Having enjoyed watching Liverpool’s match at St James Park, I felt afterwards that the Reds had played reasonably well, albeit it was something of a missed opportunity not to win having faced only ten men for half of the game.
I was therefore surprised to log on to a Twitter timeline full of very strong criticism for the performance. I know I can be guilty of over-relying on the stats to assess how Liverpool play, but the numbers certainly demonstrate that Brendan Rodgers’ team did quite a bit right.
In the first half, the shot tally was pretty equal, with the Geordies shading it nine to seven (excluding Liverpool’s penalty) What matters most though are shots in the box, and the Reds lead this by six to nil in the first forty-five minutes:
Unfortunately for Liverpool, Cabaye was able to score with a shot that started outside of the above picture, never mind the penalty box! I keep fluctuating between blaming and pitying Mignolet for the goal, but it’s certainly fair to say he probably didn’t have the best view of it, and that’s before it swerved away from him and towards the corner.
We can see in the image on the left that Cabaye received the ball when only just inside the Liverpool half. Prior to this weekend, just five of the ninety-nine chances that have been created outside of the final third were scored in the Premier League this season, illustrating how rare it is to pick up the ball in an area such as this and be able to score.
Yet the formerly want-away Frenchman did exactly that, and left Liverpool to try to get their way back into the match.
The Reds were able to do that just before half time, as Steven Gerrard scored his 100th Premier League goal from the penalty spot. The Liverpool skipper now has eight goals against Newcastle, meaning that he is only scored more against Aston Villa. More on him later…
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was sent off as a result of giving away the penalty, leaving with the Reds around fifty minutes to break down the Geordies. It’s something of a cliché, but I think this was a match where facing ten men hindered Liverpool, rather than helped them.
Newcastle have been giving away a lot of shots and goals this season, and at home they would normally be expected to open up and attack. But with a point to protect, and then two more once they had taken the lead, the Magpies were happy to defend in numbers to try to see the match out, as this screen shot illustrates well:
Liverpool have the ball about thirty five yards from goal, and eight of Newcastle’s nine out-fielders are behind the ball, including the back four who are very close together in the area in order to deny the Reds any space. Liverpool had more than enough of the ball in the second half (by completing more passes in the opening seven minutes than Newcastle did in the whole of the second period), but were unable to create many goalscoring opportunities in the best areas.
Although Liverpool created twelve open play chances in the second half, compared to just four in the opening forty-five minutes, seven of them were outside the penalty area, which demonstrates how well the Geordies were keeping Rodgers’ men at bay.
The Reds attempted a very high twelve through balls during the match but only completed three; they may have had more joy going wide to stretch the defence more. The second equaliser was an example of the benefits of going a little wider, and Cissokho created his first chance of the season from a similar place, only for Suárez to strike the bar.
Liverpool had to settle for a point, and whilst they are still two points up on last season’s corresponding fixtures overall, this definitely felt like a ‘what might have been’ match. Newcastle deserve a lot of credit though, as they defended very well once they were reduced to ten men, and so were good value for their point.
My Stats Zone Star Man for the Reds this week is Steven Gerrard; for Liverpool the skipper attempted (99) and completed (90) the most passes overall, the most passes in the final third (finding a colleague with 39 out of his total of 45), created the most chances (six) and made the most tackles (4). He also set new records for 2013/14 pass combinations too, so is fully deserving of the accolade this week.
Recent and related posts you might like:
Liverpool’s Most Successful Formation Is… – …not the one you might think!
Tipping Point? – If Liverpool defeat Newcastle, then Rodgers might have the plane high enough…
Second Half Slump? Controlling The Result – Although Liverpool have had some poor second halves in 2013/14, they’ve had better control than you might think…
LFC Pass Combination Heatmaps 2013/14 – A look at which players have been most involved pass-wise, and who they’ve linked up with in every league match this season.