Goals change narratives
There was never going to be an ideal time to pause football but doing so after a loss was always going to be torturous. Liverpool’s last outing was a 3-2 loss to Atletico Madrid. There’s no shame in losing to a team managed by Diego Simeone, even if they aren’t in the best form. The Argentine tactician has masterminded some famous victories during his time with Atleti. It isn’t necessarily the prettiest football but it is successful, sort of.
However, the manner in which the LaLiga side claimed the victory has been overlooked. Instead, people are obsessing over the final scoreline and rewriting history. But with games postponed, the footballing world hasn’t been able to move on as it would normally do. The goals are being replayed over and over again, and the false narrative that Simeone’s gameplan worked like a charm gains more credence.
They often say that goals change games. Goals also shift narratives. For example, a poor performance can be masked by a win while an utterly dominant display can be ignored if the scoreline doesn’t paint a similar picture. This is exactly what is happening here.
Simeone arrived at Anfield with a plan. It was a plan Atleti had worked on during his entire spell with the club. The idea was to frustrate the opposition, dictate the tempo, dominate the space but allow their opponents to have the majority of the possession.
All of the stats suggest that is exactly what happened. The Reds outshot the visitors 34-10, they tested Jan Oblak on 11 occasions, over double the number of efforts Atleti had on target on the night. Jurgen Klopp’s side had 72% possession, racked up over 800 passes and completed 83% of them. In comparison, Atleti managed just 363 passes and completed fewer than 60%.
However, the basic stats aren’t the best way to judge how a match went. The expected goals metrics tell a different story. If you’re looking to frustrate opponents, you don’t want to be giving up high-value chances. Liverpool finished the 120 minutes with an expected goals total of 3.52. Their post-shot expected goals total was 2.99. Atleti were fortunate to concede just the two goals on the night.
With better finishing and a bit more luck, the Reds batter Simeone’s side. For a bit more context, the Spanish side finished the match with an expected goals total of 1.1 and a post-shot expected goals total of 1.78. Atletico made the most of their opportunities, Liverpool did not. Furthermore, you can’t help but feel had Alisson been between the sticks, the Reds would’ve kept a clean sheet. Putting it bluntly, he regularly saves shots he shouldn’t. Adrian, on the other hand, is par at best when looking at his numbers of the season.
Atleti struggled had no control over what went on. Without the exploits of Oblak in goal, Liverpool would’ve sent out a message to the rest of Europe. On performance alone, teams should be fearful of coming up against Klopp and his team. The Reds may have lost but on another day they would’ve taken one of the best defensive sides in the world to the cleaners. And this should’ve been the main talking point in the aftermath of the match.
Under intense pressure, the Premier League leaders put in arguably their most dominant performance of the Klopp era and that should be the lingering feeling, that should be what people are talking about. The result shouldn’t, and doesn’t, take away from that. So park the idea that results should dictate the narrative. Of course, Liverpool have been fortunate this season in some instances. Goals have papered over underwhelming performances but never have the Reds been battered in the same style Atleti were.