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 Manรฉ; 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 Manรฉ 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 – GroรŸ’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.

1 comment :

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