31 December 2018

Visualized: Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal

Previous Match Infographics: Newcastle (h), Wolves (a), Manchester Utd (h), Napoli (h), Bournemouth (a), 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. 



I remain stupidly impressed by this Liverpool side.

This match featured almost all of the things that Liverpool have done well this season. Almost all.

Goals, lots of them. Shots, not a ton but a bunch of good ones. Limiting the opposition's chances, at least after the 11th minute. A dominant performance at both ends of the pitch, a resounding win over a side that held Liverpool on their own ground less than two months ago.

We got Liverpool at its most potent, both in creating excellent chances and scoring them – which hasn't happened as often as it did last season. At least, not yet.

It's the ninth time since the start of last season that Liverpool had five or more clear-cut chances in a league match, but only the first where Liverpool have scored five clear-cut chances. Mainly thanks to those clear-cut chances, Liverpool's xG per shot was a ridiculously high 0.247. Liverpool put two-thirds of their shots on-target – 10 of 15 – a mark bettered in just one league match this season, the 3-0 win over Watford. Firmino, Salah, and Mané all scored in the same match for only the second time this season – it happened eight times last season – and for the first time in the league.

It was the first time this season that Liverpool have scored five or more goals in a match. They'd done so four times by this point last season.

Granted, Arsenal have the weakest defense in the Top 5, relatively speaking. Their goals conceded total is higher than the other four, even prior to this match. As is their Expected Goals allowed tally, which they're underperforming. Saturday's match was the third time this season they'd conceded at least three in a league match and the seventh time they'd conceded at least two. Arsenal were missing both starting full-backs as well as Holding and Koscielny – the latter at least until halftime, with four Liverpool goals already scored.

It's all a bit unfair on Arsenal – and not for the first time at Anfield. But Liverpool still performed more than impressively in attack, which they've been doing much more consistently over the last month.

And Liverpool were almost as emphatic at the other end of the pitch.

There was the one black mark in Saturday's match, albeit a black mark that didn't last long. Liverpool did all of the above despite Arsenal scoring first and scoring early, off the mark in the 11th minute, the quickest goal that Liverpool have conceded in a league match since Leicester's opener almost exactly a year ago. A match, incidentally, that Liverpool went on to win.

Maitland-Niles' goal was Arsenal's last shot on-target. They went on to take just six shots over the next 80 minutes, despite more than 55% possession. The xG per shot on those six shots was a ridiculously low 0.038, with three off-target, three blocked, and three of the six coming from outside the box. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Premier League's top scorer going into the match, registered just 13 touches in 71 minutes, with six of the 13 coming from kickoffs.

Liverpool's response to going a goal behind remains the most impressive thing about Saturday's impressive match.

Liverpool have now trailed for all of 75 minutes this campaign. Three minutes against Arsenal, eight minutes at Burnley, and 64 minutes at Chelsea, with Liverpool going on to win twice and draw once.

It's a far cry from how often Liverpool were behind last season, which was reasonably good as it was.



Not only are Liverpool rarely behind in league matches this season, they've also been far better at maintaining a one-goal lead.

I doubt I need remind how often Liverpool lost a lead last season – again, relatively speaking. Liverpool had a lead but went on to draw in seven league matches in 2017-18 – Watford (a), Newcastle (a), Chelsea (h), Everton (h), Arsenal (a), Tottenham (h), and West Brom (a) – and also lost a lead in three Champions League matches.

Liverpool have had a one-goal lead for 561 minutes so far this season – 31.17% of the total league minutes played so far this season. They've conceded just twice with a one-goal lead, the now-regrettable 1-1 draw at Arsenal and the 3-1 win over Manchester United, the latter a fluke goal canceled out by Shaqiri's late heroics.

26% of all the goals that Liverpool conceded in the league last season came with a one-goal Liverpool lead. Which, admittedly, is a similar proportion to this season, but it's a bit different when conceding 38 goals compared to just eight.

And Liverpool did all of the above good, both in Saturday's match and what's come in all of December, during the absolute meat of the season. Beating a top-five rival by four goals during the difficult festive stretch. Coming back from a potentially demoralizing early concession. Creating and scoring excellent chances, multiple times. Preventing Arsenal from having anywhere near a sniff at getting back into the match once Liverpool took a lead.

And now winning the eighth game this month – a new record for most Liverpool wins in a single month. Seven of those came in the Premier League; Liverpool are now just the fifth English side to win seven top-flight matches in a single month, with the last to do so back in 1985-86.

And all of this, all of this good, is why Liverpool still have a seven-point lead at the top of the table heading into 2019. Heading into Thursday's match at second-place Manchester City.

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