12 March 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United

Previous Match Infographics: Porto (h), Newcastle (h), West Ham (h), Porto (a), Southampton (a), Tottenham (h), 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. 

Stop Liverpool's front three, stop Liverpool.

To be fair, that's easier said than done. But United did.

I'll first point to the above Tackles and Interceptions chalkboard. That thick black line just outside United's penalty box. Yikes. Tackles on Salah's side – he was dispossessed seven times this match, more than double his season average – and interceptions on the left and central. Also known as "the passes trying to find Firmino, Salah, and Mané."

How well United did in silencing Salah, given the season he's had, remains the most impressive. Just one shot – in injury time, from a scrambled second-ball set play, ballooned over. One key pass – a corner for van Dijk's off-target header in the 48th minute. Just one attempted dribble, which was unsuccessful.

Compare Salah's touches in this match to that against United in October, which wasn't even anywhere near one of his best performances. Far fewer, far deeper. Salah touched the ball in United's box just three times on Saturday: a mis-control in the 49th minute, an unsuccessful layoff pass in the 55th, and the aforementioned off-target shot deep into added time.

But it's not as if Salah was the only disappointment. And it's not as if Salah hasn't carried Liverpool to multiple victories already this season. But when Liverpool's front three aren't firing, can't fire, Liverpool become excessively reliant on set plays and shots from distance, and that's not usually a recipe for beating Manchester United.

United, however, did not necessarily need Liverpool's help in shutting down Liverpool's attack. Click on the embedded tweet below for some "highlights" in the subsequent thread.

Seriously, go watch all the videos in that thread. I am not responsible for the things you break or family/friends/coworkers/neighbors you frighten by shouting.

It's an uncharacteristically bad showing from a usually terrifying attack, but also one hindered by a defense who's big, talented, and very resilient in a low block. It can be both. And both is bad.

And both is really bad when you do bad at the other end of the pitch. I am, of course, also annoyed about the goals conceded.

One screenshot almost totally suffices.

Lovren does not need to get this tight to Lukaku. Even if Lukaku wins an unchallenged header, Lovren's at least another defender there to mark the second ball rather than completely taken out of the play. A split-second hesitation from van Dijk means he's on the back foot when trying to get back to help. And Alexander-Arnold's obviously the most culpable, watching the ball just long enough to allow Rashford to get goal side.

But Liverpool should also not be three v three from a goal kick situation. It's asking for trouble, regardless of whether Lukaku flicks on perfectly for Rashford or just gets the ball further forward. Lovren needs to better recognize the situation, but so does Liverpool's midfield.

Despite the similarities with United's opener, we can call the second goal at least as much lucky as good. Sure, Lovren's again unnecessarily tight to Lukaku and again beaten in the air. Sure, Alexander-Arnold's again not in the best position to mark Rashford. But the goal happens because van Dijk's successful tackle on Mata somehow falls directly to Rashford. Shit happens, even if it sometimes seems to disproportionally happen to Liverpool.

It's still more about what happened at United's end of the pitch rather than Liverpool's.

I would also like to complain about the time that this game took place. Can we can 7:30am kickoffs yet?

Liverpool's goals per game average in all of Klopp's matches is 2.01. Goals conceded per game is 1.08 – a full goal better than in these matches, although that game against City earlier this season makes the average a fair bit worse. And Klopp's points per game mark (if every match counted for points) is 1.85.

Maybe it's coincidence. Or maybe there something about Liverpool's usual training time that screws up planning, fitness, etc. when Liverpool have to kick off early.

Sure, it's only 12 matches – 11 in the Premier League. Over almost three full seasons. But in the four played this season, Liverpool have taken just two points. I'm still mad about getting just a point at Watford and against United. I'm still mad Liverpool didn't get a point from this match.

But, yes, this is only one match. Even if it's against the Evil Empire. Even if the result sees Liverpool fall to fourth, five points behind United and with Tottenham leapfrogging into third after yesterday's win at Bournemouth.

Because there are still eight league matches left. And what happens in them from here remains up to Liverpool.


Schoffle said...


Good write up as always.

I wanted to ask how it is that Karius has escaped any criticism on the second goal when he basically left his line early (seemly thinking he would challenge Mata) and as a result allowed Rashford to pass the ball into the net.

Also for the "sin" of being too tight Lovren is getting a lot of grief on goals that he was not the primary culprit for and was likely tight as part of Klopps instructions (which I assume as he remained tight on these types of plays in the 2nd half while the mids dropped deeper to help and Trent dropped much deeper)

Finally I wanted to point out that when watching I felt that the officiating was not only poor but rather bias against Liverpool. When I checked the fouls Liverpool were called for 16 fouls while Man U only 9, when accounting for possession that means that Liverpool were called for fouls at almost a ratio of 4 to 1. That was quite a large factor in how this game played out.

Anonymous said...

Saw the match proper again. Refreshing take on refereeing. Easier to referee one team only. One of the most 1-sided I have seen.

Could easily have nicked a draw or more even though we weren’t at our most effective or with our front 3 not at their usual.

Still, how could an epl match referee/linesman be so blind to so many incidents. Can’t be just being homers.

Well at least we are progressing unlike them. Now for the cl.