14 January 2019

Visualized: Liverpool 1-0 Brighton

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (a), Arsenal (h), 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. 

We've somewhat settled into a routine. And it ain't a routine that I'm mad at.

This match looked a bit like others we've seen so far this season. Liverpool, not at their most coherent in attack, but good enough. Liverpool, very much coherent in defense and very much good enough. Another grind, but another win.

This was the fifth time this season that Liverpool have been held to ten shots or fewer in a league match. City (h), Watford (a), Bournemouth (a), City (a), and now Brighton (a). It also happened five times last season: City (a), Tottenham (h), Everton (a), WBA (a), Chelsea (a). Liverpool drew three and lost two of those matches in 2017-18. They've won four of them this season, with only the 1-2 loss at City seeing Liverpool drop points despite a paucity of shots.

This was also Liverpool's fifth 1-0 win of the season so far. Brighton (h), Huddersfield (a), Everton (h), Napoli (h), and Brighton (a). Liverpool had just one match finish with that score line last season: 1-0 Palace at Anfield way back in mid-August. All but the Everton match saw Liverpool score before the 50th minute, needing to hold onto a narrow lead if unable to extend their advantage.

And all but the Everton match saw Mohamed Salah score Liverpool's lone goal. Salah's now scored Liverpool's opening goal in ten matches so far this season – ten of his 17 goals in all competitions, and nine of his 14 in the Premier League. Liverpool have won all ten matches, four by a 1-0 score line, two by 2-0, two by 4-0, and one each at 3-0 and 4-1.

Liverpool have earned nine penalties so far this season, already more than last season's eight in all competitions. Salah's won four of them, including three of the last four since Boxing Day. Salah's scored four of them, including all three that he's won since Boxing Day.

So, yeah, just enough in attack. Once again. Unsurprisingly led by Mohamed Salah.

And then there's the other end of the pitch. Liverpool were fairly good at limiting opposition shots last season, with ten or fewer opposition shots in 28 of 38 league matches. They're on a similar pace this season, with ten or fewer opposition shots in 17 of 22 league matches this season. 73.7% of the league matches last season, 77.3% of league matches this season.

But then there's the quality of those opposition chances. Liverpool's xG per shot allowed last season was around 0.126, not only a bit frighteningly high, but also better than Liverpool's own xG per shot. This season Liverpool are allowing 0.098 xG per shot, below league average but also vastly lower than Liverpool's xG per shot taken, which is an egregiously high 0.142. Last season, Liverpool gave up 1.39 big chances per match. That average is 1.04 per match this season. And a whole lot fewer have been scored – just five so far this season. Compared to 25 through all of last season. 0.22 big chances scored per match versus 0.66 per match last season.

Liverpool had 16 clean sheets in the 2017-18 league campaign. They already have 13 this season.

We can parse this even further, more specific to Saturday's match.

The 1-0 match against Brighton could have been closer earlier this season. Could have finished very differently. Liverpool, fairly capably holding onto a 1-0 lead late on, still conceding a late clear-cut chance to Pascal Groß, thankfully saved by Alisson. Brighton didn't come close to getting a clear-cut chance on Saturday.

Brighton have scored 11 set play goals so far this season, which is joint-second in the league. They had just one set play shot against Liverpool: Andone from a free kick in the 89th minute, needing to try to control and turn, and ultimately shooting well wide.

Brighton didn't put a single shot on-target, the first time Liverpool's kept an opponent from at least one this season. It happened twice last season – the romps over Arsenal and Southampton at Anfield. It also happened twice in 2016-17, both matches against Southampton, both matches finishing in frustrating 0-0 draws.

Brighton, despite playing Murray, Locadia, and Andone – all 6'0" or taller – won just five aerial duels in Liverpool's half, and only two in the final third, both in the last two minutes of the match. Van Dijk, unsurprisingly, won seven of his eight aerial duels, but Fabinho was as impressive, at center-back for just the second time and winning all three of his three. The Brazilian also led Liverpool in both clearances and blocks.

So, Brighton, once again difficult to beat, as they were at Anfield back in August. A 1-0 win, for the second time against this opposition this season, after winning 5-1 and 4-0 last season.

But Brighton once again beaten. Liverpool once again victorious. Liverpool, continuing to do enough at both ends of the pitch, far more impressive at the end we haven't expected Liverpool to impress at.

And Liverpool, still atop the league, now by seven points for a least a few more hours.

