Nerdy by Nature – Trophy Day

What a fun game. Everyone was hyped up beyond imagination. Our club, our boys, our heroes were going to lift the trophy we all wanted for 30 years. This was going to be amazing. But before that, we had the small task of sending a Frank Lampard Chelsea team home. And what an entertaining game both teams provided before we got to the moment we all waited for.

Anyway, let’s dig in to the numbers shall we?

Overall

First off, let’s look at the xG for the game. If you know anything about xG, it will show you the value of the shots you’re taking versus how likely it is to be a goal. So, when you have goals like Trent Alexander-Arnold’s and Naby Keita’s, your xG is going to be low because those are low percentage shots that were magnificently struck. I would love to argue that at this point, any free kick TAA takes from there should be a 50% chance because he is so damn good. In general, the xG values of Chelsea’s 2.4 vs Liverpool’s 1.4 seem to indicate that LFC got outplayed… however when we look at the numbers, we see that while they did get outplayed in the boxes, the five goals were extremely well-taken.

Standouts
Trent Alexander-Arnold. To me, he was the Man of the Match. Primarily because of his play going forward. His goal was sublime yet also… mundane. Why? This is the second time since the restart that we have seen that exact same goal – and we have seen it previously as well. He is making exquisite free kicks look mundane. Just think about that – a 20-year-old is boring us with his special play. Top it off with the assist on the Roberto Firmino goal – what a pass! That had about a half an inch window from 30 yards, and Trent put it on a postage stamp. He was worth 0.3 combined xG+A in this game, and finished with a goal and assist. I want to point out the stark difference (0.3 expected vs 2) is because he made very low probability chances succeed. That is massive. In addition to his contributions to the scoreline, Trent was successful on 50% of his ten pressures, was 2/2 on tackles, and led the team with 11 progressive passes in the game.

Naby Keita. Y’all are probably sick of me putting him in here, but the data just keeps showing why Keita is so good. He was everywhere again during this game. What is so special about him is that he is two midfielders in one:  he can both be an attacking midfielder and a midfield destroyer. First, his passing:  Keita completed 88% of his passes without attempting a single pass less than five yards – which means he was pushing the ball up field and still being very accurate. In addition, he scored a thunderous goal – an absolute worldie that was fired in with incredible power – while completing 2/2 dribbles. These stats clearly demonstrate his abilities as an attacking midfielder.

Now, as a defensive midfielder: Keita led the team with 16 pressures, of which 50% were successful. He also won 2/2 tackles and made an interception. He did struggled slightly against dribbles, stopping only one of four take-ons, but this was his one weakness. Overall, Keita was excellent in the game, and had Trent not done what he had, I would have named Naby as the MOTM.

Strugglers
Joe Gomez. Joe was OK before the 58th minute – not great but decent. However, when Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham came on, things got a bit dicey. In 32 minutes, Pulisic was able to get a goal, an assist, deliver three shots on target, create two shot-creating actions and two goal-creating actions. As he was attacking down their center-left channel, almost all of this was against Gomez. Gomez struggled massively with Pulisic’s pace. When someone like that comes on, often Trent has to come back to help, which causes a shift in the focal points of the offense. While Liverpool are very blessed to have Andy Robertson down the other wing, losing Trent going forward is not ideal. Gomez did outshine Pulisic in some ways, namely by going 3/3 on aerial duels – though that is to be expected against a shorter and weaker Pulisic. Unfortunately, when it came to speed, Pulisic kept turning Gomez inside out. This is an area of his game he has to work on – or Liverpool need a replacement for.

Alisson. He was left out to dry several times by a shaky defense that we have not witnessed in a long time. Alisson struggled in distribution as well as positioning.  When we look at distribution this season, he averages 75% completion for long passes (passes 25+ yards) yet was accurate on only 60% in this game.  To be clear, many goalies in the world would kill for a 60% accuracy on long passes, but we are complaining – only because Alisson is world class and had merely a “good” game regrading distribution.  On “launched” passes (passes of >40 yards), he was 42% while averaging over 50% for the season (spoiler:  >50% launched pass accuracy is insanely good – stay tuned when I discuss more about this in the Nerdy by Numbers season in review).

Regarding his GK play, on the Pulisic goal, he really had enough time to get into a better position.  The Giroud goal was bad luck – that he even stopped the initial shot was excellent, but the luck of the ball coming back into the field of play instead of going out of bounds was rough. Alison has had better games, but he was by no means weak – if you want to see a crap goalie, just go to the other side of the field – Kepa sucked. But this game will not go in Alisson’s career highlights.

Let me know what you think. Of course, none of this mattered because of the most important number from this game:

ONE (1). NUMBER OF TROPHIES LIFTED BY LIVERPOOL TONIGHT!

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