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.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Very balanced report, well-written.

You aren't going to win 38 games in a row, and dropping points is easier to take when the game-plan and tactical set-up is right. Thought there was a lot of quality on both sides.

Somewhat churlishly, I don't want Klopp to use Sturridge's recent form as a reason to start him regularly in the league (sad to write because he's probably desperate to start). Just think that the established front three is better at the pressing game.