29 October 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 4-1 Cardiff City

Previous Match Infographics: Red Star Belgrade (h), Huddersfield (a), Manchester City (h), Napoli (a), Chelsea (a), Southampton (h), Leicester (a), Brighton (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Ham (h)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

Baby steps.

For 65 minutes, it was 1-0 Huddersfield, 1-0 Brighton. More the latter than the former, with Liverpool dominant in both possession and shots. But possession domination doesn’t always correlate to a good Liverpool performance and the majority of Liverpool’s shots were low-value shots. An early goal but no more. Possession without reward, possession running up against a thick brick wall then restarting again. A match narrower than it should be. Liverpool not as coherent or as thorough as we know they can be.

We’d been here before, both this season and in previous.

Liverpool’s nine shots between the first and second goal were all off-target or blocked, although there was Lallana’s on-target effort cleared off the line, technically “blocked” because it was cleared by a defender rather than a goalkeeper. Six of those nine shots came from outside the box, which is the highest proportion of shots from outside the box so far this season.

Liverpool may have been in control, but Cardiff were perfectly happy in their own right. 1-0 was little different than 0-0, as we’ve seen from multiple opponents of a similar level so far this season. Continue to defend as if lives depended upon it, hope for a mistake or a set play or something. Taking a point off of Liverpool at Anfield remains the apex of ambitions for two-thirds of the league, and you’re about as likely to do so at 1-0 as 0-0. Just don’t let them get to 2-0.

We’ve almost never seen Liverpool matches with more Liverpool possession. There has been only one league match with more Liverpool possession and a greater disparity in passing since Klopp became manager: 0-2 at Burnley at the beginning of 2016-17, where Burnley completely bunkered after Liverpool stupidly conceded early on. There have been only two other league matches in the last three-plus seasons where Liverpool had more than 75% possession: 1-1 v Everton last season and 2-0 at Sunderland in 2016-17. An embarrassing loss, a frustrating draw, and a win that only came very, very late, with two goals after the 75th minute against a side that’d be relegated at the end of the season.

That much possession, against a side happy to sit that deep, hasn’t good especially well for Klopp’s Liverpool in the past.

Saturday was different. Because, in the 66th minute, Liverpool got a second.

For the final 15 minutes – the final 25 if we somehow ignore Cardiff’s consolation – it was Red Star Belgrade rather than Brighton or Huddersfield. Counter-pressing by Firmino and Mané leading to Liverpool’s second, a refusal to let the ball leave Cardiff’s penalty area after Fabinho got it in there before a blistering finish. Continued boulder rolling downhill possession before Salah danced through two defenders and Shaqiri danced around two more for the game-killing third. An actual honest-to-goodness blitz counter: Fabinho winning the ball, to Mane to Salah running at retreating defenders, through ball back to Mané, exclamation point.

That’s the Liverpool we’ve missed. That’s the Liverpool we’re going to see more often in the coming weeks and months.

It should have been over after the second goal, but we got a timely reminder that it takes just one moment. Mané doesn’t track back. Moreno does a Moreno, rashly charging at Reid to win the ball and missing allowing Hoilett to receive a pass in space behind the defense. His cross ricochets off van Dijk directly to Paterson; it would have been behind the striker had it not hit van Dijk.

There goes Liverpool’s clean sheet streak, more than nine matches and 918 minutes without conceding at home in the league. And I ain’t mad at it. It was a little poor and a little unlucky but sometimes that’s all to need to concede. Even when you’ve had almost 80% possession and the opposition’s yet to register a shot.

It’s a helpful reminder that’s all it takes sometimes. Never switch off, no matter the opponents or game state. Must not sleep. Must warn others.

And once Cardiff got a goal, Liverpool got the chances. No nerves. No tilt. Just back to business. Once you get to 2-0, the opposition’s got to open up. And once they get to 2-1, they believe there’s a chance for 2-2. It’s happened to previous incarnations of Liverpool, as we all very much remember.

This might be a different Liverpool.

2-1 is when Liverpool started to register shots again. 2-1 is when Liverpool got chances to counter. 2-1 is when the front three found space to create chances for themselves, with Salah getting both of his assists with those last two goals.

Liverpool’s 4-2-3-1 formation again looked decent, at least at the controlling midfield base, Wijnaldum literally always on the ball and Fabinho capable of moving it forward from deep, both capable of winning possession back if Cardiff ever truly tried to transition. Wijnaldum only completed 14 fewer passes than Cardiff in total. Lovren and van Dijk controlled the majority of long balls from defense, winning a combined 15 aerial duels when that was Cardiff’s main tactic for progression, with goalkeeper Neil Etheridge playing the joint-most passes for the away side.

How dominant were Liverpool in possession? No Cardiff player attempted more passes than any Liverpool outfield player, with even Liverpool’s two substitutes playing more than any opponent. I can’t remember that every happening.

Liverpool’s substitutions helped matters, with Shaqiri more influential than Lallana, creating for Salah before finally scoring his first Liverpool goal. Milner came on for more solidity, the three in midfield a platform for both the turning-the-screws possession before Liverpool’s goal, then winning-the-ball-back transition for Liverpool’s fourth.

And Liverpool’s attack goes and gets goals. Salah and Mané each on the score sheet, for the second match in a row. It’s the second time this season’s Mané's scored twice in a match, it’s the first time Salah’s registered two assists in a match since the 5-2 win over Roma back in April. Even if Firmino has an off day – just one shot and one key pass, routinely man-marked by Gunnarsson – the other two compensated more than adequately.

There were struggles. There was frustration. There were some of the issues that have plagued Liverpool – unbeaten in the league Liverpool – over the last month. But then there was the return of potency we’d been hoping to see continue following the romp over Red Star. There’s another win, a resounding win by the end of it, in the type of match that’s foiled and frustrated Liverpool in seasons past. There’s now ten games unbeaten to start the campaign.

There’s Liverpool, top of the table, at least for a few more hours today.

27 October 2018

Liverpool 4-1 Cardiff City

Salah 10’
Mané 66’ 86’
Paterson 77’
Shaqiri 84’

Normal service, resumed. For the most part.

Four goals, for the second time in four days. Four goals in consecutive matches for the first time since February. Salah with a goal and two assists, Mané with two goals, Shaqiri with his first goal for Liverpool.

