Reversion to the Mean

[Bournemouth 0 – 4 Liverpool].

I did not see this coming.

At all.

To me, this was the kind of game that had 1-0 written all over it, and those kinds of games can often go either way (unless you’re Jose Mourinho). The conditions were awful, and that always works against more creative teams like Liverpool. The home team is in form, well organized, and showing the sort of determination that keeps smaller teams from being relegated. The first half unfolded exactly as I expected it to, and there isn’t much to write about it.

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Then came the second.

I admit that I sometimes don’t give Klopp enough credit for his tactical prowess, but there’s a good reason why Liverpool tends to score later in games. What happens in that dressing room at half-time must play a big part. Needless to say, it showed almost immediately as the players shuffled around a bit and changed style slightly. The first goal still needed a moment of pure team inspiration, with brilliant, flowing one-touch football to place Nunez in the kind of position he finds himself in fairly often. Thus far this season he’s been missing them often, too, which has created a ridiculous disparity between his expected goals (xG) and actual ones scored.

POST MATCH: Liverpool 4 Bournemouth 0

The thing with stats, though, is that while they will often lie in the short term or with a small sample, over time they will align themselves with reality. Darwin Nunez is as talented a forward as Liverpool has ever had in his age category. Yes, he still needs to work on his composure; that work is already showing this season over the last one, his assists in moments that last season would have wasted opportunities providing strong, silent testimony. He has, as Klopp says, been phenomenally unlucky in finishing.

That’s where the statistical reversion to the mean comes into play.

Just take another gander at his two fabulous one-touch strikes today. They were not easy. They required presence, concentration, composure, and technique. Neto, in the Cherries’ goal, is no slouch, and the windy, rainy conditions surely didn’t help. This time, though, instead of hitting the wrong side of the post as has happened to Nunez repeatedly, the balls gracefully kissed the inside of the post and found the net. Neither strike was powerful. They were extremely precise. They both needed a bit of luck to go in.

The stats have a long way to go still before they catch up, so to speak.

It may be quite the wild card for the rest of the season.

Diogo Jota, on the other hand, proved again that he deserves the title of world-class poacher, one of the best in the business. His first goal was sublime. His second, coming off his own flub and then converted in artistic fashion (goal and assist in one move?), should have a new Fifa skill move called after it. I propose “The Jotaeu”. He found time to assist as well. Give the man a split second alone with the ball in the box, and something delightful is bound to happen.

I’m pretty sure most pundits will award him the man-of-the-match, because two goals and an assist are, uhh, pretty good. I’m going to go another way, though. Alexis Mac Allister was beyond merely tidy, serving as both a brilliant relief valve as well as a wind-up instrument for the Reds’ transition play. He was everywhere, especially when the Cherries were going or trying to fire up their engine again after it sputtered. Like Nunez, he has taken a bit of time to show his quality in this side, but he is turning out just nicely, thank you very much.

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A good word for Conor Bradley, who had an immense showing for his premier league opening debut. He will suffer from unfair comparisons to Trent Alexander-Arnold, a generational talent, but the performance he gave today was worthy of much more experienced fullbacks, especially as he was given the unenviable task of taking on Bournemouth’s arguably best player, Sinisterra. To the youngster’s credit, he doesn’t give quarter to anyone. It was lovely to see from him.

An emphatic and crucial win in a tricky outing that looked headed for a nervy outcome after 45 minutes. The next stretch of games is a tough one, but considering how poorly Liverpool has fared through January in recent years, we can and should celebrate clinching – and keeping – the top spot for now.

Or, as the commentator put it in one particularly amusing moment…

Let’s keep Klopp well-aerated.

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