24 December 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal

Previous Match Infographics: Bournemouth (a), West Brom (h), 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.)

Shot map? Good. 10 of 13 shots in the Danger Zone, just three from outside the box.

Chance creation? Good. Liverpool had four big chances. 2.2 Expected Goals to Arsenal's 1.5, on Arsenal's ground.

Chance conversion? I mean, Liverpool scored three goals. Liverpool over-performed xG. They failed to convert three of four clear-cut chances – the third time they've failed to convert three big chances in the last four games – but they also put nine of 14 shots on-target. I mean, three goals should be enough to win a match.

Arsenal had allowed just one goal in their last five games – albeit against BATE Borisov, Southampton, West Ham, Newcastle, and West Ham – with clean sheets in their last three, after all.

Liverpool remain excitingly, impressively good at the attacking.

But then, those five minutes of defending. Bad. So, so, so bad.

Just five minutes. But that's all Liverpool needed. That's all Arsenal needed.

Less than a minute after Liverpool finally took a two-goal lead, there's Gomez losing Alexis at the back post. It happens. He's 20. It's regrettable, especially since Liverpool had just scored, hadn't allowed Arsenal a shot on-target in 142 minutes this season at that point, and hadn't conceded from open play since Chelsea's equalizer seven games before this one.

But Liverpool are still 2-1 up. Liverpool should still be able to see this out. Well, most teams should be able to. Maybe not Liverpool.

Because then, less than three minutes later, there's Mignolet failing to save a shot that's saved 199 times out of 200. I don't care that it swerves. It's straight down his neck and he throws it up, and it's not for the first time.

Because then, two minutes after that, a giveaway after Liverpool have a free kick in their own half, Klavan and Robertson playing into pressure. In their own half, after supposedly relieving the pressure! There's Emre Can stopping at the top of the box, failing to stay with Özil. And there's Mignolet again, diving before Özil's even decided where to shoot, making it far too easy to convert.

And we've gone from 2-0 to 2-3 in less than five minutes. At least Liverpool got back to 3-3, thanks to Salah and Can and Firmino, and Arsenal's again vacant central midfield, and Cech trying to out-do Mignolet.

It's almost, but thankfully not quite, Tottenham away all over again. Individual errors, in quick succession. Far too often, when Liverpool concede once, they concede multiples: Watford, City, Sevilla, Leicester, Tottenham, Sevilla, and now Arsenal. They often don't seem like systematic errors, but when individual errors keep happening again and again and again when do we blame the system as much as the individuals?

This is the third time this season that Liverpool have scored three goals but failed to win.

3-3 at Watford on opening day, evidently setting the tone for the season, a match drawn because of an (offside) injury-time equalizer after Liverpool had come back from a deficit.

3-3 at Sevilla, a three-goal lead thrown away because of individual errors and goals conceded in quick succession, then an injury-time equalizer.

And now, 3-3 Arsenal, a two-goal lead thrown away because of individual errors and goals conceded in quick succession, but at least with Liverpool getting one back.

Liverpool scored three but failed to win twice in Klopp's first season and a half. 3-3 v Arsenal in 2015-16 – a match not entirely dissimilar to Friday's – and 3-4 at Bournemouth last season.

Two in 99 games versus three in 28. It makes it hard to argue that it's not systematic.

But then you remember the individuals. Specifically one from Friday's match.


Those are a lot of high-value chances, especially in proportion to the amount of total shots allowed. Which we know is a problem (although it's been a little better this season), and almost certainly a systematic problem. But then, individuals. But, good lord, that Danger Zone save percentage.

Mignolet's even getting worse relative to previous seasons. His PL save percentage last season was 63.9% – still below league average but better than so far this season. He saved 56% of the Danger Zone shots that Liverpool allowed in 2016-17, compared to 36.7% so far this season. He saved 35.5% of the on-target clear-cut chances faced last season (11 of 31) compared to just 26.1% so far this season (6 of 23).

And it's even worse when you see what goalkeepers are doing against Liverpool. Opposition keepers have saved 51.5% of Liverpool's Danger Zone shots in the league this season. Opposition keepers have saved 33.3% of Liverpool's on-target clear-cut chances. Opposition keepers have saved 67.7% of Liverpool's total shots on-target in the league this season – almost exactly league average.

Mignolet has been worse than league average, for the majority of his time here. This season has been the low point so far. There are excuses – high-value chances allowed, an accident-prone defense, and some decent runs of form during his tenure, especially at the end of last season – but not enough.

Play Karius, play Ward when he's healthy again. After all this time, we know what we have with Simon Mignolet. And it's not enough.

So, once again, despite the annoyance and disappointment, we didn't really learn a lot. We know where we stand. Liverpool remain fourth at the midway mark, by the skin of Firmino's pearly white teeth, one point ahead of Tottenham and Arsenal but four points behind Chelsea.

Liverpool remain incredibly good going forward. Coutinho, Firmino, and Salah all scored in a match for the fourth time in the last two months. Salah's already got 21 goals this season, with 15 in 19 league appearances. Liverpool scored three or more for the tenth time in the last 13 matches, Liverpool scored three or more away from home for the sixth consecutive away match.

And Liverpool defended reasonably well for – as Klopp said – 89 of 94 minutes. As they had in their previous four matches. But we get spells. We get calamities, we get disasters, we get multiple goals conceded in a matter of minutes despite not looking like conceding for the 52 minutes before that.

And it's infuriating. For as well as Liverpool had played for 52 minutes, as well as Liverpool defended for their last few matches, they remain as capable of this as they are capable of absolutely blasting some poor opponent. As they did five days earlier.

For better or for worse, for better and for worse, this is what Liverpool are. Wild up front, and wild at the back. And all we can do for now is hang on for the ride.

And also drop Mignolet.


Gabe said...

Mignolet is maybe Klopp's biggest blindspot.

(now that Klopp seems to be done with the questionable habit of regularly selecting Jaime Moreno over Andrew Robertson)

Anonymous said...

Cutting out the ridiculous individual errors fixes many of our defensive issues.

Also, our defensive spine is definitively not good enough.

Pick up a top class DM, CB, and GK along with Keita this summer, and our defense goes from below average to top class.

It’s not rocket science.

Watch how much better this defense is just with Van Dijk being added in January.

Gabe said...

Watch how much better this defense is just with Van Dijk being added in January.

Couldn't agree more.

The current defensive roster could be part of a very good unit, provided there's a world class player leading them (vvd). But when Lovren or Matip is the 'leader' you're going to have issues back there. (no offense to Matip. I like him, but he should be the sidekick to vvd's leader)