08 April 2019

Visualized: Liverpool 3-1 Southampton

Previous Match Infographics: Tottenham (h), Fulham (a), Bayern Munich (a), Burnley (h), Everton (a), Watford (h), Manchester United (a), Bayern Munich (h), Bournemouth (h) West Ham (a), Leicester (h), Crystal Palace (h), Brighton (a), 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 can talk about comeback wins again.

There was the draw at Chelsea, but since then we've had Burnley (a), Arsenal (h), Palace (h), Burnley (h), and now Southampton (a). The only Premier League match that Liverpool trailed in and failed to take points from was the 1-2 loss at City, where Liverpool hauled themselves back level only to succumb to Sane's 72nd-minute strike.

We can talk about late goals and late wins again. Everton, United, and that Chelsea draw earlier in the season, and now three in a row with the winner coming after the 80th minute. Scoring when it matters most, in the matches where it matters most. It ain't great for the heart but it's sure great for the overwhelming euphoria when we finally get to full time.

Of course, we had to get to needing to come back and needing to win late, so we can also talk about Salah's struggles until scoring, the midfield issues in the first half – don't rewatch how Højbjerg's tracked on Southampton's opener – or how Liverpool have now failed to keep a clean sheet in five successive matches, the longest stretch without one since December 2018 - January 2019.

But Salah did score; the midfield –  a trio which hadn't started together since 3-0 Bournemouth in February – improved as the match went on, especially after Henderson replaced Wijnaldum; and Liverpool only conceded the one despite threatening more in the rickety opening half hour.

So we can talk about other things.

Like how Liverpool's full-backs have a combined 16 league assists so far. Which is tied with Cardiff and five more than Huddersfield has. The entire team. In the entire campaign.

Liverpool most certainly have not gotten this level of production from full-back in recent seasons.

Robertson's nine assists so far this season – with two more in the Champions League – would be more than all of Liverpool's full-backs totaled in 12 of the previous 14 seasons, all except 2004-05 and 2006-07. But the opposition can't just focus on his deliveries, because you've got Alexander-Arnold on the other side of the pitch.

The production from those two has also meant a lot more goals from crosses than we're used to.

By my count, we've seen 26 goals coming from crosses. Granted, this is using the loosest definition of crossing. We're counting Alderweireld's own goal against Tottenham, Alexander-Arnold's cross leading to Salah's shot saved. We're counting Mané's goal on opening day against West Ham, where Milner kept in a cross at the back post and laid off for Mané. We're counting both high crosses and low crosses, as long as the low cross isn't more of a close-range pass, and both open play and set play.

Here's the list.

And here's the spreadsheet, with some more detailed notes.

18 of 26 led to goals directly from the cross. 14 goals came from open play, 12 from set plays. 12 crosses led to headed goals, nine to left-footed goals, and five to right-footed goals. 21 came from high crosses, five from low crosses, but the subjectivity means we probably could have counted a couple more goals as coming from low crosses – goals like Henderson's at Southampton on Friday.

13 of the 26 have led to Liverpool's opening goal. Liverpool went on to win 12 of those 13 matches, the 1-1 draw with West Ham two months ago the only exception.

But only four different players have an assist from crosses: Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Milner, and Salah. Salah's only came from a corner, as did two of Milner's four, with the others a cross and the aforementioned back-post lay off.

Crossing is also a strategy we've complained about it, in previous seasons and earlier this season. Because it is a strategy often employed by the weak – Tony Pulis' Stoke, Sam Allardyce's whomever. Get it in the mixer and let the big bodies do the work. Low risk, high reward, and agricultural as all get out.

Which is obviously not how Liverpool treat crosses.

Liverpool's crossing style is varied, Liverpool's targets for crosses are varied, but the output comes almost solely from two players, especially when in open play. And they're Liverpool's full-backs.

Most importantly. Yes, we've seen goals against Bayern, Tottenham, and Arsenal, but the vast majority of these have come against Watford and West Ham and Newcastle and the like. Sides that sit deep, sides that defend, sides that Liverpool have to break down. This is the way that Liverpool have tried to rectify the failings of previous seasons. The brick wall bus parkers. The frustration. The inability to cut through an opponent when there are few opportunities to press or to counter.

It is not always easy to watch, and has become harder as the season's gone on. The draining season becomes more evident when watching the ever-presents. Liverpool concede cheap goals more often, even if it's thankfully not all that often. Games narrow, results stay in the balance for the duration.

But Liverpool somehow survive and somehow advance.

It's a strategy that's working. The league table is evidence enough of that.

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