Where are Liverpool at the moment? Did anyone truly believe that they are realistic title contenders? I suspect that if they did before this match, then they probably don’t anymore.
Yet as much as the result was disappointing, there were some crumbs of comfort to take from Liverpool’s performance.
The main positive for me was that the Reds largely restricted the Gunners’ creativity. Prior to this weekend’s matches, Arsenal had created more open play chances in the centre of the box (CBOs) than any other Premier League team (36), and had converted the highest proportion too (25%).
At home they have understandably been even more prolific creatively, averaging 4.75 CBOs per game. Yet Liverpool restricted them to just two, neither of which were converted.
The main problem for Liverpool was that they blunted themselves somewhat in the process, creating just one CBO when they had previously averaged 3.3 per game. As much as Brendan Rodgers’ team actually created more chances than their hosts on the night, with ten to Arsenal’s nine, seven of them occurred after the home side had a 2-0 lead (as the image below shows), and so could afford to let their guests have more of the ball.
The main plus point from Liverpool’s creativity point of view was the return to the chance creation fold of Phillippe Coutinho. In his first game back after injury, the young Brazilian fashioned two goalscoring opportunities in the second half (after he had replaced the woeful Aly Cissokho at the break), and he was on a run of 205 minutes without creating a chance in the league prior to this.
The most encouraging thing for the rest of the season was that Coutinho’s two chances went to Sturridge and Suárez (the latter via a through ball, which the Uruguayan usually thrives upon). This was the first time this season that the three players had appeared together, and even including last season they’ve only had 400 minutes on the pitch at the same time, so hopefully all three can remain fit and Coutinho can load the gun for the SaS many times in future.
It wasn’t a good match for Sturridge and Suárez as a partnership however. I noted on the pass combination heatmap page that this game saw the fewest passes between them so far this season (seven), and deeper investigation reveals that just one of these occurred after the 35th minute:
In fairness, it did create a goalscoring opportunity at a time when Liverpool were trying to get back into the game, but surely if they are playing as a partnership there needs to be more interaction than this?
Of course, without watching the game back I can’t say if there were actually any further opportunites for them to pass to each other, though Sturridge certainly thought there was when Suárez took a late shot instead of attempting to find his strike colleague.
The most disappointing thing for me, though it’s not a new development, was the lack of coordinated pressing from Liverpool, especially considering that Arsenal were always going to dominate possession.
Pressing is a hard thing to demonstrate statistically, but I think a look at where on the pitch interceptions and ball recoveries took place is a pretty good indicator:
We can see here that the Gunners lead the way with pressing higher up the pitch, when really it should’ve been the other way round. The home side made seven interceptions in Liverpool’s half, and five ball recoveries in the final third, compared to four and one respectively by the Reds.
I usually award a star man prize to Liverpool’s best performer on the night, but it’s difficult for this one as most players were okay but nothing more.
As Toure made the most tackles (6) plus two interceptions, I guess I’ll give it to him, but he also made a defensive error on the night too, so was far from flawless. Much like his team as a whole.
Recent and related posts you might like:
Newcastle 2 Liverpool 2: Stats Zone Analysis – Should Liverpool have done better against the ten men of Newcastle?
Liverpool’s Most Successful Formation Is… – …not the one you might think!
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.