Nerdy by Nature – Brighton v Liverpool
This was a very interesting game. Liverpool came flying out of the gates, then chilled out for about 75 minutes, then finished the game strongly. I cannot tell if this is a sign of their maturity or was it a glimpse into some of the complacency that has snuck into the game after winning the title. Either way, three points is three points and that is all that matters. Let us take a peek into the numbers….
Mohamed Salah – sometimes I like digging into the numbers to show you a player that didn’t score or get a bunch of assists but the numbers show they had a great game. This was not that. Salah ended the game with two goals and an assist… and could have had more. I believe he could have had another assist and another goal – he was everywhere. Let us look at the numbers: in addition to the two goals and assist, he also was a great playmaker. He had five actions creating shots and one goal-creating action. Salah was helping guys get into scoring positions. Once he got that 2nd goal, the entire team had decided he was the target, so all passing essentially stopped immediately! Until then, he was a very important part of the fluid front three, getting others involved and trying to get the ball to guys in the box.
Naby Keita – this wonderful man was excellent once again. His contribution in the midfield was huge. While he will be credited with one assist, he was vital in the second goal as well. He had 17 pressing actions, and while only being successful 23.5% of the time (which is low), his pressing did lead to two of the three LFC goals. For the first goal, he pressed the defender and took the ball from him, feeding it to Salah for the goal. For the second goal, his press was what led to the pass downfield to Salah before he passed it to Jordan Henderson for the fantastic goal from the skipper. He also led the team with four key passes. Like Salah, Keita had five shot-creating actions. He also was successful on all four of his dribbles, really helping progress play during that phase when they played well. He accomplished all of this in 60 minutes.
Roberto Firmino – Be prepared: the Nerdy by Nature column will use stats to tout Firmino regularly. The reason is because *he is the system.* Rival fans will whine “hE dOeSnT ScOrE gOaLs hE SuCkS,” but Firmino is everywhere on the pitch. Against Brighton, he led the team in pressing again with 13 pressing actions, eight of which were successful. Pressing successfully at a 61% clip is not something you expect from anyone, much less a forward, but yet that is exactly where Firmino is. His pressing is always such a huge point for the offense to spring forward from. He pitched in with a couple tackles and had 0.3 xG, and could have had a goal but for his unselfishness on that first goal. He could have struck the ball; instead he let it go through to Salah and in the process confused Mat Ryan, which gave Salah an even better chance at the goal. Firmino is the system in every way even when he’s not scoring. Take a look at his heat map, below – he is everywhere across the front, but he is even present in the back of midfield. I repeat: Firmno is everywhere.
Andy Robertson – Andy too was everywhere in the second half. He was the guy with the assist for Salah’s second/Liverpool’s third goal. Remember as I run through some of his statistics that he only played 45 minutes. He – as a playmaking left back – was 86% successful on his passing. Trent averages 72% which is decent as a playmaking fullback; 86% is insanely good. Robbo also chipped in with an assist, had four key passes, and completed six shot-creating actions. Six is pretty decent in a game, but he achieved that number in one half! Robbo also had 12 progressive passes (moving the ball forward by more than 10 yards more than it had been in the last 6 passes). In short, he was a super star.
Neco Williams – I debated putting him in here because he only played 45 minutes, and he was on his fist Premier League start with only a handful of appearances. But I call it like i see it. He was getting burned regularly by the opposing right back Tariq Lamptey. Lamptey had a fantastic first half against Neco, and claimed the assist on Brighton’s goal. Neco had a yellow card, only was successful in 69% of his passes, did not successfully complete his one dribble attempt, and only had two progressive passes in the first half (compare that to his replacement Robertson, who had 12 in the same number of minutes). Now, let me be clear: Williams is a kid. This was not a completely terrible game. With the five-subs rule for Project Restart, Klopp can afford to throw him on for 45 minutes, allowing him to gain some valuable experience, which is hopefully what we saw here.
What do y’all think? Leave your comments below.