18 December 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 4-0 Bournemouth

Previous Match Infographics: 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. 

Space: The Favored Frontier

Want to know what Liverpool can do when they've got possession in situations like this? With all that space in behind?

Liverpool will often score. Coutinho will dribble at retreating defenders and Salah will run behind and beyond them, and they'll put the ball past the opposition goalkeeper at a fairly high rate. Because Coutinho and Salah are exemplary footballers, and Firmino, Mané, Oxlade-Chamberlain, etc. ain't bad either.

It's not as if these were the only moments where Liverpool took advantage of Bournemouth's set-up. Liverpool's first real chance – Coutinho's free kick – came from a similar moment. Bournemouth, with the back four pushing forward, trying to play out from the back, pressed into a giveaway, then Coutinho's chip over the top for Firmino to run onto, fouled by Ake. There's also neither King nor Surman tracking Henderson's run for the one-two for Firmino's chance which led to Liverpool's corner for the second goal. Pressing led to the counter-attack insane interplay chance that Salah had saved just before his goal. Pressing led to Oxlade-Chamberlain's single-handed chance off the post, winning the ball in the final third and running at retreating defenders.

A combination of an often-higher-than-Liverpool-usually-see back line coupled with a desire to play out from the back is exactly what Liverpool like to see. Players to press and room to run. It's not often you see a side that won 4-0 and had 56% of the possession out-tackle and out-intercept their opponents, especially considering Liverpool's usually-low interception rate. There's a reason why the total passes from Everton and West Brom's back four combined were vastly lower than Bournemouth's yesterday. Playing Liverpool? Stay deep and get rid, dummies. So, hey, thanks Bournemouth.

To be fair, Liverpool can be opened up in similar ways. And Liverpool had a similar problem on Defoe's clear-cut chance. But Bournemouth couldn't convert it. And it's the only time Liverpool were opened up as they opened up Bournemouth early and often. Unlike when these sides met in a similarly open match last season, where Liverpool took an early lead and scored multiple goals but Bournemouth scored even more.

The short version. Don't give Liverpool space. Don't give Liverpool opportunities to press. Don't try to play Liverpool's game against Liverpool. It's almost certainly not going to go well, and it's gonna go even worse for you than it did last season.

Liverpool, despite scoring four, weren't anywhere near as potent as they could have been either. This wasn't scoring four goals from 12 shots or three goals from 14 shots, as at Brighton and Stoke. Liverpool put seven of 21 shots on-target – exactly one-third – which certainly isn't bad, but Liverpool have bettered that multiple times this season. Coutinho put just one of seven shots on-target. Salah missed two efforts similar to his goal before finally hammering one in.

Liverpool only converted two of four clear-cut chances, which is vastly better than against Everton or West Brom, but certainly not the ruthlessness we saw against Spartak, among others.

Liverpool's shot quality (xG per shot) was good – 0.148 – but it was almost exactly the same as that against West Brom, where they failed to score.

Liverpool's attack was very good, but Liverpool could have been even better.

Set play goals have been a big part of Liverpool's recent successes. Lovren's was Liverpool's seventh corner goal of the season – all since Huddersfield. Liverpool only had 10 through all last season. And, with few exceptions, they've been early goals in matches where Liverpool scored multiple times. 2-0 Huddersfield, 3-0 Maribor, 2-0 West Ham, 1-0 and 2-0 Sevilla, 1-0 Brighton, and 2-0 Bournemouth. Sevilla was the only match Liverpool failed to win, for other obvious reasons. Two for Firmino, one each for Sturridge, Matip, Mané, Can, and Lovren.

And early goals have been a big part of it. Liverpool have drawn just two matches where they've scored in the first quarter of the match, before the 23rd minute. Both were against Sevilla. Otherwise, 4-2 Hoffenheim, 4-0 Arsenal, 3-2 Leicester, 7-0 Maribor, 4-1 West Ham, 3-0 Stoke, 7-0 Spartak, and 4-0 Bournemouth.

But these, like a lot of things we saw yesterday, aren't new to us. Liverpool are good when the attack is good. Liverpool are good when the attack has space to operate and opponents to press. If Liverpool score early, Liverpool often score more. If Liverpool score early and often, the opposition has a hard time scoring any of their own. This has happened more away from home than at Anfield of late.

All features and facets we've seen before. Successes in the type of matches we've seen successes in before. That's not to downplay yesterday, by any stretch, either certain exceptional individuals or as a collective. No Liverpool player was below a "seven" if we're doing individual ratings, with many higher. Including whomever your favorite scapegoat has been lately. No side has beaten Bournemouth so thoroughly in a long time; Liverpool are the first to score four against Bournemouth since February.

This was very good, from front to back, from start to finish. Not only from attack, but also from midfield and defense. And that's no small matter.

But this isn't where Liverpool have run into roadblocks lately, either.


Zētētikos said...

What was that formation? Your post-game write-up has it as a 4-3-3 (or 4-1-2-3), but I was thinking during the game that AOC was really playing a right sided attacking midfield position. Your average position map seems to back this up. So it seems more like a lopsided 4-2-1-3 (or 4-2-4).

This isn't the first time Klopp has tried overloading the right side. We saw a similar ploy used against Spartak when he played both Mané and Salah on the right.

It will be interesting to see if he continues to use this kind of tactic and what teams will do to counter it because neither Bournemouth nor Spartak seemed to be able to handle it.

nate said...

It looked a mix of 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. Oxlade-Chamberlain often ahead of the other midfielders in possession, Wijnaldum often deeper in possession, but not necessarily when out of possession. but, also, standard numerical notations aren't often helpful with this Liverpool side.

Zētētikos said...

Yeah, I'm really more interested in the tactical point than the numerical notations. Did you think he was overloading the right side or was I seeing things?