04 January 2019

Visualized: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester City

Previous Match Infographics: Arsenal (h), 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. 

A goal post is, at most, five inches wide.

Sadio Mané's shot in the 18th minute hit just inside the middle of the goal post, bouncing away from goal, cleared by John Stones off Ederson's face. It was a simply wonderful counter-attack from that three – a one two from Salah and Firmino, the former sprinting away from the usually-everywhere Fernandinho, then releasing Mané past John Stones with a perfectly timed and weighted through ball – and if any move in the match "deserved" a goal, it was that.

Leroy Sane's shot in the 72nd minute hit inside the goal post, bouncing across Liverpool's goal line. It was Manchester City's at their most breakneck: Ederson to Danilo to a just-onside Sterling, running at the defense and waiting until Sané was perfectly between Alexander-Arnold and Mané, the former needing to track Agüero's run and the latter not able to catch up, the pass around Lovren and shot from a wide angle just before Alexander-Arnold could get back over.

I'd guess the difference between Mané's shot and Sane's shot is about an inch. A damned inch. And it's the difference between 1-0 within the first quarter of the match and 1-2 going into the last quarter of it.

And that wasn't even the smallest margin in yesterday's game.

1.12 centimeters.

That's the reported distance that the ricochet following Mané's shot off the post failed to clear City's goal line. The literal width of your pinkie finger.

This stupid game.

Make no mistake, Liverpool and Manchester City were that equal over 180 minutes this season.

Barely a hair's difference in both possession and shots. Over two matches, neither Liverpool nor City reached their average amount of shots in a "normal" Premier League match. Liverpool better with accuracy, shot location, and shot quality; City creating more clear-cut chances but failing to score on any of them, yet still scoring twice. Compared to Liverpool's one.

City seemingly were the better side defensively, over both matches, especially in midfield. City also had slightly more to do.

Bernardo Silva was everywhere yesterday, leading City in attempted tackles, interceptions, and distance run, while also registering the assist for Agüero's opener. Fernandinho barely less impressive, excellently tracking Salah and Firmino throughout the match. The center-backs doing *enough*, whether in blocks or fouls or clearances. Barely enough yesterday, but enough all the same. City with Laporte as a stand-in left back, yet still unable to threaten him, as they very much in last season's Champions League match at Anfield.

But Liverpool weren't bad either. Wijnaldum and Fabinho were excellent in Liverpool's midfield. Granted, one of them came on as a substitute, and led to a change in Liverpool's formation, and led to a change in Liverpool's fortunes, the side scoring seven minutes after his entrance. The Milner-Henderson-Wijnaldum midfield has started eight matches this season. Liverpool are unbeaten at home – 3W-1D – but have won just once away, at Leicester, while drawing with Chelsea and losing to Napoli and now City. Maybe Milner wasn't fully fit, and Henderson was – as is usually the case – better than most give him credit for – but it's been an issue more than just yesterday. And Liverpool's midfield wasn't City's midfield, even with David Silva similarly off-color.

Liverpool's full-backs impressed – Robertson and Alexander-Arnold's involvement in Liverpool's goal, fittingly combining for multiple passes in the sequence, demonstrated their importance to Liverpool's attack, especially in this formation. Robertson was also very, very good up against Sterling, even if he lost him for City's winner, Sterling beating Liverpool's usually outstanding offside trap. Van Dijk was typically imperious, and while Agüero found more joy when switching onto Lovren, the Croatian usually dealt with him reasonably competently. Even Lovren's actions on both goals – facing up Sané, trying to close Sterling's passing angle respectively – weren't *bad*. City's players were just better in the moment.

But Liverpool's front three had their moments as well, even in the restored 4-3-3 that maybe shouldn't have been restored. Those two clear-cut chances against a side that allows very few of them, those hard luck less-than-inches away on two occasions.

Liverpool got that bit of fortune when Mahrez missed a penalty in the match at Anfield, a match where both sides looked far less capable of scoring. City got it yesterday, with Mané and Sane's respective shots, with Ederson less than an inch from conceding an own goal thanks to Stones' clearance, even with Kompany staying on the pitch in the 31st minute after a wild two-footed tackle on Salah.

But Liverpool still have four more points through the season so far, and an arguably easier last 17 games, with only three top-six sides left to play and only one of those matches away from Anfield.

But it ain't the potential seven or ten points. Hay Liga. As if there was any doubt we'd have one.