Liverpool’s Premier League campaign continues to rumble on, as Liverpool comfortably beat Cardiff 2-0, with Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner scoring the decisive second-half goals. But what were the key stats from a tricky, sticky away win for the Reds?
Keita Runs The Show
Naby Keita has made himself undroppable for Jürgen Klopp, and he justified his presence on the pitch once again in this game with a complete performance. On top of making 5/6 tackles, the most of any player by a comfortable margin, he also completed the joint most dribbles for Liverpool with two, made two key passes and 0.60 xG Build.
Whilst he didn’t necessarily make the clinical, critical impact on this game, unlike fellow midfielders Wijnaldum and Milner, this game was another example that Keita is a key part of Liverpool having a multi-faceted, progressive midfield.
A Tale of Two Full-Backs
Liverpool’s full-backs are less important to their attacking play now that Keita and Henderson are being given license to make things happen, but this was nevertheless an interesting game for the full-backs. Robertson was excellent defensively, making 2/3 tackles and making a crucial early block, as well as doing enough to stop Morrison getting a clean header early in the second half, but offensively he was poor, with no key passes or shots and just 1/4 on his crosses.
On the other hand, Trent struggled defensively, getting dribbled three times out of four, and struggling to deal with Mendez-Laing, but on the other hand, he was able to produce in the final third with 5/10 crosses, 5 key passes, and 0.31 expected assists, producing the clever pass that resulted in Gini’s goal. Trent now has eight league assists, back to within one of Robbo.
Aerial Supremacy Critical
Before the game, I highlighted that Niasse was unlikely to get much change off VVD or Matip in the air and would need to find another way to beat them in order to get his team-mates in the game. And that proved to be true as Matip won 5/8 and VVD 11/14 of their aerial battles. Unfortunately, Niasse, who was 3/13 for his aerials, was unable to find a way on the ground either, making just THREE accurate passes in 67 minutes, one of which was from kick-off, and managing just one shot, his decent overhead attempt that Alisson tipped over.
Set-Pieces Make The Difference
I’ve highlighted set-pieces before, but this was another clear example of Liverpool making the most of their set-piece opportunities. They’ve now scored 20 goals from corners or free-kicks in the Premier League, seven more than their nearest contenders, a raft of teams on 13. The Reds have only conceded 7 in reply, giving them a net set-piece goal difference of 13, the best in the league. Gini’s goal was vital in this game, a cleverly worked corner routine, and Milner scored the Reds’ seventh penalty of the season, with Milly now 3/3 from the spot this season, matching Mo Salah.
However, things could have been different, as Cardiff’s Sean Morrison had a huge chance from a corner, worth 0.68 of Cardiff’s 1.12 xG (although Gini Wijnaldum claims the ref would have chalked it off had Morrison turned it in). Nevertheless, the Reds had to survive a bit of a barrage from set-pieces, as Cardiff created absolutely nothing from open play.