But there was still a bit of 1-0 Huddersfield, 1-0 Brighton. There was still a bit of *rolls up newspaper* “NO BAD” in defense. There was marginal worry. There was too long between the first and second goals. There was an unnecessary consolation conceded at 2-0, giving us a fright for a few minutes and wrecking Liverpool’s 918-minute long Anfield league clean sheet.

But there were four goals and another win and the Premier League unbeaten streak rolls on and Liverpool are top of the table at least until Monday.

It looked like a rout from the first minute. Liverpool rolled over Cardiff like a rising tide. Come, clear, come again. A goal within ten minutes: Mané and Wijnaldum blocked after Cardiff failed to hoof away, then Salah first to the loose ball. A penalty shout – Salah wrestled by Morrison and hitting the turf – and van Dijk’s header off the post within the next five.

But then, a bit of rugged. A bit of raw. Slowly increasing frustration, memories of Huddersfield and Brighton lingering. No more shots on-target after the goal until the last second of added time. Cardiff still playing as if it was 0-0, seven men spread across the top of the penalty box, hoof, regroup. Liverpool close but no cigar to another breakthrough, a final pass cut out, a defender making the necessary tackle. Huddersfield. Brighton. 1-0, and no more, and not especially threatening more until Lallana’s 46th minute header was cleared off the line by Morrison.

And the second half started in similar fashion. The struggle is real. The frustration mounts. Cardiff have the ball in the net from a set play, but it's rightfully ruled offside in the build-up.

Then we're back, baby. Then Sadio Mané does Sadio Mané things, cutting inside from the left across the top of the box, surrounded by two Cardiff defenders and Moreno, somehow wriggling through all three to smash a left-footer past Etheridge. 66 minutes gone and it finally feels like we’re done here.

Except that we weren’t 11 minutes later. Liverpool fall asleep on a Cardiff throw-in. Moreno does a Moreno, charging out and completely missing a tackle leading to a two-on-one. Hoilett’s cross unfortunately deflects off van Dijk straight to Paterson for a tap-in. Now it's 2-1 and it's from Cardiff’s first shot of the match.

And now we’re nervous. Now we’re remembering previous matches where Liverpool’s tossed away a lead.

That was last season. Liverpool don’t remember those matches. Liverpool weren’t nervous. Now the counter comes off. Now the goals come.

A bit of calming possession then Fabinho into Salah with his back to goal, cut inside, flick through a Cardiff’s retreating line. Shaqiri dances a first defender to the floor and shifts around a second, then slides a left-footer around Etheridge. There was.a nice symmetry to Salah’s goal on Wednesday set up by Shaqiri, a similar assist this time played by the former for the latter.

3-1, less than seven minutes after conceding, with Cardiff barely leaving their own half between the goals.

Two minutes later, Fabinho tackles a Cardiff attacker, straight to Mané. To Salah. Run forward, through ball between two. Chipped keeper.


So much for the nerves.

Only a little bit of drama. Only a bit of “is this enough?” Liverpool continue to improve its creativity while continuing in the 4-2-3-1 formation, although Lallana did not have the match that Shaqiri did on Wednesday. Fabinho and Wijnaldum were again an excellent pairing in midfield. Liverpool continue to improve its finishing, with four goals from seven shots on-target, with 19 shots in total, with four clear-cut chances coming against a side that kept ten men in their own half for almost the entirety. Salah scores again, Mané scores again.

Liverpool did so with players such as Shaqiri, Robertson, Gomez, Henderson, and Milner either left out or on the bench, with Moreno making his first league start, Lallana his second, and Lovren his third. Liverpool did so while again using its squad depth, even with a week before the next match, because that squad depth's going to be necessary later in the campaign.

Wednesday was the first step in reclaiming the form and receiving the results that we know Liverpool are capable of. This was very much a second.

26 October 2018

Liverpool v Cardiff City 10.27.18

10am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
6-3 Liverpool (a) 03.22.14
3-1 Liverpool (h) 12.21.13
2-2 Liverpool aet (n; League Cup) 02.26.12
2-1 Liverpool (h; League Cup) 10.31.07

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-0 Red Star (h); 1-0 Huddersfield (a); 0-0 City (h)
Cardiff: 4-2 Fulham (h); 0-1 Tottenham (a); 1-2 Burnley (h)

Goal scorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané, Salah 4; Firmino, Sturridge 2; Matip, Milner, Wijnaldum 1
Cardiff: J Murphy 2; Bamba, Camarasa, Harris, Paterson, Reid, Ward 1

Referee: Stuart Attwell (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Gomez van Dijk Robertson
Wijnaldum Fabinho Milner
Salah Firmino Mané

There’s a very good argument for not changing the XI from Wednesday.

I mean, y’all saw the match. Liverpool were good. Liverpool were creative. Liverpool scored four and could have had a few more and didn’t even allow a single shot on-target. And it was the first time in a while we could say those things about the attack.

So why change?

Maybe Liverpool shouldn’t. There will be a week before traveling to Arsenal, Liverpool without a midweek game. Cardiff will do some things similarly to Red Star. Liverpool were both more creative and even more secure through the middle with Wednesday’s formation and XI.

But Klopp rotates. Liverpool have a reasonably large squad – even with Keïta and Henderson still absent – and Liverpool want to use that squad. Klopp spent some of today’s press conference talking up Origi, Solanke, Clyne, and Matip – players who’ve barely if at all featured so far this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two names we don’t expect nor would I be surprised to see a return to the more familiar 4-3-3 formation – a formation that Fabinho will have to acclimatize to at some point.

So the above guess is a hedge between those factors. Even if it is desperately unfair to Shaqiri, who has been excellent in the last two matches. Heck, maybe I should just guess the same XI as last time.

Meanwhile, Cardiff may have just gotten their first win last week, but it’s been an understandably difficult road to this point. They’ve already hosted Arsenal and Manchester City and travelled to Chelsea and Tottenham, losing 2-3, 0-5, 1-4, and 0-1 in those matches. This’ll be their tenth games of the campaign and five of them will have been against last season’s top six. The last two recent losses prior to Fulham were a lot narrower, one-goal defeats to Burnley and Tottenham, only losing 1-0 at Spurs despite conceding in the eighth minute and having a player sent off in the 58th.

