10 December 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 4-0 Bournemouth

Previous Match Infographics: Burnley, Everton (h), 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. 

There's honestly not a ton to write about this. I love when a plan comes to fruition. And I love when Mohamed Salah just slaps folks who jump up to get beat down.

That was a continuation of the previous four league matches, with Liverpool incrementally better, more cohesive in each, with Liverpool deservedly winning each.

Liverpool scored multiple goals, as they did against Fulham (h), Watford (a), and Burnley (a), with ten of 12 goals in these four matches – as well as the last-second winner against Everton – coming in the second half.

We haven't seen the away struggles that have defined the Champions League campaign so far, with Liverpool's away form almost exactly comparable to that at home, conceding four more on the road but also scoring four more. Liverpool have scored three, three, and four in their last three away games, albeit against Watford, Burnley, and Bournemouth. And Liverpool have played two more away games than home, having already travelled to Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arsenal.

As against Watford, Liverpool did it with a paucity of shots, taking just ten and putting just four on-target, but scoring with three of them. It's a 40% shot accuracy – which is better than usual – and a conversion rate of 42.86%, the highest of the season. Between The Posts (via 11Tegen11) had Liverpool's Expected Goals at 2.09 xG, which gives an xG per shot on 0.209, an egregiously high total.

Liverpool kept yet another clean sheet, the fourth in the last five games and tenth in 16 league games. Bournemouth's xG was 0.5 and xG per shot was 0.0625, which is egregiously low, and put just two shots on-target: Brooks' reasonable effort just before Salah opened the scoring and Stanislas' long-range free kick straight at Alisson after Liverpool were already 3-0 up.

Alisson was once again brilliant in moments, because he's only been needed for moments. The aforementioned save on Brooks' shot. A tremendous clearing header under pressure from Josh King, unable to use his hands on Milner's wild, errant clearance. Just as he was against Burnley, just as he's been since he joined the club.

This was the fourth time this season that Liverpool have scored four goals in a match, but it's the first time away from Anfield. It's the first time Liverpool have scored four or more away from Anfield since the 5-0 win at Porto back in February, and the first time it's happened in the league in a week shy of a year, when Liverpool beat *checks notes* Bournemouth 4-0 on December 17, 2017.

There was one key difference, though. Mohamed Salah was much more influential than he's been in recent matches. Than he's been pretty much all season.

Sure, there were the three goals. One poacher's goal, heavily involved in the buildup and there to finish off Firmino's rebound, then two counter-attack goals – Firmino's press winning possession for the first, then Lallana's long pass and Salah's speed up against Cook for the second. He had space to run and used that space brilliantly. He had chances and finished off those chances.

But just as important was how much more involved Salah was.

My main criticism of the 4-2-3-1 formation used most frequently of late is how Salah just isn't getting the ball. Sure, he's not getting it in his favored positions, on the flank, with room to run, but he's just not getting it enough in general.

That wasn't the case on Saturday. Salah received passes at almost double the rate as in the previous three matches. And every Liverpool starter found Salah with at least one pass.

Only Firmino registered an assist, but Shaqiri's through-ball released Salah for his first shot in the 14th minute, while Lallana's pass set him up to destroy Steve Cook for Liverpool's fourth goal. Robertson and Firmino tied for the most passes to Salah with eight each, but Liverpool's central midfielders – so often struggling to link with the attack – also found Salah with five passes each, while Keïta routinely got the ball to Salah as well.

We've seen that Liverpool can do it without Salah if necessary. Or, maybe more accurately, with 50-75% of Salah. Now they're finding more and better ways to get him involved in this new role.

Liverpool were getting results even before this formation began coalescing. Liverpool were getting results without Salah being this involved in the overall play, let alone scoring multiple goals in the same match while still playing more key passes than any other Liverpool player.

Liverpool were already getting results, keeping pace with a much more impressive City despite wobbles and complaints in almost every match. And now, with the season reaching the frenetic festive flurry, almost to the halfway point, Liverpool are rounding into form, ahead of Manchester City as we enter the fifth month of the campaign.


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