27 December 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 5-0 Swansea

Previous Match Infographics: Arsenal (a), 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.)

Ah, yes, a routine win. Exactly what you want to see on Boxing Day. A handful of changes to the starting XI. Heights rarely hit, but Liverpool rarely troubled, and Liverpool comfortable by the final whistle.

Exactly what Liverpool needed.

Liverpool were mediocre in the first half. Somewhat sloppy in possession, and almost lazy in their shooting, with five of eight shots from outside the box, many in moments where the shooter had other options.

Coutinho's opening goal gave Liverpool the breathing space it often needs, but also seemed to set the tone for Liverpool's attacks. A bit of pressing – especially in the opening goal – but way too many attempts from distance. Not enough final third interplay. Settling for the easier rather than the intricacy we know they're capable of.

And then, just before halftime, Liverpool's best chance. Again from a strong press, this time Oxlade-Chamberlain and Salah. And pushed wide by Firmino, evoking memories of clear-cut chances not taken right around the same time in draws against Arsenal and Everton.

It had been *fine*, but it felt like Liverpool could and should be better. And needed to be better. And when that's happened, Liverpool often have been punished for not being better.

So, how would the second half play out? Like Everton? Arsenal?

Nope. It'd play out with Liverpool doing exactly what Liverpool needed to do. It'd play out as against Huddersfield and Maribor at home and Stoke, the needed opening goal eventually followed by multiple more in the second half, with Liverpool ultimately comfortable, even if not as comfortable as the scoreline would suggest.

And that's why that was exactly what Liverpool needed.

From 1-0 at halftime to 2-0 by the 52nd minute to 4-0 by the 66th to 5-0 at the final whistle. Firmino converting Coutinho's free kick, Trent Alexander-Arnold first to a half-cleared cross for his first goal in front of the Kop, Salah and Firmino taking full advantage of a horrific back pass, and Oxlade-Chamberlain simply willing and working himself a goal when Swansea again couldn't clear their box.

In the meantime, Swansea rarely had sight of Liverpool's goal. One shot on-target between Liverpool's second and the end of the game, from Abraham in the last minute of added time. Swansea had all of seven shots in total, despite going behind in the sixth minute. Sure, teams with fewer or less likely efforts have scored against Liverpool before, but this time, Liverpool kept its powder dry.

And, sure, Liverpool's final three goals all had help from Swansea players, whether in a clear error from Fer or poor clearances from Mawson and Naughton. The first as well, if we're being unkind, as Ayew dives under pressure from Firmino and rightfully doesn't get a free kick. And the other was a set play – Liverpool's 12th set play goal of the season so far. All but two corner goals at Sevilla have come in wins.

Don't care. Goals, and – not for the first time – lots of them. None for the opposition, for the eighth time in the last 14 matches. Liverpool had 12 clean sheets in the league through all of last season. Through 20 of 38 league matches, Liverpool have nine this season.

And it all happened with Liverpool nowhere near their best yesterday. All those mediocre shots in a mediocre first half. Only two of five clear-cut chances converted. No goals from Liverpool's runaway top scorer.

But a win nonetheless. A thorough win. A routine win.

Other teams' "routine" wins usually end 2-0. That's a scoreline we haven't seen since February. Liverpool's "routine" wins end 3-0, 4-0, 4-1, 5-0.

Liverpool have yet to finish a league match with two goals scored this season.

Liverpool scored its 75th goal of the season yesterday. It's still December. Liverpool have played 29 games. For comparison, Liverpool scored 74 goals in 58 matches in 2014-15, the last full season before Klopp took over. Only three of yesterday's starting XI were with the club that season, which should emphasize how much change we've seen – how much change has been necessary – over the last three years.

Firmino's brace brings him up to 16 goals on the season. HIs previous high for Liverpool was 12, set last season. Coutinho has 12, two behind his season-high of 14 from last season, but also already with eight assists – which, again, is a high for a season since joining Liverpool. And Mo Salah, who failed to score yesterday – is still on 21 goals, a high for a Liverpool player since Suarez and Sturridge went absolutely bananas in 2013-14. Liverpool have scored three or more goals in 11 of the last 14 matches. Liverpool remain unbeaten in those 14 matches, even if there are five draws in there we'd rather not talk about.

This remains an insanely prolific team, one which scores early and often. And when they do, good things tend to happen. But even when they do, sometimes bad things still also happen – see: Watford, Sevilla, Arsenal. We were nowhere near bad things happening yesterday.

And, so, even if today wasn't Liverpool's best, it was Liverpool at its best. Doing most of the things we've lauded this season with next to none of the bad. Sure, Swansea are horrific – completely impotent up front, uncreative in midfield, organized but often still scrambling in defense, and deservedly last in the league – but it's not as if West Brom, Everton, Newcastle, etc. are or were that much better.

No, this doesn't make up for dropped points in the past. There remain valid concerns over midfield, center-back, and goalkeeper, areas which will be further tested in future matches. But we asked for Liverpool to be "more boring" after the Arsenal debacle. And this was about as boring as Liverpool get. It's just that "boring" isn't a word you can ever use with this side.

5-0 wins should never, ever feel routine, but somehow they do with this Liverpool.

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