15 January 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City

Previous Match Infographics: 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. 

Manchester City hadn't lost a league match since April 5, 1-2 at Chelsea, 31 matches before this one.

Manchester City hadn't conceded four goals in a match in almost exactly a year, losing 0-4 at Everton on January 15 2017. They'd conceded twice just three times this season: in a 7-2 win over Stoke, a 3-2 win at West Brom, and a 4-2 win at Napoli.

Manchester City has been out-shot in just two of Guardiola's 61 Premier League games: Tottenham's 2-0 home win in October 2016 and Liverpool yesterday. Tottenham outshot City by one. Liverpool outshot City by five. City's average shot differential in the league this season is +11, with 17.7 taken and 6.7 allowed, the best in the league. And five of City's 11 shots came in the last 10 minutes of the match, with Liverpool already 4-1 up.

The short(-ish) version is that Liverpool won because of Liverpool's pressing and Liverpool's finishing.

Yesterday saw some absolutely bananas finishing. Especially from Liverpool, but also from City as well. Oxlade-Chamberlain's Gerrard-esque run and shot. Firmino's Fowler-esque shoulder and chip. Mané, unconscionably arrowed with his "weaker" foot. Salah, from 40 yards without even looking up.

You're lucky to get one goal of that quality in a game, even with the talent that Liverpool have. Liverpool got four. And they picked a hell of an opponent to do it against.

In a match with seven goals, there was only one clear-cut chance: Bernando Silva's 84th minute goal, set up by an unfortunately perfect deflection as Gomez blocked Gundogan's shot.

I only have clear-cut chance data for the last couple of seasons, but I suspect it's been a long time since Liverpool scored four in a match without a single clear-cut chance. It's the first time this season that Liverpool failed to have at least one clear-cut chance in a match; they're averaging nearly three per league game.

Only three of Liverpool's 16 shots came from the Danger Zone: Salah, just inside the box, blocked in the third minute; Salah, just inside the six-yard box, poked wide in the 15th minute; and Mané, just inside the box, with his goal in the 62nd minute.

This is the first time this season that Liverpool's scored two goals from outside the box in a match as well.

The finishing was good. Great. Superlative. Probably unrepeatable. But Liverpool's pressing was the foundation from which the winning performance was built.

Not counting Andrew Robertson losing his damned mind, I was most impressed by two moments.

First, in the immediate aftermath of Firmino's goal:

Liverpool do not let up. Liverpool send the attackers forward, immediately, upon retaking the lead. There's no sitting back, not with this side. Liverpool are a boot, stamping on a human face – forever. Because this is how Liverpool need to play. This is not a side that can sit back. And it nearly led to a third.

We'd get that third two minutes later.

This was team-wide. This was Liverpool's press at its best. From Firmino and Salah pressing near the byline, to Wijnaldum tracking down Danilo, to Gomez staying tight to Agüero, to six Liverpool players surrounding City's four, closing in, mistake, Salah, Mané.

Two screenshots:

This was the crucial moment. The ball inside triggers both Firmino and Oxlade-Chamberlain onto Fernandinho. From the above to this:

This is a bad place to be in against Liverpool, especially when you're a side built upon playing out from the back. Gundogan goes back to Otamendi, who's finally "okay, need to get rid," but Salah's already atop him and away we go, four versus three.

Incidentally, these two videos featured two of City's five – five! – defensive errors. Since paying attention to defensive errors, I've never seen Liverpool or an opponent commit five in a match.

And all five of City's defensive errors came between the 56th and 68th minutes: Ederson palming a corner to Salah, redeemed by saving Salah's effort; Walker heading a cross-field pass up, for Mané, his shot blocked; the above Fernandinho giveaway under Liverpool pressure following Firmino's goal, with Mané's strike off the woodwork; the above Otamendi giveaway leading to Mané's goal; and Ederson's sweeping straight to Salah for Liverpool's fourth.

Two of those were directly caused by Liverpool pressing. Walker's can be blamed on the same wind that probably hurt Gomez in trying to defend City's first goal. Both of Ederson's were avoidable, and we'd kill either Mignolet or Karius for doing either, but that's what a frenetic Liverpool and frenetic Anfield can do to opposition players. "Unsettled" doesn't even come close to sufficing.

So, yes, that was as textbook as you'll get from Klopp's Liverpool. Unstoppable pressing, non-stop running, unbelievable finishing, and multiple goals – even without Liverpool's usual high-value chances. Limiting the opposition's chances, even an opponent as dangerous as City. But also unnecessary goals conceded, and unnecessary nervousness late in the match.

But that's what Liverpool are capable of when facing a side like Manchester City. A side that wants to play football. A side that'll attempt to overwhelm any opponent, no matter that opponent's style. And Liverpool met and surpassed that test, the first side to do so this season.

We won't get to see Liverpool do this that often. Most sides won't let Liverpool play this way. Most matches won't see finishing of that quality. So enjoy it when it happens.

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