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Liverpool Outwitted By Mourinho Yet Stay On Top: Corresponding Fixtures Table GameWeek 36

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Corresponding Fixtures Table GameWeek 36: Liverpool outwitted by Mourinho yet stay on top

Jose Mourinho

As Jose Mourinho raced along the touchline wildly celebrating Willian’s goal-which ultimately clinched a 2-0 victory at Anfield- it was hard not to feel a sense of deja vu. It has happened many times; and it happened again. This was the classic Jose Mourinho-esque away performance with an added dose of dark arts: time wasting from the first minute; players cramping up in the first 20 minutes of the game and parking “two buses” as Brendan Rodgers said after the game.

But, one could not shake off the thought that it was a meticulously planned performance. A striking feature of Liverpool’s extraordinary run to the top of the league had been their ability to rip teams apart in the first 20 minutes-especially at Anfield.

Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City all suffered at Anfield due to this approach as the Reds pressed relentlessly and blitzed teams apart with pace and incision. Jose-the masterful tactician he is- knew perfectly well that if his team were to take at least a point at Anfield- and the way the team was set up showed he would be happy with a draw- taking the sting out of Liverpool’s game was imperative. So, it was not just parking the bus and hitting on the counter.

It was to deprive Liverpool of their most potent weapon. It would have been interesting to see what Chelsea’s approach would have been had the scoreline stayed 0-0 at half time. As such, Steven Gerrard’s slip and Demba Ba’s goal meant the onus was on Liverpool to make take the game to Chelsea which was exactly what Mourinho would have wanted.

It would not have escaped Jose’s attention that while Liverpool are top of the league if only 1st half performances are taken into account, they are 7th in terms of second half performances. Liverpool, on the other hand, played into Chelsea’s hands as they abandoned their usual incisive approach and started heaving crosses into the penalty box. In further proof that they were rattled by Chelsea’s approach a vast number of shots were taken from outside the 18 yard box with Gerrard especially guilty of trying one too many “Hollywood” shots or passes.

While many sides start crossing the ball into the penalty box as they desperately try to find a goal(route one football as they call it), this approach did not work for Liverpool as they do not have tall or powerful strikers to make something out of those crosses. Arsenal regularly follow this approach and did it to decent effect in the recent FA Cup semi final win over Wigan Athletic. As they trailed 1-0, Arsene Wenger took off Podolski and went 4-4-2 with Yaya Sanogo and Olivier Giroud up top. Even Mertesacker is sometimes seen playing as an auxiliary forward for the Gunners.

The stats illustrate the wastefulness of Liverpool’s approach and their general lack of practice in using it. Liverpool are the least-frequent crossers in the Premier League with 17 Crosses per game. In this game, Liverpool crossed- and mostly without success- a staggering 39 times. Also, out of the 26 shots taken by Liverpool, 81% of them were from outside the 18 yard box. Such shots are considered harmless and have an extremely low probability of hitting the target.

Liverpool’s shot zones vs Chelsea
Liverpool’s shot zones vs Chelsea

While this week’s article does not have anything to do with the our Corresponding Fixtures Table, let us look at the table anyway. As has already been mentioned in this series of articles, for the purpose of uniformity we are comparing Hull City’s fixtures to Reading; Crystal Palace’s fixtures to QPR; and Cardiff City’s fixtures to Wigan.

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Stats are compiled by Chaitanya Gööner with the help from footballwebpages.co.uk