

On the negative side, Liverpool have yet to come back to win from a losing position this season.

Also on the negative side, nine of those above 21 matches saw the opposition's crucial goal come after the 80th minute. Late goals conceded, nowhere near as many late goals scored, especially not meaningful goals. And another two crucial points dropped, no matter the first half that came before the second.

Sevilla's comeback wasn't entirely unexpected, even considering Liverpool's proclivity for Liverpooling. Lost in the second-half collapse is the fact that Sevilla had two clear-cut chances after Liverpool's early opener, before Liverpool's second – one saved by Karius, one narrowly wide from two-goal-scorer Ben Yedder. Even when Liverpool were 1-0 and 2-0 up, Liverpool weren't in control. The only true spell of dominance came after Liverpool's third, with Sevilla on tilt. But with Liverpool unable to push it further, most notably with Salah's clear-cut chance cleared off the goal line.

I expect you remember the previous meeting, where Liverpool came back from conceding early and were cruising, up 2-1, which should have been 3-1 when Firmino missed a penalty. And then Sevilla's equalizer happened in the second half, as Liverpool lost control.

Liverpool have been especially prone to losing control away from home this season. 

23 of the 28 goals conceded this season have come away from Anfield. Liverpool are averaging 0.56 goals conceded per game at home and 2.09 on the road. Otherwise known as nearly four times as many. Three goals conceded at Watford and Sevilla, four at Tottenham, five at Manchester City. The only away match where Liverpool haven't conceded was the 7-0 massacre at Maribor. And all nine of Liverpool's goals conceded from set plays – five free kicks (one direct), four corners, and a penalty – have come away from home. Both penalties saved by Simon Mignolet this season came away from home as well – at Hoffenheim and at Leicester.

I remain unsure whether the away curse is tactical or mental – probably a little from column A and a little from column B – but it's a massive problem all the same.

Alberto Moreno's taken a lot of the blame for Tuesday. And unsurprisingly so. His foul that led to Sevilla's free kick first. Him beaten to the header by Ben Yedder for Sevilla's free kick first. His completely unnecessary foul for Sevilla's penalty. It was a mad 20 minutes which got him hooked, and all too reminiscent of his second-half performance against the same side in the 2016 Europa League final. The same side that Moreno used to play for.

It's a bad look, especially after this week's "I'M BACK, BABY!" interviews. But I can't help but focusing on Jordan Henderson.

Remember when we used to complain about midfielders passing sideways? What I wouldn't have given for that.

Liverpool's captain, who played the full 90 minutes, touched the ball all of 37 times at Sevilla. Only Moreno and the three substitutes had fewer Liverpool touches. 30 were passes – 17 successful, 13 errant. He made three interceptions (all before Sevilla's first goal), blocked one cross, was caught offsides twice, and mis-controlled into a giveaway once. No tackles attempted. No aerial duels attempted.

From the holding midfielder. From the player with more Liverpool appearances than anyone else in the squad. From the Liverpool captain. That's not good.

Look, "the captain" is often an ephemeral label. Klopp often doesn't seem to put much stock in it. Each player needs to be responsible for themselves and the team, etc. But put in this situation – especially the last few minutes of the match, where you'd kept Sevilla out for almost 30 minutes after completely losing the plot – you'd expect senior players to be able to calm the play. To put a foot on the ball and reassert at least a modicum of control. That's what Gerrard, Hyypia, etc does.


But let's be clear. Outside of the front three, no one really played well. The right-side of the defense was okay. The substitutes were okay. The left side of the defense – including both Mané and Coutinho, at least in their defensive responsibilities – was bad. The midfield was very bad.

Even when playing a counter-attacking game, you need to be able to assert some semblance of control. 
I started doing these match infographics in 2012-13, so I feel pretty safe in stating the following. No team has attempted or completed more passes against Liverpool under Rodgers or Klopp. No team has had a greater disparity in passes attempted or completed against Liverpool under Rodgers or Klopp. Liverpool have never had a lower passing accuracy under Rodgers or Klopp. Liverpool have never attempted or completed fewer passes under Rodgers or Klopp. No team has had more possession against Liverpool under Rodgers or Klopp.

This Liverpool side often dominates possession, for better or worse. This Liverpool side can be better with less possession, allowed more space for the counter-attack, more space for that front three to do front three things. But this was especially lopsided and especially horrific. The pass accuracy is the most galling, unable to keep the ball when Liverpool needed to take the sting out of the opposition, crowd, and game.

But this is not the end of the world. Liverpool remain a point ahead of Sevilla and three points ahead of Spartak. Liverpool have yet to lose in the Champions League this season. A win against Spartak – who could only draw at home with Maribor on Tuesday – still sees Liverpool win the group. A draw sees Liverpool qualify for the knockout rounds, the place in the group dependent on Sevilla's result at Maribor. Not that you want to rely on Liverpool in an end-all, be-all match, seeing how this side's responded to pressure in big games, but it's still better than a lot of scenarios.

Of course we'd have all taken a draw before kickoff. But that doesn't excuse what happened on Tuesday. And after all the group that'd come before...

One step forward, two steps back. Again. Four impressive wins, against less impressive sides, but then another collapse. Starting with an individual, but eventually team-wide. Not great, Liverpool.

Now, Chelsea on Saturday. Yet again, another response needed. And quickly.

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