09 April 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 0-0 Everton

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City [CL], Crystal Palace (a), Watford (h), United (a), 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. 

There remains very little to say about this match. Which remains very weird for a Merseyside Derby.

No goals, no cards, and aside from two saves from Pickford and two Everton misses late in the match plus that first half save from Karius, not much goalmouth action to care about.

But that's where these sides are now. Liverpool have other priorities, and a lot of key players missing. Everton have become incredibly Sam Allardyce, and are now 17 matches without a win in this fixture.

So let's focus on a couple of facets which will play a big part in Tuesday's Champions League decider.

First, step forward Gini Wijnaldum. Actually, no. Stay deep, Gini Wijnaldum.

This was the first time Wijnaldum's played as a lone holding midfielder for Liverpool. And it went pretty well!

(You may notice a discrepancy in Wijnaidum's passing totals here versus the above infographic. The map I used for this came from Squawka, which doesn't count free kicks. WhoScored's total does.)

Sure, there's a big gap forward and to the right, and I'm inclined to blame Henderson and Ings. But blame isn't really the right word. Henderson, deeper than Milner and often on the same line as Wijnaldum, was responsible for more of Liverpool's passes up that flank, to Clyne, Ings, and Solanke. And at the same time, Ings didn't show enough for passes out of midfield.

But there's still a reasonable amount of progressive passes, mainly to Milner, who was Liverpool's most threatening attacker. More importantly, Wijnaldum showed for the ball, something he's had issues with both away from home and when further forward. He was comfortable on the ball. He kept possession of the ball. Add three successful dribbles, turning away from a pressing player and striding out of the center circle, an interception, an aerial duel win, and a handful of recoveries in the middle of the pitch, and it was a fairly comprehensive performance as a #6.

Which Liverpool will very much need against City, who will ask Wijnaldum a lot more questions than Everton did. There are going to be a lot more players around Wijnaldum when he's in possession, not just Davies, Schneiderlin, Gueye, or Rooney coming at him one at a time.

Second, Liverpool's defense. It's still pretty good, guys.

Liverpool have now kept seven clean sheets in last ten games, including all three Champions League games. Only two sides have taken more than eight shots during that ten-game stretch: City last week and Porto in the 0-0 at Anfield – both in the Champions League and both without scoring. Liverpool haven't allowed more than seven shots in a league match since the draw against Tottenham more than two months ago.

And Liverpool's opponents have scored just one clear-cut chance over these ten games. Liverpool have allowed nine in total – which isn't great but still less than one per match – but almost half of those came in Liverpool's win at Crystal Palace. The one scored came in that match as well: Milivojevic's penalty. As Tottenham's one clear-cut chance scored also came from the spot, Liverpool haven't had a non-penalty clear-cut chance scored against them since Swansea in mid-January. During that span, Karius has saved six clear-cut chances and the opposition's missed five. And none of those clear-cut chances have come in the Champions League.

Yes, everyone's playing pretty well – Robertson, Karius, Alexander-Arnold, etc – but my main takeaways is still that Southampton probably should have asked for more than £75m for Virgil van Dijk.

So, yeah, this game was a training exercise. Which, again, is super weird to say about a Merseyside Derby, and Everton should very much take offense at that.

But from Liverpool's point of view, it was game time for Clyne, Ings, and Solanke. It was match practice for Wijnaldum in a position he'll have to play more of during what's left of this season. It was evidence that while Liverpool are obviously weaker without Firmino and Salah, Liverpool can still control a game despite all those missing players and changes to the XI. The defense is getting better and the squad's getting deeper – Liverpool were missing its two top scorers, two central midfielders, and three defenders, and still kept a clean sheet and arguably could have won had Solanke taken one of his early chances. These are obviously good things.

But tomorrow's match will ask Liverpool a lot more and a lot tougher questions than Everton could or did.

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