Liverpool dropped points for the second time in a week – only the second time all season that they’ve dropped points twice in a row – as they drew 1-1 at the London Stadium against a spirited West Ham side. But what were the key stats as the Reds found themselves losing ground in what looks to be an increasingly tight title race?
Super Sadio Steals The Show (Again)
Sadio Mané found himself the man of the moment for Liverpool for the third game in a row as he scored a decisive goal for the third game running. Following the winner against Palace, he’s now netted twice in consecutive 1-1 draws, and whilst dropping points is frustrating, Liverpool could well look back over a two game spell in which they have not played well and say that that’s two points that could prove critical in May, and that’s thanks to Sadio.
It was an all-round decent performance from Sadio, as his defensive contribution was solid (3/3 on tackles) and he looked to be the only bright spark in our attack, but ultimately, his main contribution to this side is his goals, 11 of them now for the season, taking him above his tally from last season already. With Firmino looking off-form, and Salah not really in the last two games, Sadio’s form has been huge.
Milner Steps Up To Allay Fears
This might be a controversial take, but James Milner was actually kind of good? At right-back? Largely?
Not only was he by an absolute mile the Reds’ most creative player from right-back, with five key passes, 0.77 xA, and an assist, he was also pretty solid defensively considering the quality of Felipe Anderson, making 4/4 tackles, not getting dribbled and also making a crucial block.
Look Milner at right-back is not ideal, and it’s had very mixed results so far this season, but he simply wasn’t a key reason that the Reds dropped points in this game, and if anything he contributed more positively to the result than anyone who wasn’t called Sadio Mané.
Set Piece Issues Plague LFC’s Defence
If there’s a genuine source of Liverpool’s crisis, it’s starting to look like set-piece defending is becoming a real issue. Liverpool have conceded fifteen goals this season. Seven of those were in the first nineteen games of the season, and eight in the last six games.
However, within that narrative, the set-piece sub-narrative steps in. Liverpool have conceded five goals from set pieces in this season – three in the last three games and two in the previous 22. That’s a big worry. In this game, West Ham had seven shots inside the box – and four of those came from corners or free-kicks, with over half of West Ham’s xG (0.41 of 0.79) coming from set plays. Issues are clearly developing in that department, and Liverpool have some big questions to answer.
What’s causing the defensive issues in this Liverpool team? Is it injuries? That can’t be helping, as Matip has struggled in for Gomez and our right-back situation has been chaotic. The lack of structure and control in the midfield has hurt us too, and niggling injuries to Gini, Hendo and Fab have caused issues. And is the dreaded pressure playing a part? Well quite possibly, but there are lots of things to factor in. Liverpool usually have a sticky patch around this time every year, the key is to come out the other side still in the hunt, which at the moment they still are.