05 February 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham

Previous Match Infographics: Huddersfield (a), Swansea (a), 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. 

This match saw Liverpool's fewest shots at Anfield since taking just seven in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea just over a year ago. This was the first time Liverpool have been out-shot at Anfield since a 2-1 win over Burnley last March. Klopp's Liverpool have been out-shot at Anfield in the league just five times: 1-1 Tottenham in April 2016, 1-0 City in December 2016, 1-1 Chelsea in January 2017, 2-1 Burnley in March 2017, and yesterday.

This was Liverpool's lowest passing accuracy in a Premier League match under Jürgen Klopp.

The only Premier League match that saw less Liverpool possession since Klopp became manager was the 0-5 loss at City, where Liverpool played with ten men for an hour.

And they would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids.

There's little point relitigating the penalties. Just have a look at all the ex-referees saying contradictory things in their featured columns today. Unsurprisingly, I remain furious.

But it's not as if Liverpool truly deserved to win that match, for what little "deserved" actually means. Aside from Mohamed Salah's continued, unbelievable brilliance.

Aside from Salah's two moments of brilliance – very much especially the second – Liverpool's attack was not good. The aforementioned paucity of shots. Just one on-target shot that didn't result in a goal: Van Dijk's easily-saved header in the 34th minute. Just one shot from Firmino, none from Mané, no key passes from either Mané or Firmino. Salah with three successful dribbles from seven attempted, Firmino with two from four, Mané with one from two. Firmino lost possession nine times – almost double his average for the season – and Salah seven times.

There's little to criticize in their work rate – as usual – but on the ball, all three were off-form. And that's a big reason why Liverpool were never able to extend its lead, especially when clearly the better side in the first half.

But I really want to blame Liverpool's midfield for the lack of creativity and the lack of control, especially as the match went on.

The intention seemed to be the same as against Manchester City. Push, press, counter. But I remain uncertain why Liverpool used Henderson, Can, and Milner in midfield, especially when Liverpool's midfield against City included Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Wijnaldum. The latter two are faster, more mobile, and better at pressing – even if Wijnaldum has been below form for the majority of the season.

But it worked for a while!

Tottenham were truly unsettled in the first half. Tottenham truly struggled to move the ball forward. Liverpool won nine tackles in Tottenham's half: three by Firmino, two by Henderson, one each by Robertson, Milner, Can, and Mane, The last came in the 51st minute. But, then again, Liverpool's last successful tackle of the match came in the 57th minute.

And at the same time, Liverpool's starting midfield played just one key pass: Milner's set play cross for van Dijk's on-target header in the 34th minute. But, then again, Liverpool played just four key passes all match. Incidentally, none of the four goals in yesterday's match came from an assist.

Against Manchester City, Oxlade-Chamberlain played three key passes, including an assist, while Can and Wijnaldum each had one. But, then again, both Oxlade-Chamberlain – played higher up the pitch – and Wijnaldum were actually bad after coming on from the bench.

I'm still not entirely sure why Liverpool sat back for the majority of the second half, seemingly by design. Yes, yes, counter-attacks, but Liverpool certainly did not sit back against Manchester City until going 4-1 up. And we all remember what happened from there.

The defense was good – including Karius saving three clear-cut chances! – until it wasn't. A quasi-mistake from Lovren, much more of a mistake from van Dijk. The midfield was good – or at least good enough – until it wasn't. The attack wasn't as good as it can be, by a long shot, but Mo Salah still scored two wonderful goals and two goals really should be enough, except it rarely is.

And, so, another Liverpool match ends in dropped points despite Liverpool having a lead.

It's happened six times in the league this season. That's 12 points. Don't look at the table. Liverpool conceded after the 75th minute in four of those six league matches, including twice yesterday.

Watford's late equalizer was offside. Newcastle's equalizer came from a ricochet off their striker from Matip's attempted clearance. Chelsea's equalizer was Willian attempting to cross. Everton's equalizer was a soft penalty. Arsenal's equalizer was Mignolet massively screwing up Xhaka's shot from nowhere. And Tottenham's two equalizers were Wanyama's hapax legomenon shot from nowhere and a soft penalty (with Lamela marginally offside in the build-up).

This sport remains incredibly stupid.

Liverpool, with away matches still to come against Chelsea, United, and Everton, are nine points worse in matches against last season's top seven than they were in 2016-17.

And yet, Liverpool are three points better when comparing all the fixtures played so far versus 2016-17.

And yet, Liverpool remain in third, two points ahead of Tottenham, albeit with Chelsea playing Watford later today. Liverpool remain favored to finish in the top four.

But it's closer than it should be. And this is yet another example of how much more this season could have been.

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