By the Numbers – Merseyside Derby

After waiting over 100 days for a game to be played by our beloved Reds, we were treated to a relatively dull 0-0 outing. Sometimes you can get a really fun 0-0 draw, but this wasn’t it.  We’ve seen worse, but we have definitely seen better.

Across our site you will see other articles discussing the game; but I intend to put the game under a microscope and look at the numbers to see who the standout performers were – and who struggled.

Overview

Everton won the game on xG – 1.4 to 0.9. The eye test would confirm those numbers. The two best chances Liverpool had were both not great opportunities:  Joel Matip’s poor header from a corner, and Takumi Minimino’s great shot that was blocked in the 1st half were the closest Liverpool got to a goal all game. A big part of why Liverpool only tallied a 0.9 xG for the game has to do with Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti is a big game manager having won three Champions Leagues. He has managed several league title winners, not to mention he has coached and even played in some of the sport’s biggest games. Ancelotti knows what he’s doing. By setting up a 4-4-2 formation, he ensured that the wide areas were very well defended with Everton’s wide midfielders shielding and providing additional cover for their fullbacks. Much of Liverpool’s attacking buildup comes through their super star fullbacks, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. While Robertson was unavailable, the game still went through Trent and they did a great job defending the wings. As well, they set up to counter attack meaning there were very few of the hallmark mad sprints we’ve seen in the past with Firmino and Mane running full speed at another team while they panic. Ancelotti had set up the team to avoid that.

On the defensive side, Liverpool held Everton to very little until the end. Liverpool did what they always do: possessed the ball so that Everton had few chances, and pressed high without possession to force turnovers, poor play, or disjointed progressions. Then Joel Matip got hurt and Dejan Lovren came in. I know he is a scapegoat for many, but looking at the numbers this opinion is rather justified. In 75 minutes, Everton had accumulated 0.3 xG – after Lovren’s introduction this stat skyrocketed. Of the 1.4 xG that Everton tallied, they accumulated 1.1 xG after Lovren’s entrance.

To be fair, it isn’t all Lovren’s fault. The subs all game were definitely questionable. One can make a case the team got progressively worse with each substitution. Two were injury-related, but the other three didn’t help. However, that’s still a lot of xG to ignore.

Standouts

Takumi Minamino – As the newest member of the Reds, I think all of us want him to hit the ground running and be super successful. It has been fits and starts but that’s mostly due to the shutdown mandated by the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic. But in his first game after the pandemic, he was a standout. He took the best shot of the game for Liverpool (at least from an xG standpoint). He moved into the channels well, he received the ball and moved it well, and he pressed well. He had 13 pressing actions in the first half, the most of any player, and despite being subbed off at the half he ended the game with the third most pressures. While he is arguably not in the team for his passing, this too was excellent. He only misplayed two of his 15 passes and was deadly accurate with long balls. Finally, he chipped in with two tackles. That’s not something you expect from your right winger, but it was all part of a very good job he did during that first half.

Naby Keita – We got a glimpse of the Naby Keita whom we thought we were getting from Leipzig when he was purchased a summer ago. When he is at his best, Keita is like having a defensive midfielder and an attacking midfielder all wrapped in one – and he was everywhere this game. In terms of passing, he was 38/42 (90.5%) which is excellent for a midfielder. For passes between five and 20 yards, a great metric to see how he progresses the ball forward, he was 34/35. He missed one pass that was helpful to move the ball forward. This stat is incredible – it’s simply being perfect moving the ball forward. He also put 10 of his balls into the final third – tied for most in the game even though he only played 64 minutes. Finally, he put two balls into the penalty area – again tied for most in the game. In addition, he was second in the team with 14 pressures. Naby was everywhere and if this is who we will get more of in the future, the future is very bright for him.

Strugglers

Trent Alexander Arnold – to be clear, he has very high standards – but by those standards, he struggled mightily. The offense went through him, as it regularly does. He touched the ball 107 times, the most of any LFC player by almost 20 touches. He completed 71% of his passes – about his season average. In addition, he created four shot creation opportunities – again, about his season average. However, where he really struggled was that the balls he did play were not very incisive. He didn’t create any goal scoring opportunities. As proof, he only had one pass into the penalty box, an area he really excels in. Ancelloti’s system was intended to slow him down, and it did its job.

Dejan Lovren – we’ve discussed him already. He was mistake-prone and did not show his quality.  But he is the fourth-choice CB, so we shouldn’t expect Virgil-level play.

As always, I am a nerd by nature so I love the stats – and to me, the stats tell a story of why the club drew in the Merseyside derby. If you have questions or disagree, post in the comments, let’s talk!

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