Without any real point of comparison, my best guess is the same XI that beat Fulham. Etheridge; Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett; Camarasa, Gunnarsson, Arter, J Murphy; Reid; Paterson. Ralls will miss out in midfield, serving the second of a three-match ban for a red card at Tottenham, but Aron Gunnarsson’s finally fit, having made his first start in the last match. Camarasa can pay both centrally or out wide; Paterson has started up top lately but can also play deeper. Cardiff could start Hoilett out wide or Danny Ward (not that one) or Gary Madine up front if changes are to be made.

Neil Warnock has never won as manager at Anfield, losing 4-0 with Notts County, 2-0 and 4-0 with Sheffield United, and 1-0 with Queens Park Rangers, but he did win his last match against Liverpool during his short reign as Palace manager, 1-3 at Palace in November 2014.

And Warnock’s already talking down his side’s potential, saying that it’s “virtually impossible” to win at Anfield these days. He’s not necessarily wrong, even if that is gamesmanship to put even more pressure on Liverpool while taking it off his side. “Oh, poor us, we’ll never get anything” and then if they do get anything, break out the bus we’re having a parade.

Cardiff, unsurprisingly, are a very Championship squad playing a very Championship style. It’s what Neil Warnock knows, it’s what Neil Warnock’s always done. They’re strong in the air and at set plays. They absolutely love crosses. Josh Murphy, Reid, and Hoillett are quick on the counter. They’re rugged and deep defensively. They want next to nothing to do with the ball, joint-lowest in possession along with Brighton and with the worst passing accuracy in the league by far.

The Brighton comparison actually works reasonably well. Chris Hughton’s side was built in a similar manner, plays a similar style. And Brighton gave Liverpool problems two months ago, holding Liverpool reasonably at bay at Anfield despite an early goal from Salah and multiple Liverpool chances, even nearly finding an equalizer through Groß’ late clear-cut chance.

Liverpool nearly dropped two points in that Brighton match because of an inability to convert their own chances, something we’ve complained about multiple times this season. We certainly weren’t complaining about that on Wednesday – well, “complain” isn’t the right word; Liverpool scored four but another two or three wouldn’t have flattered.

More of that please. We know that Liverpool are capable of doing so.

25 October 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 4-0 Red Star Belgrade

Previous Match Infographics: Huddersfield (a), Manchester City (h), Napoli (a), Chelsea (a), Southampton (h), Leicester (a), Brighton (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Ham (h)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

(Here’s the formation diagram that’s usually included in match reviews)

One match is one match is one match but hoooooooo boy that’s normal service resumed, that’s the Liverpool attack we’ve come to know and love and love.

Four goals, for the first time since opening day.

21 shots, the most since a 1-0 win over Brighton at the end of August.

11 shots on-target, the most since hammering Brighton on the last day of last season’s league campaign.

Nine clear-cut chances, for the first time that I can remember in a single match.

And goals for Firmino, Sarah, and Mané, the first time all three have scored in a single match this season after doing it eight times last season, with the final in the Champions League against Roma at Anfield.

That’s a paddlin’.

I won’t pretend to be any expert on them, but Red Star are not a bad side.

The Euro Club Index isn’t infallible, obviously, but it’s not a bad starting point. Red Star are top of the Serbian league by seven points already, after only 12 matches, having won 11 and drawn one. They’re in the Champions League proper because of an away goal win over Red Bull Salzburg – last season’s Europa League semi-finalists. They held Napoli to a 0-0 draw in the first Champions League match week. They tried to take the game to Liverpool, pressing early, with their two best chances coming before Liverpool’s opener – including a clear-cut chance when Babic got free on a corner.

But then Liverpool Liverpooled.

Counter-pressing leading to the first, with Shaqiri chasing down Ebecilio as Red Star tried to get out, a few quick passes then an incisive run from the thiccness, splitting the defense to find Robertson on the byline, cut back for Firmino to control and finish.

Then a bit of a lull – Liverpool’s longest stretch without a shot. Similar happened after scoring at Huddersfield around the same time. But rather than let Red Star back into the game, Liverpool controlled and pulled and poked and prodded and eventually got the necessary second just before halftime, a long, long, long pass-filled stretch – albeit with one failed clearance falling to Wijnaldum just before the goal – with Shaqiri again the creative hub, a wonderful touch to lay Wijnaldum’s pass into Salah at pace, controlled, right-footed.

That second goal was everything, especially coming so close to halftime. That’s the back-breaker. That gave Liverpool the necessary breathing space. That gave Liverpool more space to attack, more chances to counter, as Red Star had to at least come out a little bit, even if more of the second half was damage control, especially after a soft penalty for an elbow clothesline on Mané, converted by Sarah for his second of the match and 50th for Liverpool, the quickest Liverpool player to hit that mark.

And unlike in recent matches, Liverpool made use of those counter-attacking opportunities. More goals would not have flattered the home side. Just look at all those clear-cut chances in the last 40 minutes. Fabinho over the top for Alexander-Arnold, nearly first-touch lofted over the keeper. A second penalty, taken by Many after a set play handball, wonderfully saved with the follow-up poorly missed. A defensive error and counter-pressing leading to Liverpool’s fourth, with Wijnaldum stepping in front of El Fardou Ben to intercept Babic’s pass, feeding Sturridge who smartly and selflessly found Mané. Lallana put through on goal from Sturridge’s through ball, caught by the trailing defender and shooting too close to Borjan. Mane in second half injury time, over the top to Firmino, through-ball in behind, into the side-netting.

There were more than a few factors responsible for it. Fabinho grew into the game as a double pivot, with both he and Wijnaldum excellent. Fabinho destroyed – and boy did he ever with nine successful tackles, a high for a Liverpool player this season, six aerial duel wins, and only two fouls committed – while Wijnaldum started and linked. Firmino as the #10 and Shaqiri cutting inside gave Liverpool more creativity from that area, with Mané coming inside as well. Shaqiri’s passes for the first and second goals were remarkable, and exactly the type of passes that Liverpool had failed to make in recent matches; Firmino played a similar through-ball from deep for Mané's injury time pass. And Salah stretched play centrally, keeping both center-backs busy while Shaqiri, Mané, and Firmino looked to do damage around him. Oh, and he scored twice and he’s got six goals in all competitions this season and he’s so out of form what happened to Salah.

