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.

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