23 January 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 0-1 Swansea

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Everton (h), Burnley (a), Leicester (a), Swansea (h), 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.)

Well, that wasn't fun.

It's a return to the bad old days. Same old Liverpool. Beat the best team, then lose to the worst. And, once again, the sky is falling.

Was there a general lack of creativity, despite taking 21 shots? Sure. Especially in the first half – a lot like when these sides last met – and especially as 11 of those 21 came from outside the box, with more and more late and a surprising amount from Liverpool's defenders.

Did Liverpool need a lot more from its midfield, misplaying passes and running headlong into the packed Swansea defense time and time again before finding the front three, with not enough chances created, without the nous to unlock a triple-bolted steel door? Absolutely. Had Coutinho often been the best player in the squad in situations like this? Sigh. Yes.

Does Liverpool still sometimes stutter against teams who sit as deep as humanly possible and look for little more than to congest the middle of their defensive third. Seems like. As usual, Dan Kennett has some good observations on the subject. Open the tweets to expand the full threads, and also always read Dan's stuff.

Was this way too reminiscent of both Everton and West Brom, matches that Liverpool drew 1-1 and 0-0? Ugh. Except, of course, that Liverpool unnecessarily conceded against the run of play from the first shot on-target faced.

Did Liverpool again concede from a corner? Was it the second ball from a corner, with the cross in not fully cleared? You betcha.

Do I think that Alexander-Arnold should've started instead of Gomez, or that Lallana should have come on earlier – and probably for Wijnaldum rather than Oxlade-Chamberlain? I do. Am I frustrated with the lack of attacking depth on the bench to change matches like these? Very much so. But I'm also sat here in front of a computer without coaching badges or having lifted any trophies so, you know, I'm inclined to shut up and watch the professionals who've made this side a much better side until it's demonstrably not the case anymore.

Has Liverpool lost to a relegated side in each of the last three seasons? Oh, you know it. Hull in 2016-17, Newcastle in 2015-16, and Hull in 2014-15. Maybe Swansea escapes the bottom three – they're only three points behind 17th-place Stoke and six behind 10th-place Watford, after all – but it's not like we don't have precedent for similar failings.

Still, Liverpool had chances to score. Liverpool even had enough chances to win. Four clear-cut chances: Salah, over the bar from van Dijk's arrowed ball over the top in the 30th minute; Mané, slipping and shooting wide in first-half injury time; and Firmino's header off the post followed by Lallana's point-blank effort blocked in second-half injury time. Liverpool had zero clear-cut chances against Manchester City and scored four goals. Each of those four goals was a "harder" chance than any of the above four that Liverpool failed to convert yesterday.

Still, this was the same midfield that started in the 5-0 win against the same opposition a little less than a month ago.

Still, Liverpool had Coutinho for 90 minutes of the aforementioned 0-0 v West Brom which this was so reminiscent of, and he created just one chance despite 96 pass attempts. And he also played the last 12 minutes in the 1-1 draw against Everton. And in a bunch of other frustrating matches that Liverpool either lost or drew. And he's not a Liverpool player anymore so why are we even still talking about him?

Still, Liverpool hadn't conceded from a corner since Sevilla's injury-time equalizer two months ago, with 13 matches in-between. They'd faced 51 corners over that stretch. Yes, it was reminiscent of a couple of goals let in early this season and even more last season, but if you don't think Liverpool's gotten better at defending corners, you're just wrong.

One player vacated his zone, charging for a header that three Liverpool defenders seemingly had covered. And Swansea's player scored through the zone that Liverpool player left, when the header out under pressure – more from other Liverpool defenders than Swansea attackers – didn't get far enough out. And it's not one of your usual scapegoats. It's a mistake – not an out-and-out error, but still certainly not great – but it happens. And it's a mistake that Liverpool hadn't made in a while.

Still, for all the similarities with Everton and West Brom, those were just three matches during this 19-game stretch. There were the massive over-performances in attack against Huddersfield, Brighton, Spartak, Swansea (h), and City, among others. Liverpool very much out-performed its Expected Goals total during this run. Via Michael Caley's numbers, Liverpool had 43.1 Expected Goals in the last 19 games, as well as four penalties and an own goal. Liverpool actually scored 55 goals. The finishing pixie is a cruel etc etc etc.

Yes, I continue to worry. I worry about breaking down the deepest of busses. I worry that Liverpool will fall apart if Liverpool don't score early and often. I worry about Liverpool's options off the bench, I worry that Liverpool needs to replace Coutinho NOW NOW NOW rather than waiting for the preferred option, as Klopp did with van Dijk. I still very much remember Everton and West Brom. I'm still in bits every time Liverpool face a corner, even if it has gotten a lot better in the last few months.

This was Liverpool's first loss in the last 19 games. There was bound to be some sort of regression to frustration. This was just Liverpool's third league loss of the season, after City (a) and Tottenham (a), four and three months ago respectively.

Make no mistake – this sucked, this sucks, and I'm still annoyed. Make no mistake – Liverpool were bad, and Liverpool barely deserved to draw, let alone win. But this happens.


criynwa said...

Agree. Painful and disappointing, ugh. I got a bad feeling when my match-watching mates started texting they wouldn't be in for the match. Complacency from supporters, how are the lads gonna feel? I thought the players all seemed tentative, nervous and they certainly kept making poor decisions in key moments. Still a bit of luck and we could have tied or won. Just wish I hadn't seen this pattern before... after a great win, a poor performance. Hopefully, Klopp and Co. can work on this.

Gabe said...

well said, as usual.

I can only hope that one day an embarrassing loss like this motivates the boys to reach that level of determination needed by champions. Refusing to lose even on off days.

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