And that attack came without any defensive lapses – at least after that set play clear-cut chance in the 17th minute. Only four shots allowed all match, with none on target. That’s the fewest shots allowed in a match this season and the first time that Liverpool’s opponent had no shots on-target since the 3-0 win over Southampton in November 2017.

This was Liverpool’s seventh clean sheet of the season. On October 24th. Liverpool’s seventh clean sheet came more than a month later last season, on November 18th against Southampton, in the 19th match of the season. Since the beginning of March, Liverpool have conceded six goals at Anfield in 15 matches, with all coming in cup competition – two against Roma, PSG, and Chelsea.

This was Liverpool putting everything together, with still evident room for improvement. Now, Liverpool have to do it more consistently.

22 October 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 1-0 Huddersfield Town

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Napoli (a), Chelsea (a), Southampton (h), Leicester (a), Brighton (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Ham (h)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

Will you be surprised if I spend the majority of this writing about Liverpool’s attack?

That’s what I thought.

Are we at the point where there’s legitimate cause for concern?

Liverpool have taken just four, seven, and 11 shots in their last three matches – at Napoli, against City, and at Huddersfield. Liverpool took 11 or fewer shots in just five league matches last season: City away, Tottenham at home, Everton away, West Brom away, and Chelsea away, with the last three in the final six weeks of the season, when far more focus was on the Champions League.

They’ve failed to create a clear-cut chance in all three of those matches. Liverpool never went more than a single match without a clear-cut chance last season, failing to register at least one in just two league matches all season.

The attack started out well enough. Goals and more goals against West Ham, good attacking performances against Palace, Brighton, and Tottenham without as much reward as we’d a right to expect. But it’s very much lessened over the last few weeks. Not only are more passes and shots going astray, build-up is slower, the press has lessened, and Liverpool simply aren’t getting the chances to which we’ve become accustomed.

Liverpool are averaging 14 shots per game so far this season; that average was 18.7 at this point last season. Granted, only two other teams average more per game – Chelsea and Manchester City – but an extra four shots a game certainly couldn’t hurt Liverpool’s potential output.

Huddersfield actually out-shot Liverpool on Saturday, which still amazes. Liverpool were out-shot by just one non-top-six side last season, the unlikely and unfortunate late-season 2-2 draw at West Brom where Liverpool threw away a two-goal lead after scoring very early.

And Huddersfield away is not Napoli away or City at home, even considering the rotation required in the front six. Liverpool aren’t taking enough shots, they’re not great shots, and far too many aren’t on target.

Liverpool put just two shots on-target on Saturday; that only happened in three league matches last season: Newcastle away, United away, and Stoke at home. Liverpool drew two of those and lost the other.

I doubt I need remind that Liverpool won on Saturday.

These complaints about the attack are somewhat moot when the defense is playing as well as it has. Sure, Huddersfield haven’t scored at home since April. They’ve scored all of four goals so far this season, through ten matches in all competitions. A better side could easily have taken advantage of Liverpool; better placed shots from Depoitre, Hogg’s effort off the woodwork, a narrow offside decision denying a goal. Even a different referee; I’d have been more than annoyed had Liverpool not gotten a penalty from that Milner handball situation.

But this remains a very impressive defense.

Huddersfield’s 13 shots were the most allowed by Liverpool in a league match so far this season. And those 13 shots had an Expected Goals total of 0.9 – an average of just 0.07 per shot. Which is not good. Yet another match without an opposition clear-cut chance, as against Southampton, Tottenham, Palace, and West Ham; even all-powerful Manchester City were limited to just one from the penalty spot, thankfully missed.

At this point last season, Liverpool had 15 points from their first nine games. They’d scored three against Watford and Leicester and four against Arsenal, as well as seven at Maribor in the Champions League, but they also conceded 16 goals – three against Watford, four at Tottenham, five at City – with just three clean sheets.

This season? Three goals conceded, six clean sheets. Three goals, in total.

Just 25 league goals conceded since that 1-4 loss at Tottenham exactly a year ago, Liverpool’s best mark for 38 games in nearly a decade. Liverpool conceded double that in Klopp’s first 38 league games. No Premier League side has conceded fewer goals in the last year.

Through these nine league matches last season, Liverpool over performed their Expected Goals by five and a half, on pace for 18.5 xG but scoring 24. So far this season, Liverpool *should have* scored 17.3 but have actually scored 16. It hasn’t been great in theory or practice, but it’s not that far behind last season’s mark in these fixtures.

Then there’s the defense. Two fewer Expected Goals than in these matches last season, nine fewer actually conceded. The most improvement in matches against rivals, conceding seven at Tottenham and against City last season but just one in the two matches this season.

So, yeah, recent matches may not be as fun to watch. We ain’t getting the highs of last season. We haven’t gotten the riots, the blitzkriegs, the goals, the quickening pulse, the cardiac arrest. But we ain’t getting the lows either, thanks to an increased solidity at the back.

At least not yet.

20 October 2018

Liverpool 1-0 Huddersfield

Salah 24’

Probably shouldn’t complain about a win.

Probably shouldn’t complain when Liverpool hadn’t won their previous four matches.

Probably shouldn’t complain when Liverpool rotated the starting XI fairly heavily, with Shaqiri, Lallana, and Sturridge coming into the side, with Lallana wide left and Shaqiri in midfield.

Probably shouldn’t complain when Mohamed Salah’s back on the score sheet.

Probably shouldn’t complain that Liverpool still didn’t look anywhere near their best, especially in attack.

Probably shouldn’t complain that Huddersfield probably should have been level going into halftime, a flurry that saw Hogg nail the woodwork from long range, Billing nearly in on the break, a potential handball by Milner ignored, and the ball in the net but ruled out for offside.

Probably shouldn’t complain that neither side was especially good in the second half but that Huddersfield still felt the more likely. When they hadn’t scored at home since last April.

In all seriousness, that wasn’t good. It was further progression, or regression, of what we’ve seen for the majority of the season so far.

The defense is fine. They may have a fright or two, the opposition might pull a rabbit from a hat, but they’ll limit chances, especially good chances, and they’re odds on to keep a clean sheet, as they’ve done in six of nine league matches.

