It was a frustrating opening to the season for the Reds, as they struggled their way to a 2-2 draw against Fulham. Goals from Darwin Nunez and Mo Salah were enough to scrape a point, but Jurgen Klopp will be incredibly disappointed with a performance that lacked intensity for large periods. But what were the Key Stats as Liverpool kicked off their season?
A Slow Start
The Reds were particularly poor in the first half. During this period, they had just 0.13 xG to Fulham’s 0.37. The intensity of the hosts in the first 15 minutes totally knocked them off their game, and suddenly Liverpool were losing duels all over the pitch. Klopp’s men won just 38% of their ground duels and 34% of their aerial duels. Notable offenders included Matip, who won none of his 4 aerial duels and just 56% of his ground duels, Robertson, who won 38% ground and 50% aerial, and Thiago (25% ground and 40% aerial). The forwards, although you would expect theirs to be lower, were also disappointing in this regard, with Salah winning 29% of his ground duels and Diaz 38%. These two were often receiving under pressure to help the Reds evade Fulham’s intense counter press, so their inability to retain the ball, along with the struggles in the backline, cost the Reds crucial control.
Long Passes off the mark
Another issue that stopped Liverpool establishing themselves was the poor quality of the long passing from the back. This is a potent weapon for the Reds, especially when playing over the press or switching play, so the lack of quality broke down several attacks. The team had a 53% long pass success rate, but unfortunately, some of the most important members of the team were the ones off the mark. Both centre backs were at 50%, Trent Alexander-Arnold just 36%, and Robertson a measly 25%. Alisson’s 17% isn’t necessarily damning as it’s often aimed to win a second ball from a goal kick, but in this case, they were often out of play or nowhere near the forwards.
Not everything was doom and gloom, however. Liverpool’s attack functioned better in the second half, creating 1.11 xG to bring the match total to 1.24. The penalty given away halted the momentum Klopp’s team had built up, but in open play it was 1.16 xG to 0.40 xG across the full match. After going a full season without giving one away, it was due for the Reds to give up a penalty at some point. Darwin Nunez was the focal point of the Red’s second half recovery. In his 39 minutes on the pitch, he took 4 shots, worth 0.55 xG, and was a game-changer with his physical style securing a foothold up the pitch. If he can keep up that rate of attack up (1.27 xG per 90, but who’s counting), then he is sure to be a big success for Liverpool.
The important thing now is that Klopp doesn’t let heads drop. The squad need to dust themselves down, hit back in training, and reset for next week’s match against Crystal Palace.