03 May 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 2-4 Roma

Previous Match Infographics: Stoke (h), Roma (h), West Brom (a), Bournemouth (h), Manchester City [CL] (a), Everton (a), Manchester City [CL] (h), 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. 

(Here's the formation diagram usually included in match reviews.)

What even is this team.

5-0 up after 80 minutes of the first leg.

5-2 up after 90 minutes.

7-3 up at halftime of the second leg.

And the tie finishes 7-6 on aggregate. A Champions League semi-final. The highest-scoring semi-final in Champions League history. Liverpool lose its first Champions League match of the campaign and make it to their first Champions League final in more than a decade. And I've lost probably five years of my life watching Liverpool this season.

This also, probably not coincidentally, is my favorite Liverpool side that I can remember.

They are agony and ecstasy. Joy and despair. Brilliance and nonsense. Alpha and omega.

They are what sport is supposed to be.

I would say that "Liverpool never do anything the easy way" but Liverpool have no idea what the easy way is. Liverpool and The Easy Way don't live in the same galaxy.

... he writes about a side that's won 7-0, 7-0, 5-0, 5-0, 5-0, 5-1, 5-2, 4-0, 4-0, etc already this season.

... he writes about a side that's conceded 18 of their 57 goals in all competitions – almost a third – in the last 15 minutes of matches this season.

Tactical analysis be damned.

This was chaos. Beginning of the universe, end of the universe chaos. Creation and entropy. Pressing and second balls and counter-attacks and deflections and defensive shelling and all-hands-on-deck clearances and staring plaintively at a referee who's not sure what he's gotten into. There was no rhyme or reason. There was two sides going for broke because Roma had no choice and Liverpool have no other way.

Liverpool did Liverpool, at least in the first half, at least the good Liverpool. An early onslaught weathered, pressing, opposition mistake, counter, goal. Pressing, Henderson cross-field, Robertson cross, clear-cut chance saved, corner, goal. Mistakes made by opponents but really opponents forced into mistakes. Two goals within 25 minutes, from this competition's top scorers. On a ground where Roma were yet to concede in this competition.

Roma did Roma. Roma finally went 4-3-3. Barcelona's three-goal lead matters none. Liverpool's five-goal lead, or whatever lead they've got at the moment, matters none. Liverpool weathering the early onslaught matters none, continuing to push after Mané's opener, getting some luck with Lovren's clearance off of Milner's face. Which, to be fair, came after sustained build-up around Liverpool pressing and two cross-field passes to open up the defense.

It's not over at 5-0, it's not over at 7-3. Second half. All Roma. 45 minutes that felt like 450. Liverpool increasingly pushed deeper, Liverpool's counter-attack failing to fire, both increasingly tired and far too narrow in a few situations, well marshaled by Fazio and Manolas.

14 Roma shots between the 46th and 85th minute, but just one goal, from Dzeko as Karius palms El Shaarawy's shot straight to him. Three shots saved by Karius, nine off-target, just one blocked. Meanwhile, Roma, even while throwing bodies forward, block five of Liverpool's last six shots. But this 39-minute stretch also saw Liverpool make 23 of their 40 clearances, with 15 of those from Lovren and van Dijk, just trying to bat away the ball perpetually coming back at them.

This is the period Roma regrets, partly for reasons not their own. Dzeko ruled offside before being taken out by Karius. Alexander-Arnold's handball not called. It's the referee's fault, not their own. I, of course, want to point to Mané not getting a penalty in the first half, Mané taken out by Florenzi in what could have been a dismissal, or penalties given against Liverpool that had no right to be given, one in either leg.

It fit with the tone of the match. All of it. Insanity, from all involved. Chaos, both organized and disorganized.

Finally, too late, Roma do more Roma. Nainggolan from nowhere in the 86th minute, with Karius unable to even dive. Nainggolan from the spot, in the last minute of added time, after a hoofed ball bounces up onto Klavan's arms pinned firmly to his sides.

7-6 looks a lot closer than 7-4. Same result, though.

It was madness. I love this madness. I hate this madness.

Even considering where we are and where we've been, I kind of want to complain. Even if we're used to it, it shouldn't have come to this. Mainly I want to complain about Liverpool's substitutions. I usually do. They seemingly made the final 10 minutes closer than they should have been. They're responsible for one of the aforementioned five years I've lost this season. Once again, Liverpool bring on a defender for an attacker in the final minutes, switching to three at the back. Once again, Liverpool concede after doing so. It's not the first time.

But it's not as often as you'd think. Tottenham, West Brom, Roma. Sure, Liverpool concede too many late goals – which often happen after some sort of substitution has been made: attacker for lesser attacker, attacker for midfielder, defender for defender, etc. Sure, Liverpool's substitutions often leave *something* to be desired. But the switch to three-at-the-back isn't as responsible as you or I think that it is.

But, see that those are the only three matches this season when late defensive substitutions led to late goals conceded.

But, when I calm down, I also remember the situation that this squad is in.

You saw how hard Liverpool ran over the first three-quarters of that match. And last weekend. And last week. And every time Liverpool play. You see the situation that running got Liverpool in: 5-0 after 80 minutes last week, 7-3 at half-time yesterday. And you also know that players that Liverpool are currently without thanks to injury.

Liverpool have played 53 games this season, with only 23 players making more than ten appearances (two of whom are no longer with the club). Firmino, Salah, Wijnaldum, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mané, and Lovren have all already made more than 40 appearances. Six of those seven started yesterday. The others were Henderson, who's only two appearances off that 40-game mark; van Dijk, who only signed in January; a 19-year-old right back; a 24-year-old left back signed from relegated Hull; and a goalkeeper who only claimed his starting spot at the beginning of 2018.

Firmino's never played this many games in a season in his career. Salah's never played this many games in a season in his career. Wijnaldum's never played this many games in a season in his career. Lovren's never played this many games in a season in his career. Oxlade-Chamberlain's never played this many games in a season in his career, and sadly won't get to add to that total.

Milner has, because he's James Milner, but he hasn't surpassed this season's total since 2009-10. When he was 24. He's 32 now. Sadio Mané has, with both Southampton and RB Salzburg, but we're not far off his high either, and we've long blown past the total he played for Liverpool last season. And it's no coincidence that Mané's also been the most-frequently-used front-three player over the last month when he missed stretches of September, October, and December.

Liverpool, with three games left, have already played six more games than they did last season.

That it's May, and Liverpool have switched off or Liverpool have failed in the last 10-15 minutes in the last four matches, is understandable. 5-0 v Roma, 2-0 at West Brom, and 2-2 at Roma would look a hell of a lot better than the actual final scores of those three matches. But it's also not an excuse.

Liverpool have three very trying games left. First, Sunday, at Chelsea. Where a point will all but seal top-four for next season. Back to work, after this, then the celebrations that followed this. 75 hours or so from now. Then, a week later, the last league match against Brighton, where Liverpool will need all three points if they fail to take any at Chelsea. Finally, the Champions League Final – which, thankfully, comes 13 days after the last league match.

And, yes, I really wrote that. Liverpool. Champions League Final.

What a season. But it ain't over. And Liverpool better be damned sure they know it.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

How on earth did you dream Gini scoring - in the end His was the crucial goal