The midfield is still under-creative and seemingly already overworked. Henderson withdrawn at halftime for Wijnaldum – who might well have been Liverpool’s best player. Milner, just back from injury, off the pace and removed for Firmino with 15 minutes to play as Liverpool switched to 4-4-2. Keïta's probably out for at least another week or two. At least Fabinho got 30 minutes off the bench. At least Shaqiri was reasonably able to find space between the lines, most notably on the assist for Salah’s goal, but Shaqiri in midfield is part of the reason why Huddersfield could take the game to Liverpool for stretches. He ain’t defending much if it’s not pressing, at least not yet.

And then there’s the attack. It’s getting harder to write “they’ll click soon, they have to.” Sure, Salah scored and it was neat and fun, supplied by Shaqiri's throughball, first time from a tight angle with his weaker foot, perfectly placed into the far corner. Sure, he had Liverpool’s only other shot on-target, an unbelievable shift of the ball and stab at Lössl from close range in the 87th minute. Sure, Mané missed the match and Firmino only got 15 minutes and that front six hasn't played together often, whether talking about the starters or substitutes. Otherwise, ugh.

That Liverpool had just two shots on-target in the entire match, against a side they beat 3-0 in both meetings last season is probably a good place to start. Sturridge with a couple of curlers, another from Salah, Firmino from the top of the box – just off the top of my head chances that those players *usually* at least put on frame. And it ain't for the first time this season.

But it's deeper than that. It starts deeper than that. Interplay is not happening, whether during sustained build-up or counter-attacks. Flicks ain’t finding runners. Four on two on the break and players are picking the wrong option, mis-hit or intercepted with someone else in space. Dribblers are surrounded, dribblers run into defenders. Liverpool are also playing slower than usual, which seems so very unlike a Jürgen Klopp side but also has to be on purpose, whether due to having a lead or fitness levels or who the hell knows.

Two shots on-target is bad. Just 11 shots in total might well be worse.

There were elements of the Brighton game back in August in both result and quality of opposition, but Liverpool absolutely dominated that match, controlling tempo, tenor, and possession, denied time and again by a very deep and organized defense.

Huddersfield went toe-to-toe with Liverpool. Huddersfield out-shot Liverpool. Huddersfield created slightly more than Liverpool, with a higher Expected Goals total – even if neither side made it to 1.0 xG. Huddersfield almost certainly feels as if they deserved a draw.

But they didn’t get a draw. Liverpool won. Liverpool remain unbeaten in the league, now sitting on 23 points. Liverpool haven’t taken 23 points from the first nine league matches since 2008-09, and I suspect you remember that season. Liverpool remain level on points with Manchester City, only in second due to an increasingly large goal difference gap.

Probably shouldn’t complain about that.

But Liverpool still have to be better than this.

19 October 2018

Liverpool at Huddersfield 10.20.18

12:30pm ET, live in the US on NBC

Last four head-to-head:
3-0 Liverpool (a) 01.30.18
3-0 Liverpool (h) 10.28.17
2-0 Liverpool (a; FA Cup) 12.12.99
1-0 Liverpool (a) 02.12.72

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 City (h); 0-1 Napoli (a); 1-1 Chelsea (a)
Huddersfield: 1-1 Burnley (a); 0-2 Tottenham (h); 1-3 Leicester (a)

Goal scorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 4; Salah 3; Firmino, Sturridge 2; Matip, Milner, Wijnaldum 1
Huddersfield: Billing, Gorenc-Stankovic, Schindler, Zanka 1

Referee: Michael Oliver (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Gomez van Dijk Robertson
Wijnaldum Henderson Milner
Salah Firmino Shaqiri

I love international breaks.

Sadio Mane has a broken thumb, undergoing surgery on Wednesday. Mo Salah supposedly re-injured his temperamental groin – yes, I’m aware that’s a euphemism doing a lot of work – and returned to Liverpool after Egypt’s first international match. Virgil van Dijk’s still dealing with that rib problem. Naby Keïta pulled his hamstring. And, even though I can’t blame the international break, James Milner is still recovering from a hamstring injury suffered against Manchester City.

Fun times were had by all.

It’s not completely bad news, though. Salah, Milner, and van Dijk all trained on Thursday, so there’s that. All should be available tomorrow, although I remain worried about all three. Liverpool do have quite a few games coming up in the next few weeks, even if most aren’t against the quality of opposition faced prior to the last break.

So guessing tomorrow’s XI isn’t the easiest. There’s the obvious, guessing everyone who could be available to play in the usual formation. There’s the protection option, leaving at least one or two of the questionable players on the bench – Both Shaqiri and Lallana could, in theory, play in midfield; Fabinho seems due for a start; Sturridge might be in the best form of any front six Liverpool players. And there’s the curveball, something like 4-4-2 with both Sturridge and Firmino up top or 4-2-3-1 with Shaqiri in the hole.

As per usual, your guess is as good as mine. And as usual, my guess is usually what’s been the most familiar, rotation be damned. More important, obviously, is that the Liverpool attack that’s still got decent underlying statistics actually turns those statistics into honest to goodness goals.

Meanwhile, Huddersfield. Who, um, are not very good. They’re in 18th place, ahead of only Newcastle and Cardiff. They’re yet to win this season, with three draws in the league. They’re out of the League Cup after losing to Stoke. And they’ve scored just four goals through nine matches in all competitions. Three of those four came from defenders. Three of the four came from set plays – a corner and two throw-ins – with the fourth coming from a lofted cross.

And Huddersfield have some injuries of their own. Kongolo’s definitely absent, while Löwe, Mooy, Billing, Williams, Smith, and Sobhi are all questionable. But all those questionable seem capable of playing if needed. So let’s guess that they will. Something like Lössl; Smith, Zanka, Schindler, Löwe; Hogg, Mooy; Kachunga, Pritchard, van la Parra; Depoitre. 4-2-3-1 is Huddersfield’s most frequent formation, but it is worth noting that Huddersfield have played three at the back a couple of times this season, including a recent 0-2 loss to Tottenham. However, three at the back often goes poorly for Liverpool’s opponents.

Even considering injuries and annoyances, the international break seemingly came at a decent time. Liverpool remain winless in four. Liverpool still aren’t firing in attack, even if they're still more than competent in defense. Liverpool needed the breathing space. We needed the breathing space.

And now, Liverpool have a run of very winnable matches, starting at Huddersfield, against opponents they beat 3-0 in both meetings last season, against opponents who’ve yet to win this season. Then Red Star Belgrade. Then Cardiff. Then to be fair, away at Arsenal, but followed by Red Star, Fulham, and Watford.

