Where to start with a result and performance like that? Fortunately there’s so many good stats to get our teeth into, that this should virtually write itself.
One of Liverpool’s main attacking issues this season has been their lack of Opta-defined clear-cut chances, which (if you’re new around here) are classed as opportunities that can be described like this:
A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range.
Across their opening twelve league games of 2015/16, the Reds had just thirteen of these golden opportunities. Firmino and Moreno were the only players to have created more than one, and even then they only had a pair each to their names.
By half time at the Etihad, Coutinho had created two clear-cut chances for Firmino, and the former Hoffenheim man had returned the favour to his countryman once as well. Two more followed in the second half, as Can set up Firmino and Ibe played in Benteke, and so at full time Liverpool had become only the fifth away team in the 128 Premier League matches so far this season to have five clear cut chances, and only the second (after Leicester at Southampton) to create all five via their own passing, and not having to rely on penalties, opposition errors or rebounds.
Had Joe Hart not saved three of these great opportunities, the score might easily have been a once in a blue moon (with the pun very much intended) level hammering.
Before the match, I noted that Liverpool’s top combination for creating chances this season was Benteke and Coutinho, who had laid on eleven opportunities in total for each other. However, Coutinho and Firmino created five chances in this match alone (and from just fourteen non-kick off passes to boot) to take their season tally to twelve.
There are obviously a multitude of ways and means to create chances, but one pleasing aspect of this match was the number of opportunities that came via through balls; three. It may not sound like that many, but the Reds had only generated four chances in the league via this route previously this season, so three in one match is very impressive. Bear in mind too that eight teams in the division have yet to better this tally in total in 2015/16, and Liverpool’s season total of seven has moved them up to fifth in the Premier League rankings for through ball chances.
The other really notable attacking stat is the number of shots on target that the Reds had. Liverpool tested Joe Hart nine times, and in doing so this game became the fifteenth league away game since August 2008 (out of 140 in total) where they had at least nine on target efforts.
For some 2015/16 context, Liverpool became the ninth away team to have at least nine shots on target in the top flight this season, but only the second to do so at the home of one of last season’s top four (alongside Swansea who had ten at Chelsea on the opening day). It is also the most that any team has managed against Manchester City this season, whose opponents have only averaged 2.3 per match (which was the fewest in the league before this weekend).
As impressive as the attacking was, the defence deserves a lot of credit too. For whatever reason, Liverpool have never been a team who intercept a lot of opposition passes, and that’s no matter who the manager has been over the last few years. Despite only averaging fifteen per game this season (the sixth lowest amount in the division), the Reds made a whopping thirty-nine interceptions in this match.
Perhaps even more impressive and important were the cross blocking stats. Manchester City had created the most chances from crosses in the Premier League this season prior to this weekend, and Liverpool had only blocked 2.1 per game. Yet in this match the Reds upped their game to block seven City crosses (with Clyne the particular star here with three), and this helped to ensure that Kolarov and De Bruyne only found a team mate with three of their total of twenty-eight crosses, and even then they were all from set plays where blocking is not an option.
In terms of man of the match, I’d go for Roberto Firmino. The summer signing was involved in all four of Liverpool’s clear-cut chances that occurred whilst he was on the pitch (creating one and having the shot for the other three), and he also ‘assisted’ the opening own goal. The Brazilian also had as many shots in the box (five) as the whole City team did in total, and he’s certainly starting to show the form that we all hoped he would.
The big seven mini league makes good reading for Liverpool at the moment, not least as they have played all six aways, and none at home when every other side has had at least two.
Liverpool now just need to bring their remarkable away form back to Anfield. Easy this management lark, eh?
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