Nerdy by Nature – Burnley v Liverpool

I sat here and stared at the screen for a while determining what to write here. I just don’t know. Sean Dyche is a warlock. For reference, see this thread on Twitter.

In the stats community, there is a term for this: getting Burnley’d. We got Burnley’d. They have a very specific style and it works. They may not winning titles, but they are going to be successful and in the league a long time doing exactly what they did to Liverpool with a staunch, organized defense in front of a goalkeeper who is making noise to be considered for the England keeper role.

Anyway, I am supposed to write about stats, so I guess here goes…

Curtis Jones – Jones looked like he belongs at this level in this game. In my opinion, he could have arguably been the man of the match. He was a great attacking midfielder against Burnley. He was 68/73 passing and was able to keep the ball moving and get the ball where it needed to go regularly. He was second in the team with 10 progressive passes, had seven passes into the final third, and had one shot and one goal-creating action each. In addition, he completed 14 pressing actions with a 36% success rate. If one is going to make it in a Klopp midfield, he better be an active presser – and Jones showed that this is something he can do as part of his game. I do not want to get too far in my praise of Jones, but it is awfully exciting having a player with this level of talent coming up from the academy. I am not giving him the Trent Alexander-Arnold stamp of approval yet, but if he keeps playing like this and improving, he may be that good. Jones also added 0.6xG – which means he was active in front of the net as well. Oh and he completed both of his dribbles. Keep it up!

Virgil Van Dijk – He did not do anything in this game which he does not do regularly. But as I looked back, I noticed I haven’t singled him out even once recently, so it was time to do so. Let us look at his game from a numbers standpoint: Virgil was 80% (4/5) on his aerial duels. I am intentionally starting with the part of his game that was weakest – losing an aerial duel is rare, but this is Burnley, where there are different rules.  Can Dyke added 18 loose ball recoveries, leading all players in the game. He led the team with 10 clearances. Burnley only had one player with more, which is impressive considering how much of the game was played in Burnley’s third. The one place I want to spotlight (and have readers watch) is his long-ball accuracy. Against Burnley, Van Dijk completed 29 long balls. This is a primary place for the offense to start:  when teams decide to put pressure on our midfield, he is able to go literally over their heads. Recall the pass for the goal Sadio Mane scored against Bayern in last year’s UCL – Virgil does this regularly and with aplomb. He also had two interceptions and was generally his typical imperious self.

Andy Robertson – How did you like that header? That was insane. He was good everywhere, but that header is the reason he’s here. He not only hit it perfectly, but it was the perfect run, with the perfect placement for the perfect hit. It was a gorgeous goal.

Mohamed Salah – when you play Burnley, the way they win is to make sure actual opponent’s goals scored are much lower than the opponent’s xG (Ed:  with an organized defense, throwing their bodies around to block shots, and even some spectacular goalkeeping). What that means is the opposing team’s best players tend to struggle. This is exactly what we saw here: Salah accrued a 0.8xG throughout the game, which is generally excellent. He was worth a goal value throughout the game. However, Nick Pope played an outstanding game. Liverpool’s expected goals were 2.8; Pope and the Burnley defense gave up ONE. This is largely due to stops like the saves Pope made on Salah. Salah took six shots, four of which were on target. Arguably the one that caused the most consternation was the one he took at 93’. Given a beautiful cross by Trent Alexander-Arnold, he somewhat wasted it with a very weak shot that went straight to Pope, and the game was killed off. While his shot had a low xG, this is the kind of goal we have seen him make regularly. The problem is that against Burnley it fell on his weaker right foot. Even though he had a second to take a touch, it would have been very difficult to move it to his left foot and take the shot. Had that come in from Robbo and landed on his left foot, we would probably be discussing a 2-1 win in my opinion. But alas, it did not go in, and that’s how you get Burnley’d.

What did you think? Comment below!