Liverpool made it through the first fifth of the season adequately. It could have been better. But it’s usually been worse. We’re calling joint-top with 20 from 24 points adequate, after playing three of last season’s top five in the first eight games.

Now to put the pedal to the floor. Sorry, Huddersfield.

09 October 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City

Previous Match Infographics: Napoli (a), Chelsea (a), Southampton (h), Leicester (a), Brighton (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Ham (h)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

Yes, yes. We’ve talked enough about how Liverpool’s attack is a little bit scary right now. And not scary in the “we’re going to disembowel you and then show you the bowels” way from the majority of last season but scary in the “what happened why don’t you love us anymore” way.

Two consecutive games without a Liverpool goal, something which hasn’t happened since January 2017, in the FA and League Cups rather than Champions League and Premier League. Four consecutive games without a goal from Salah, Firmino, or Mané; the longest stretch last season was three games, 1-1s against Spartak and Newcastle before 0-0 against United, almost exactly a year ago, with Coutinho scoring both goals.

The front three just aren’t clicking. They’re snatching at shots and passes. Confidence, so ephemeral and intangible, seems to be getting worse with each failed touch. Neither Firmino nor Mané took a shot or created a chance on Sunday, even if Salah looked a bit better than in the previous two matches. The midfield isn’t picking up the slack, can’t quite pick up the slack, especially in regards to creativity.

It’s not great. But it’s also happening against Chelsea, Napoli, and now Manchester City. Early in the season, before everyone’s seemingly in peak form – especially after a World Cup summer – with fixture congestion already piling up between unnecessary international breaks. Against that slate of teams.

It might not be great, it might not be fun, but at least it’s understandable, and chances are that it’ll improve. Just take a look at Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures. Away at Arsenal aside, the next month and a half of matches ain’t exactly a murderer’s row.

So let’s talk about some good. Let’s again talk about Liverpool’s defense. Penalty aside, Liverpool remains good at the defense. Especially at Anfield.

Liverpool have not allowed a league goal at Anfield since West Ham’s consolation in the 4-1 win back in February. There have been nine clean sheets since – against Newcastle, Watford, Bournemouth, Stoke, Brighton, West Ham, Brighton, Southampton, and City. Liverpool are averaging an allowed 1.44 shots on-target in those nine matches, with just 5.33 shots allowed in total per match. Liverpool have allowed just five clear-cut chances in those nine games, including only two this season – Groß’s late chance for Brighton saved by Alisson and Mahrez’s penalty miss.

To be fair, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. With one more shot on-target, specifically Mahrez’s penalty, this is a different result with different feelings and Liverpool’s clean sheet streak is over. Fine margins when sides are this evenly matched, etc etc.

That said, Manchester City’s six shots were the fewest they’ve had in a league match since Guardiola became manager. This was the first time that City have been held scoreless this season and only the third time in a league match since the start of last season.

Manchester City are not an easy side to keep quiet or keep out, and Liverpool did so, even if they needed some luck at the end. Manchester City felt the need to change its style to counter-act Liverpool, even a Liverpool that’s not quite firing at the moment. Not only were Manchester City less offensive, Liverpool didn’t allow City that much offense, with just one first half shot despite almost 58% possession.

Four games without a win ain’t great. Four games with just two goals scored – and none from Liverpool’s usual scorers – ain’t great. But Liverpool most certainly are not in a bad place at the moment. And it’s the defense that’s keeping them there.

07 October 2018

Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City

You want to see two sides canceling each other out? That was two sides canceling each other out.

Okay, obviously no one wants to see two sides canceling each other out. It’s boring. That’s not to say this was a boring match, but it was a very conservative match, from two sides that are usually the opposite of conservative.

It’s both recognition of Liverpool and City’s respective threats but also the overload that’s come during the last few weeks, both sides playing twice a week since returning from the last international break, with players not yet at the capacity for that since the season’s still only just started.

We got basically a full-strength side from each, but with at least one crucial change. Gomez replaced Alexander-Arnold at right-back, taller and more defensive, and capable of long throws in the attacking zone, with Lovren coming in to partner van Dijk. City were more a 4-2-3-1 than the usual 4-3-3, with Bernardo Silva forming a double pivot with Fernandinho. Both managers kept their usually very attacking fullbacks restrained, especially City, making sure there were players back for long passes over the top, toward Salah and Mahrez/Sterling respectively.

And the changes seemed to work exactly as each manager hoped. Lovren was excellent, with more than a few last ditch tackles and blocks on both Agüero and Gabriel Jesus. Bernardo Silva was similarly influential for City, leading that side in tackles. None of the dangerous wide attackers – Salah, Mané, Mahrez, or Sterling – did much of anything. None were allowed to do much of anything.

Liverpool pressed well, avoiding City’s center backs but disrupting play as soon as City entered the midfield zone. Liverpool once again had to cope with an early midfield injury, with Keïta replacing Milner in the 29th minute.

So we got a lot of turnovers in the center of the pitch, an excellent tackle or interception, clearance, lather, rinse, repeat. Teams averaging 22 and 15 shots per match respectively combined for all of 13. Possession was basically equal, shot totals were basically equal, and xG would have been basically equal if not for Manchester City’s penalty, as Mahrez skied a spot kick after van Dijk fouled Sané in the 86th minute. That’d have been a hell of a way to lose after another commendable defensive performance, so I really appreciate pulling a Charlie Adam, Riyad.

It was frenetic at times, it was fun to watch every now and then, but it was mostly very much a stalemate, and purposefully so.

Even though 0-0 certainly isn’t a bad result, this is the first time this season that Liverpool’s gotten a worse result this season than in last season’s equivalent fixture. City will arguably be more aggrieved – their best performance at Anfield in years, better chances than Liverpool created, and that missed penalty as well as two other no-calls.

In isolation, it’s fine, this is fine. Life never comes in isolation. Liverpool are now four matches without a win, failing to score in two of those four and two goals from Sturridge in the other two. Liverpool followed up what was arguably the worst attacking performance since Klopp became manager with another match where Liverpool rarely if ever looked like scoring.

We’re now four matches without a goal from Salah, Firmino, or Mané. I’ll look later but I reckon it’s safe to assume that hasn’t happened often over the last couple of seasons.

