10 April 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 2-1 Stoke 

Previous Match Infographics: Bournemouth (h), Everton (h), Manchester City (h), Burnley (a), Arsenal (h), Leicester (a), Tottenham (h), Hull (a), Chelsea (h), Swansea (h), Manchester United (a), Sunderland (a), Manchester City (a), Stoke (h), Everton (a), Middlesbrough (a), West Ham (h), Bournemouth (a), Sunderland (h), Southampton (a), Watford (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Brom (h), United (h), Swansea (a), Hull (h), Chelsea (a), Leicester (h), Tottenham (a), Burnley (a), Arsenal (a)

All match data from Stats Zone and Who Scored.

The less said about that first half, the better. An unfamiliar formation, a makeshift XI. Not the worst performance, especially as the half went on, and some underserved bad luck, but still an unsurprising result. And probably the wrong decision, even considering the absentees and squad limitations.

The more said about the second half, and the second half changes, and Firmino, Coutinho, Sturridge, and Mignolet in that second half, the better.

And you can now add two more to that list.

So while there's a surprising amount of substitute goals, there aren't that many game-changing substitute goals, at least compared to last season. Origi's at Sunderland, maybe Origi's against Everton to seal the match, and Coutinho and Firmino's strikes yesterday. Otherwise, they've been added gloss on already near-certain results. And Christian Benteke, sold last summer, remains Klopp's joint-top substitute scorer.

There haven't been enough game-changing substitute goals because there haven't been enough game-changing substitutes. Usually, the squad's limitations are highlighted by Liverpool's substitutions, or lack thereof. Saturday, it was highlighted by the initial team selection, and rescued by being able to bring two – arguably three – of Liverpool's best players off the bench.

Still, Liverpool picked a good time to score some incredibly important substitute goals on Saturday. And at near-record pace, too. Only Mané's first-half quick-fire double against Tottenham saw two Liverpool goals scored in less time this season.

They weren't wholly individual goals – see: Sturridge's defense-splitting pass to Firmino and then run into the box for the first, as well as Wijnaldum's perfectly weighted ball over the top for the second – but those two moments of brilliance from brilliant players were deservedly the talking-points. Amazingly, better things happen with better players on the pitch.

And Liverpool very much needed those two moments.

This was Liverpool's largest Expected Goals deficit by Michael Caley's numbers this season. It's the joint-largest under Klopp, the same xG difference as in the 1-3 loss at Swansea with the second-string at the end of the last season.

Only two other sides have posted 2.0 xG or higher in games against Liverpool this season. Swansea's 2.5 xG at Swansea and Manchester City's 2.7 xG at City. Both Swansea and City had five big chances in those matches: each missed three, had one saved, and scored one. Liverpool won the first match 2-1 and drew the second 1-1.

Stoke had four big chances on Saturday: Walters' goal, Arnautovic's first-half shot into the side netting, and Mignolet's two miraculous saves on Adam and Berahino, with the score line at 0-1 and 2-1 respectively. As seemingly always happens with Liverpool, two of the four were self-inflicted: errors by Lovren and Wijnaldum to set up Arnautovic and Adam.

It's the first time Mignolet's saved two big chances in a match this season; he's now saved nine of 27 on-target big chances in league matches. Loris Karius has also saved two big chances in a match this season, but there's a massive asterisk. That was at Bournemouth, a 3-4 loss, with the second of those two saves setting up Ake's winner. Not only did Mignolet deny what could and probably would have been two crucial goals, both saves saw the ball pushed out of danger as well.

Mignolet has come in for a lot of deserved criticism this season (and last, and the season before that, and etc.), but this was a performance we'll all remember if Liverpool actually achieves its goals and finishes in the Top 4 this season.

Six games left.

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