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.

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