That said, Liverpool are now through this period between international breaks unbeaten in the league, with eight points out of 12 from Tottenham (a), Southampton (h), Chelsea (a), and City (h). Liverpool are level on points with both City and Chelsea, behind both only on goal difference. Joint-top, even though we’ve yet to see Liverpool at its best this season.

We’re gonna need evidence soon, but that Liverpool are here now despite the play over the last few weeks still suggests better is on its way.

06 October 2018

Liverpool v Manchester City 10.07.18

11:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (a; CL) 04.10.18
3-0 Liverpool (h; CL) 04.04.18
4-3 Liverpool (h) 01.14.18
0-5 City (a) 09.27.17

Last matches:
Liverpool: 0-1 Napoli (a); 1-1 Chelsea (a); 1-2 Chelsea (h)
City: 2-1 Hoffenheim (a); 2-0 Brighton (h); 3-0 Oxford (a)

Goal scorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 4; Salah 3; Firmino, Sturridge 2; Matip, Milner, Wijnaldum 1
City: Agüero 5; Sterling 4; Mahrez, B Silva, D Silva 2; Gundogan, Jesus, Laporte, Sane, Walker 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Gomez van Dijk Robertson
Wijnaldum Henderson Milner
Salah Firmino Mané


The narrative surrounding any Liverpool match often feels overwhelming and overwrought, but this’ll be even more so.

The champions against the contenders. The rebels against the evil empire. Is Liverpool ready to actually make a run at the title? This match will, of course, definitively tell us either way. Here, this is the season, right here. In the first week of October. Hold onto your butts.

So the last three games haven’t been great.

Loss, draw, loss. None impressive, and two of those with a full-strength side. The defense has been mostly impressively good, but the midfield’s unperformed – at least in regards to creativity – and the attack’s misfired. Does that mean changes tomorrow? Sturridge or Shaqiri or Fabinho starting? Maybe a 4-2-3-1, as against Southampton, even though Southampton and City are two very different opponents, a formation likely better able to create for the front three if the front three can’t create for themselves? Maybe 4-4-2, with both Firmino and Sturridge – or Firmino and Salah – up top?

Probably not. We know Liverpool’s preferred shape, we know Liverpool’s preferred players, even also knowing Liverpool’s increased strength in depth. That depth has manifested far more as options off the bench rather than rotation in starting XIs. At least guessing the midfield is a bit easier than usual. Keïta is supposedly available, but given how weird and frightening backs can be, I’d be surprised. More likely is Fabinho finally getting a run in the league.

Meanwhile, you may have heard that Manchester City are good. Draw with Wolves and Champions League loss to Lyon aside, they’ve been as brutal as ever. Most goals per game, shots per game, possession per game, and the highest pass accuracy in the league. Fewest shots allowed, lowest xG per shot, and joint-fewest goals conceded – along with Liverpool. Level on points with Liverpool, although ahead on goal difference having waxed both Huddersfield and Cardiff by five goals already this season.

Let’s go with Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Laporte; D Silva, Fernandinho, Gündogan; Sterling, Agüero, Sané. That seems the most familiar. But guessing City’s XI is never easy; it’s not as if City don’t have other options, whether in personnel or formation. There are Mahrez or Jesus in attack. Bernardo Silva in either midfield or attack. Both Mendy and de Bruyne could return from injury, almost certainly hosed down with horse placenta by some shady "doctor" during the week. 3-5-2 is possible if Mendy’s fit; 4-4-2 is possible with both Agüero and Jesus up front.

Last season’s matches with Manchester City were wild, exactly what blitzkrieg heavy metal football should be. Three of the four were wild in a good way, a 4-3 league win that was literally the perfect encapsulation of last season’s Liverpool and those two dramatic Champions League victories. The other match, as I suspect you remember, was wild in a very bad way. Manchester City, so dominant in the league, were beaten three out of four times by this Liverpool side.

It will be hard for Liverpool to replicate that. It is up to Liverpool to replicate that.

04 October 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 0-1 Napoli

Previous Match Infographics: Chelsea (a), Southampton (h), Leicester (a), Brighton (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Ham (h)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

So, yeah, none of us want to relive that.

That's about as bad as it's gotten since Klopp became manager. There have been worse results. There have been worse performances, at least in Klopp's first season. But this was about as bad as it gets, especially considering how the side's evolved since 2015-16 and especially since the front three has become that front three.

Yesterday’s match at Napoli saw the fewest Liverpool shots since Klopp became manager. The lowest Expected Goals total since Klopp became manager. The only time we haven't seen either a shot on-target or even a shot from inside the box since Klopp became manager.

And Liverpool still nearly came away with a point if not for a last-second goal, Mertens pulling van Dijk out wide, Callejon getting behind Robertson, and Gomez not quite quick enough to stay with Insigne. The defense finally, truly lost its shape without being able to recover. Alisson had saved a clear-cut chance just minutes before, two fingertips pushing Mertens’ shot onto the crossbar. He couldn’t save Liverpool a second time.

So that sucked. A bunch. So this is gonna be short.

There's more than enough blame to go around. The worst performance from a front three that's been struggling surprisingly often this season. A lack of rotation in between the autumn international breaks potentially catching up to the side. That Napoli is a difficult place to travel to, that Ancelotti's a difficult manager to face in Europe, that Liverpool might have been already thinking about Sunday's match against Manchester City.

Lots went wrong, and a lot of it we can hope is a one-off.

I'm gonna briefly focus on the midfield.

Yikes. 17 passes from Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum and Keïta to Firmino, Salah, and Mané. Just one into the penalty box. Just five into the final third. No chances created.

Compare that to recent away matches at Chelsea and Tottenham. Liverpool’s midfielders – Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner, and Keïta – completed 33 passes to the attackers – Firmino, Salah, Mane, and Shaqiri. Multiple came in both the penalty box and final third, and Milner created a clear-cut chance for Firmino. Similar goes for the Spurs game, with 28 passes from Liverpool’s midfielders to Liverpool’s attackers, and both Milner and Wijnaldum created chances for Mané.

I know these aren’t dramatically large margins. And we knew that Liverpool’s midfielders weren’t the most creative going into both the season and match. Milner had 11 assists last season, but the majority came from set plays; the other midfielders with the most assists last season were Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coutinho, and Emre Can and, well.

