26 November 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 3-0 Watford

Previous Match Infographics: Fulham (h), Arsenal (a), Cardiff (h), 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. 

"Professional performance" is an overused cliché. It's a nice way to say that the team didn't play especially well but still won. We've said it already more than a few times this season.

This was yet another professional performance.

Liverpool may have only taken 10 shots – with the first not coming until the 39th minute – but put seven of those ten on-target and scored with three. Six of those ten shots came from the Danger Zone in the center of the penalty box, three of those ten were clear-cut chances.

If you're not going to be prolific – or can't be prolific (*waves at Watford's eight-man defense and Liverpool's 4-2-3-1 formation*) – be ruthless.

Meanwhile, Watford took just five shots. Three of those five came in the final eight minutes, after Liverpool already had a two-goal lead and following Henderson's dismissal. Eight of Liverpool's 13 league matches have seen their opponents take eight or fewer shots. Five have seen six or fewer: 4-1 West Ham, 1-0 Brighton, 0-0 City, 4-1 Cardiff, and 3-0 Watford. This was the first away from Anfield.

We know Liverpool's defense is good. Sure, Watford had two clear-cut chances: Pereyra immediately after Liverpool's first shot, denied by Alisson, and Cathcart's late corner header off-target. But Watford, like nearly all who've come before, were mostly strangled. And Watford were shut out, just like seven other league sides so far this season.

As Andrew Beasley noted in today's Echo column, Liverpool have never conceded fewer than five goals through the first 13 league matches. It is literally the best defensive record in the club's top-flight history, at least so far. Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets, and conceded once in five games. It's now been 16 games since Liverpool last conceded twice in a league match, going back to the 2-2 draw at West Brom in April.

You ain't gonna lose many matches if you only concede once, if at all.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have now won five matches this season by a three-or-more goal margin. This was the first to take place away from Anfield. The last time Liverpool won by three or more away from home was the 5-0 Champions League win at Porto back in February; the last in the league was at Huddersfield at the end of January.

A disjointed attack, but the few Liverpool shots were almost all good shots (0.14 xG per shot is a very good xG per shot mark), the good shots were on-target, and Liverpool scored from a couple of them.

A resilient, mostly suffocating defense, again.

A result away from home, an improvement on previous away results against similar competition. Or the same competition. Remember last season's helter skelter, deeply annoying 3-3? That was a different Liverpool.

And it did not matter that Liverpool had not played in two weeks, with Liverpool again getting a good result after an international break.

To be fair, this hasn't been much of an issue since Klopp became manager. Nine wins, four draws, and just one loss in the last four seasons following internationals, with that one loss coming at Manchester City last season, highlighted by Sadio Mané's red card. But there has been at least one frustrating goalless draw in each of the previous three seasons. One of those ugly, ground-out wastes of 90 minutes.

We almost had one of those last month at Huddersfield, if not for Salah's early goal. It felt like we might have had that on Saturday, at least for the first 65 minutes. And then Liverpool had their moment, a flowing move down the left, the front three in flight, Firmino to Mane to Salah. Salah scored, for the ninth time this season, then Trent scored, and then Bobby finished it off.

We've almost had set-backs, multiple times so far this short season. But we haven't. By hook or crook or luck, Liverpool have usually done enough, especially in defense but also in attack.

And that's what makes this yet another professional performance, in a season already fairly full of them.

No comments :