Liverpool Match Review

Blackpool beat a sluggish, negative and stagnant Liverpool at Anfield back in October and with the return of Kenny Dalglish to the Liverpool hot seat, this match could’ve got away from Blackpool as Fernando Torres scored an early opener. It was a credit to Blackpool as they never panicked or broke from their game plan to get back in to the match.

The set up

Blackpool they lined up in their 4-2-3-1 with what could be described as their first choice eleven, although Elliot Grandin did sit a little deeper than usual at times making a flatter three in midfield. Whilst Dalglish picked a team who set up in a similar fashion to Blackpool, but had Glen Johnson in at left back after he was tipped for a midfield start.

For Blackpool Elliot Grandin played slightly deeper than usual whilst Poulsen sat in front of the Liverpool back four.

The effects of the formations made space very tight in the midfield with Raul Meireles playing in the three behind Torres with Lucas and Christian Poulsen holding deeper. If anything this restricted Blackpool, who at times this season have really struggled against teams who sit a midfielder deep and in front of the back four. A consequence of the midfield set up was that Meireles sat very close to Charlie Adam. At times it appeared that he was almost man marking Adam but it was more likely a consequence of positioning than anything else.

For arguments sake Liverpool’s formation at times could be described as a 4-1-4-1 as much as a 4-2-3-1, as Lucas tended to push higher up. As all the midfielders tried to find space they tended to shuffle with Meireles dropping deeper at times, Adam the same, Vaughan stepping up and Lucas the same. The only midfielder who failed to progress from his position was Poulsen, presumably under instruction. This meant that Blackpool could outnumber Lucas and Meireles in the centre as Grandin dropped deeper and Poulsen was out of the game.

At times Martin Kelly got forward from right back for Liverpool as did Glen Johnson on the left. Blackpool as usual pushed both full backs up when the times were right, but not in as sustained manner as in other matches this season. Both centre forwards worked hard, Torres in particular moved to close down both centre backs when out of possession and when breaking forward he was peeling off to the right and left to escape the centre backs.

First Hour

The game was very even for the first hour, as above, the space was restricted, mistakes were plenty in terms of conceding possession. Chances (goals apart) weren’t clean-cut. However, both sides were trying to pass the ball from the back, Blackpool moving it quicker on occasion in an attempt to either get Luke Varney winning headers against Martin Kelly or to catch Liverpool’s back four flat-footed.

Passing fad

Liverpool had more of the pass, with a pass total of 517 to Blackpool’s 445 with a completion rate of 73% to Blackpool’s 72%. However, as the game progressed Liverpool’s pass completion dropped off with the last 15 minutes of the game seeing it drop as low as 62% whilst Blackpool’s hit 72%. The chart below shows how, as the match progressed Liverpool’s passing disintegrated.

The pass comp % for both teams has been broken down in to 15 minute segments. You can see how as the match progressed from left to right then Liverpool's passing got worse.

Another observation about Liverpool was that their game against Blackburn Liverpool saw them make 598 passes at a completion rate of 74%, however, their passing lacked balance with 64% of their passes coming down the right. In this game they had much better balance with a 49/51 split between left and right.

Pressing matter

Points that stood out for Liverpool was their pressing of the ball higher up the pitch. This is illustrated in the chalkboard below as Liverpool won 65% of their 17 interceptions in the Blackpool half.

Liverpool pressing high up the pitch intercepting Blackpool's passes in their half.

However, very few occurred in front of the Liverpool area and it was this that exposed Liverpool’s back line. Poulsen was presumably asked to sit, screen and break up Blackpool play that threatened the Liverpool defence. However, all his interceptions occurred in the Blackpool half and none in that key area. It wasn’t as though Blackpool were bypassing that zone either, as you can see from the Chalkboard below. Blackpool consistently took on and beat Liverpool players in front of the back line. Poulsen won only 1 of his 5 tackles and effectively offered little or no cover to his defence. With Poulsen being so inert and positioned away from the heart of the action and Meireles being tied up with Adam, this left Lucas having to do the majority of the midfield work attempting 14 tackles winning 10 of them.

Blackpool taking Liverpool players on and beating them.

Parting to the end

In the 77th minute something occurred which was symptomatic of how Liverpool broke down towards the end of the game. With the ball on the back line and Blackpool pressing higher up the pitch, Poulsen dropped to receive the ball, however, Lucas and Meireles were caught too far up the pitch and any attempt to build from the back failed as the ball dropped back to Daniel Agger, he had little choice but to clear long and concede possession. Quite simply, Liverpool started to lose their shape (tiredness?) and never regained it again.