Yesterday might have gone differently had Keïta not gone off in the 19th minute with a freaky frightening back injury, the midfielder most likely to break through Napoli lines. Regardless, this highlights a potential problem, especially when the front three aren’t doing all those wonderful front three things.

The first half was helter skelter, with both sides looking for long balls with the center of the pitch compact as all get out. The second half saw Napoli increasingly turn the screws, both as Liverpool tired and as substitutions – Verdi for Fabian, increasing the doubled-up pressure on Alexander-Arnold, and Mertens for Milik, a far more mobile player able to create space for Insigne – improved the home side.

Liverpool again defended well, but that’s about all Liverpool did well as the front three and midfield increasingly flailed and failed, and all that Napoli pressure finally bore fruit. At about the worst possible time.

Liverpool are now winless in three. The League Cup loss to Chelsea still only matters because I’m mad that Liverpool conceded a lead late on. The league draw at Chelsea still feels like a point gained rather than two lost. But this loss, coming to a late goal, exacerbates the problems and the fears from the previous two results even more.

Chickens haven’t quite come home to roost, but they’re circling the coop.

City on Sunday.

01 October 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea

Previous Match Infographics: Southampton (h), Leicester (a), Brighton (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Ham (h)

Match data from WhoScored, except average position from the SofaScore app. 

The finishing pixie is a cruel mistress.

Liverpool have seemingly done enough to be level, but Liverpool are behind 0-1, having failed to convert on 12 shots, three of which were clear-cut chances. So far this season, Liverpool have converted just seven of 18 clear-cut chances in the league – 38.9%, below last season's 44.9% average.

Liverpool had two clear-cut chances cleared off the line by defenders in the same match for the first time under Klopp. Having a clear-cut chance blocked on the goal line only happened four times in the entire league campaign in each of the last two seasons.

Mo Salah, Liverpool's attacking center-piece, registered four shots through 66 minutes. Two off-target, one easily saved, and one of those clear-cut chances cleared off the line. He's only ("only") scored three goals so far this season, having tallied twice as many by this point last season, and he's hauled off in the 66th minute for Shaqiri, who proceeds to miss a clear-cut chance of his own.

Liverpool are losing and it feels like they shouldn't be and it's gonna be a first loss of the season and the same result as in this fixture last season and yeah, everything sucks.

And then Liverpool score an unbelievable equalizer from the Liverpool shot that’s least likely to go in. Liverpool score a goal from outside the box for the first time this season. Liverpool last scored from outside the box came in the 5-2 win over Roma back in April, Salah from inside the penalty arc. You’ve got to go back to Emre Can’s wallop against Huddersfield in January to find one in the Premier League.

A goal like that all but cancels out everything that came before in my mind. A goal like that makes a draw feel like a win. Especially when it comes that late in the match. Especially when it comes from Daniel Sturridge, who you can’t help but love with every fiber of your being after the last few seasons he’s had and everything he says and does and who’s now joint-top scorer in all competitions so far this season with four goals even though he’s played all of 187 minutes. With almost half of those minutes coming in one league cup match.

Swings and roundabouts, I guess. The finishing pixie, she’s cruel and she’s kind.

And to be fair, the finishing pixie was cruel to both sides. Alisson saved two Chelsea clear-cut chances – the first Liverpool keeper to do so in a match since Mignolet at Manchester City more than a year ago, a match that Liverpool still lost 0-5 – while Morata and Marcos Alonso both missed with headers in the second half.

Maybe we should give the respective defenses a modicum of credit here, whether it’s Alisson’s saves or Luiz and Rudiger’s blocks or Gomez and van Dijk’s recovery pace or van Dijk’s five aerial duel wins leading the way in the match. Even though both sides had chances – Chelsea through those through balls and long passes behind Liverpool’s high line, Liverpool through pressing and that front three’s endeavor even when not at their best – both defenses were more impressive their their attacking counterparts.

Liverpool have conceded just three goals through seven league games. They conceded 12 through the first seven games last season. They conceded nine goals in last season's equivalent seven fixtures.

This was the first time that a Liverpool opponent had a higher xG total than Liverpool this season and the first time that an opponent registered more than 1.0 xG against Liverpool in the league this season. But that's the quality of Chelsea compared to Liverpool's previous opponents. And Liverpool still both held Chelsea to a single goal and got a point out of the match.

Meanwhile, it’s not as if it was all bad in attack. As cliche as it can be, Liverpool were still getting in those positions. It’s small consolation if you don’t find an equalizer out of the blue, but you only truly worry when you’re not getting in those positions.

Firmino played four of Liverpool’s ten key passes, most notably the clear-cut chance for Salah via through ball in the first half and the cutback for Mané's saved shot in the 58th; it’s the first time he’s created more than two chances in a match this season.

Salah, for all the talk that he was too easily muscled off the ball by defenders, completed four out of five attempted dribbles; both Firmino and Many lost possession more often, although that the latter two played the full 90 minutes admittedly makes a difference.

Liverpool scored a late winner or equalizer for the second time in nine matches. That only happened twice last season by the most generous of metrics; there was 2-1 Burnley but also 2-2 Tottenham, with Salah's 90th minute goal that should have been a winner, but then we got a nonsense penalty so it's not really a winner or an equalizer but hell we'll still count it for something. And, regardless of that classification, those two are still the only examples.

Incidentally, both goals – against PSG and at Chelsea – were scored by substitutes, something highlighted by Andrew Beasley in his weekly column.

Liverpool still outshot Chelsea on their own ground, something that didn't happen in last season's 0-1 loss on this ground. Similar happened at Tottenham, where Liverpool were out-shot and lost 1-4 last season, but took more shots than Tottenham and won 2-1 this season. Liverpool are now +4 points on last season’s results, having won their matches they were supposed to win against sides beaten last season but improving on their record against their peers.

And, as against Paris St-Germain, this feels a result that would have ended worse last season. Plus, two defeats to Chelsea in the space of four days could have been a massive blow, a shot to confidence levels after those first seven straight wins, especially with matches against Napoli and Manchester City imminent. The League Cup can be taken as *shrugs* but it’d have been harder to do so had Liverpool not gotten something from this, by hook, crook, luck, or talent.

And, as in multiple matches so far this season, we can clearly see not only what Liverpool are doing well, but where Liverpool can and almost certainly will improve.