03 December 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 1-0 Everton

Previous Match Infographics: Paris St-Germain (a), Watford (a), 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. 

In case you were wondering how vital the press is to creating chances, yesterday was a good example.

It is no secret that Liverpool's attack has struggled lately, whether playing 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. And that attack struggled some more against Everton, needing a hilariously – I mean HILARIOUSLY – flukey 96th minute winner.

But Liverpool also had five clear-cut chances, for the first time in the league since Opening Day. Liverpool should have scored long before Jordan Pickford wrote his name in Merseyside lore.

Two of those clear-cut chances came from scrambled set plays, both from Origi in the dying minutes, both from about a combined two yards out, the first off the cross bar, the second the winner. A third came from quick build-up, hoofed out from the back, Fabinho to Firmino to Mané in the 54th minute. But the other two came from possession regains in Everton's half by Liverpool's midfielders. The other two came from Liverpool's press.

12th minute. Wijnaldum tackles Andre Gomes, who's trying to carry the ball out of his defensive third. Robertson picks up, to Salah, to Mané, blazed over.

34th minute. Fabinho tackles Gueye inside Everton's half, playing the ball directly to Salah. Turn, passed wide to an open Shaqiri, the shot too close to Pickford.

Not coincidentally, those were Liverpool's first two clear-cut chances, taking the game to Everton early in the match, before the sides settled into a more familiar pattern, before both Liverpool and Everton began to tire.

Similar goes for Everton, though. They had two clear-cut chances of their own. A set play – where Mina should have been flagged for offside – and robbing Salah of possession in Liverpool's half, quickly transitioning to the move which saw Gomes' point blank shot saved then cleared off the line.

Transitions matter, deeply. And Liverpool have not been able to transition often enough and quickly enough in recent weeks, whether due to how the opposition are playing and how often Liverpool's front six choose when and where to press. Liverpool pressed more vigorously yesterday, especially in the first half, while Everton's style of play under Marco Silva also allowed Liverpool more opportunities to press.

And if for better finishing, this game would have been over long before Pickford had the opportunity to go Full English Goalkeeper in the 96th minute. So that's still an issue with the attack. Once again, Liverpool fail to put shots on target, with only three of 16 on goal – a horrific 19% shooting accuracy. It was Liverpool's second-lowest shot accuracy in the league so far this season, after only putting two of 11 shots on-target in the 1-0 win at Huddersfield in October.

Once again, I also remain worried about both Salah and Firmino in this 4-2-3-1 formation. Neither played badly; Firmino took three shots and set up Mané's 53rd minute clear-cut chance, Salah was Liverpool's most creative player with four key passes, two of them for clear-cut chances.

But Firmino was still nowhere near as involved as he's been in previous matches, dropping increasingly deep to pick up possession, with just 27 passes attempted, the vast majority around the center circle. And is the best use of Salah as Liverpool's most creative player rather than shot taker, shot scorer? Salah's lone shot was a 20-yard curler, receiving possession with his back to goal marked by a central defender, pushed wide of the post. So many long passes played towards him by midfielders and defenders, in the hopes of finding him before being too closely marked, with little success. It's one thing to use him as a central striker when Liverpool have already scored, when the game's stretched, when there are chances to counter. It seems another to use him as an orthodox front-man, back to goal and marked by at least one center-back rather than in space to run down the right flank. Salah attempted just one dribble yesterday, in the ninth minute, unsurprisingly unsuccessful.

But, to be fair, that's all a bit moot for at least two more days, when Liverpool travel to Burnley. It's the Merseyside Derby; who gives how it happens, as long as it's a good result after 90 minutes. I'd rather focus on the result. I'd rather focus on Jordan Pickford doing this in the 96th minute.

And I still cannot stop laughing.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

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