Here, Poulsen (yellow) is about to receive the ball from Agger (black) both under pressure from Taylor-Fletcher (tangerine) and Vaughan (white). There isn't another Liverpool player in the shot ahead of Poulsen. They opted to go long.

Subbing to stifle

Ian Holloway has at times this season tried to ‘shut up shop’ with mixed results, sometimes conceding late goals. In this game, it could be argued that the substitutions were crucial in this match. For Blackpool the injection of Matthew Phillips’ pace forced Liverpool deep and allowed quick counters for Blackpool. Added to this Ian Holloway brought in two defensive midfield subs in order to close out the game with fresh legs and an emphasis on the tackle. Blackpool’s shape changed to a 4-1-4-1 for the last five minutes whilst Liverpool’s changes made them resemble more of a 4-4-2.

Ian Holloway made defensive subs switching to a 4-1-4-1 for the last 5 mins.

It was the Liverpool subs who saw very little of the game who made the least impact. Jonjo Shelvey and David N’gog made a total of 7 passes (3 misplaced) between them, lost 2 of their 3 tackles and didn’t muster a shot. Whereas Alex Baptiste and Keith Southern got on the ball making 11 passes (1 misplaced), won 2 tackles and 2 clearances to ensure that the game end was controlled by Blackpool.

At the double

It was a high tempo, all action performance from Blackpool again and the fresh legs the Tangerines had will have given them an edge against a Liverpool side that tired as the match progressed. It was even more impressive, given that Holloway managed to stifle the game through good substitutions and that Blackpool got a win against a side playing a four band system, something they’ve struggled with this season. Again, the team keeps developing, at this rate, Premier League survival may be a strong reality.

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About tangerinedreaming

I support Blackpool FC and I want to share my thoughts on the way our team plays. This blog is wholly inspired by Zonal Marking which has opened my eyes to football like never before. So if you read this, thanks for taking some time out to see what I think and if you feel bound to comment then please do so, but be kind and constructive with any criticism.
This entry was posted in Blackpool FC, Formation, Ian Holloway, Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool FC, Match Analysis, Pass Completion, Tactics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Liverpool Match Review

  1. Great analysis. Very insightful for a Liverpool fan like myself as well as Blackpool fans.

  2. Kevin_A says:

    Excellent article. I’m a Liverpool fan, and have to say you got it spot on. as did Blackpool on the day. Good open match for a lot of it, and Blackpool deserved the win.

  3. James says:

    Johnson played at LB not RB.. As you have correctly shown in our first diagram, but not your opening paragraph!

    Excellent read though.

  4. Stephen says:

    Very interesting article. Again as a Liverpool fan 🙂 (it was retweeted by an ex-liverpool player). Can see how this analysis can give an insight into each stage of the game. Informative diagrams and observations.

  5. james vilhjálmur says:

    really interesting analysis, well done on a very thorough job. Not a liverpool or blackpool fan but still found this a very good read – that is probably quite sad on my part but there you go.

  6. Pingback: Kenny: Final ball mus improve - Page 2 - The Liverpool Way

  7. WindyCOYS says:

    Really nice article – love your Zonal Marking-esque diagrams too, do you create them yourself?

  8. Joey_LFC says:

    Great analysis, can I ask what programme/app you used for you pitch positioning (with arrows and names) not the Guardian chalkboard ones, thanks !

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  10. Joey_LFC says:

    Sorry I meant the the one of the pitch and player positions not the pass completion one. Thanks!

  11. Joey_LFC says:

    Ahh okay, clever ! Could you send me a template of it ? 😉 joeyineire at gmail, if not no worries.

  12. GrkStav says:

    Excellent analysis. It’s a bit unfortunate it takes a supporter of the opposing team to actually demonstrate how LFC ACTUALLY played to some very closed-minded and stubborn LFC supporters. What is your considered opinion of the performances of the following LFC players in this last game v Blackpool: Skrtel, Johnson, Lucas, Meireles, Jovanovic, Kuyt, Kelly?

    I know it’s a lot to ask so no sweat if you don’t feel like answering.

    Cheers,
    S

    • Thanks. That’s a lot to ask. Being a stickler for analysis I wouldn’t like to pass a judgement without weighing everything up. I’m sure a good showing in the derby and Liverpool will be on the right track.

  13. Ali says:

    Blackpool u r a fantastic club and a credit to the premier league, you outplayed us both times and your fans, players and manager are absoloutely fantastic. Liverpool are being linked with Charlie Adam and i hope we get him but only in the summer once hes helped you stay up which i pray that you do. Good look for the rest of the season.

  14. Pingback: Clinical Deficiencies – Everton v Blackpool | Tangerine Dreaming

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