14 December 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 0-0 West Brom

Previous Match Infographics: Everton (h), Spartak Moscow (h), Brighton (a), Stoke (a), Chelsea (h), Sevilla (a), 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.)

The finishing pixie is a cruel, cruel mistress.

Liverpool had been flying.

At least three goals a game in eight of nine games, from Huddersfield through Spartak.

And then Everton and West Brom happened, and we're seemingly back to the bad old days of 1-1 Burnley, Spartak, and Newcastle.

To be fair, it is not easy to score when the opposition often look like this.

Three defenders directly in front of the man on the ball, six other defenders packed into the penalty box. And the lone striker, the other outfield opponent, is still in camera frame. All 11 West Brom players, in about a quarter of the pitch. And I swear I'm not cherry-picking moments here; this was randomly grabbed from the BBC Match of the Day highlights. I could have chosen eight other moments from that package, and 30 more had I bothered to go from the full match.

But this is the right of the weak. If Liverpool can't find a way past it – which they had done a whole lot of times over the last month and a half – then it's Liverpool's fault.

And it's not helping that Liverpool's previously flying front four have not had a good last two games.

Yes, sample size, obviously. But everyone's shot accuracy (except Coutinho's, with all of his shots on-target in the last two games from outside the box) and conversion has fallen off a cliff against Everton and West Brom. Salah especially has reverted to mere mortality, putting just one of nine shots on-target in the last two games. And he scored with that one on-target.

Liverpool had seven clear-cut chances in the 7-0 win against Spartak Moscow a week ago. And Liverpool converted six of them.

Liverpool had seven clear-cut chances combined in the draws against Everton and West Brom. Mané's fast break shot wide and Salah and Gomez's headers off-target against Everton; Firmino's shot wide, Salah's header off-target, Wijnaldum's toe-poke cleared off the line, and Solanke's shot cleared off the line against West Brom. Five off-target, two cleared off the goal line by opposition defenders.

Three of Liverpool's fabulous front four getting chances to win the match, all put off-target.

Them's the breaks. Swings and roundabouts.

It's not as if Liverpool haven't had the opportunities.

Liverpool just haven't taken those opportunities. It happens, evidently even to the best of us.

And, as the match went on, we became increasingly convinced this was not going to be a good day.

We're veering dramatically into obvious territory, but when Liverpool score early, good things happen. Lots of goals happen. When Liverpool don't, *gulps, tugs collar*

Liverpool have scored 11 goals this season after the 75th minute. That's a lot!

They mostly didn't matter. One against Hoffenheim, when Liverpool scored four; one against Arsenal, when Liverpool scored four; two at Maribor, when Liverpool scored seven; one against Huddersfield, when Liverpool scored three; one against Maribor, when Liverpool scored three; one at West Ham, when Liverpool scored four; two at Brighton, when Liverpool scored five; and two against Spartak, when Liverpool scored seven.

Liverpool have scored just two goals after the 60th minute in matches where they weren't already ahead. Mané's 74th-minute winner against Palace back in August and Salah's go-ahead goal in the 65th minute against Chelsea, a match that Liverpool drew 1-1 when Chelsea scored in the 85th minute.

Just two go-ahead goals after the hour mark, with one that Liverpool ultimately threw away.

That's not good.

Conversely, Liverpool have lost once (Leicester in the League Cup) and drawn five (Watford, Sevilla, Sevilla, Chelsea, and Everton) thanks to goals conceded after an hour.

That's not good.

Liverpool have won 13 matches so far this season.

There have been five second-half game-winning goals, but two of them only because Liverpool went on to concede later. Otherwise, those matches would have been won in the 35th and 23rd minutes respectively. All the games where Liverpool scored four or more – and we've already had six of them – all saw the opening goal by the 31st minute at the latest.

So, yes, as said all season, this team lives and dies by the goals they score. And they either score those goals in the first 30 or 50 minutes at most, or else it's a no good, very bad day.

To be fair, it takes just one referee decision (I thought we weren't calling accidental, close-range ball-to-hand as handball this season. Or is that only for defenders, not attackers?) or a couple of inches on a shot in either direction, and Liverpool eke out a second 1-0 win of the campaign. Liverpool had chances to win, and they actually had most of them late in the match; three of those four aforementioned clear-cut chances came after the 56th minute.

But it didn't happen.

So, now, Liverpool have drawn its fifth league match at Anfield this season. In nine attempts. Five draws (three 1-1, two 0-0), one 1-0 win, two 3-0 wins, and one 4-0 win. Yes, yes, still unbeaten, but it's not quite Fortress Anfield. Not to compare this to one of the best campaigns in recent memory, but I can't help remember 2008-09, where Liverpool could and should have won the league if not for midseason draws at Anfield.

Liverpool have dropped two points, for the second consecutive match, and we're rightly aggrieved about it. It hasn't been rotation's fault. Subs came late yesterday, but it hasn't really been the manager's fault. The play hasn't been great, but on the whole, the players haven't been awful. Except in front of goal.

It comes down to goals. With this side, it's always about goals. And in the last two matches, Liverpool haven't scored the goals that Liverpool had been scoring.

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