Liverpool vs Southampton

Liverpool vs Southampton Preview: Ode to the One-Eyed King

Anfield rarely disappoints you on a Champions League night.

It could be argued that the Reds were unfortunate to be put in a strong group with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli and even Crvena Zvezda who showed this week that passion can get you places even when all the odds are stacked against you.

In a way, it was the case with Liverpool as well, who pulled off a coup against an expensive PSG side, packed with some of the world’s most expensive players. Kylian Mbappe and Neymar were, however, given the taste of a genuine football atmosphere where fans and players breathe like one – holding each other’s back and moving forward hand in hand towards unimaginable heights. Read More

Firmino and Aguero

A Striking Resemblance: Firmino and Aguero Lead The Way

Both Liverpool and Manchester City have made stylish starts to the new season, displaying brands of football which have prompted suggestions that the title race will be played out between these two North West sides (we’re not allowed to call them rivals yet).

Even though these teams have scored nine and seven goals respectively in their opening three games, doubts are still raised about their strikers, if not of their quality then of their role in the side.

While there are unique traits which separate Sergio Aguero and Roberto Firmino, neither are necessarily bad at the things the other gets praised for, and criticisms can be wide of the mark. They play in similar, if not completely identical, systems and both play a big part in the success of their teams. Read More

Brazil 2-0 México: The elegant gentleman strikes again

Brazil faced Mexico with awareness. Juan Carlos Osorio is a master of the unpredictable, and his mutant team is able to show different faces in the field. What never changes is the velocity with which they exchange passes and positions.

México came with high pressing commanded by the trident Lozano-Chicharito-Vela. It gave Brazil a hard time for the initial 20 minutes, especially because they inverted sides when attacking, with many diagonal balls. However, Thiago Silva and Miranda stood steadily through the storm, and when it stopped, it became clear that the match was about Brazil getting the spot in the quarterfinals.

That made an Argentinian on Twitter write this funny conclusion after half an hour:

“México is that poor guy that fell in love with his friend but never dares to tell her. His sneaking attempts are in vain, he knows he can’t make it, yet never surrenders, while Brazil is this elegant gentleman who conquers her only by smiling.”

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A new role for Roberto Firmino in Brazil

There is no centre forward who works as hard to win back the ball as Roberto Firmino. He sets the tempo for Liverpool but he is so much more than just a workhorse. He gets into positions where many forwards would go for glory but Bobby is unselfish.

And yesterday we watched a new chapter on that story when Firmino entered for Brazil against Costa Rica; not as Gabriel Jesus’s substitution, as usual, but as Paulinho’s replacement.

Playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation Paulinho has many defensive skills, but he is well known for his entries in the six yard box and his potential as a striker. There is even a joke in the Brazilian team saying Paulinho is the true centre forward of the Seleção.

Unfortunately, the Barcelona midfielder did not have a good day, and the Brazilian team felt his poor offensive contribution. He was also marked by the good defensive job of Costa Rica and their line of five.

Taking a look at Firmino’s work in the Premier League with Liverpool, we can see a typical centre forward action: offensive presence in the opponents’ area and defensive presence is his area, to assist with set piece balls.

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Brazil 1-1 Switzerland: Neymar needs to do more

Brazil’s attacking power is all about the left. The Canarinhos debut in the World Cup 2018 could have been a celebration of the associative football that Marcelo, Philippe Coutinho and Neymar can play on that side. But only being successful in the first 20 minutes also means that Tite’s squad is unbalanced and kind of predictable, if someone could label that sparkling trio as such.

Whenever Brazil holds the ball, the natural compass of the defensive line and the holding midfielders is to find Coutinho and Marcelo, who scored the highest sum of points in Twelve’s ratings.

When some force of destiny pushed the play to the right, Willian experienced again the solitude brought in the last friendlies by the company of the unimaginative Danilo. The Manchester City man replaced the injured Dani Alves, who did not make to the World Cup. The Chelsea arrow will dribble and cross, with a flare of the legendary Garrincha in his intentions; nevertheless, it never gets quite dangerous enough, as Swiss goalkeeper Sommer may tell you. But this is the pessimistic take.

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Salah, Firmino & Mane all make Twelve’s top 5 Liverpool players, but should Lovren and Matip be there too?

Using algorithms and points to assess the performance of footballers is nothing new. But how do Twelve shape up against the likes of WhoScored and Squakwa? I’ve taken a look at Twelve’s stats for Liverpool’s players to see if their ranking for the Reds’ player of the year matches what Kopites would believe.

However cynical you might be about football statistics, and whether you don’t really care about how many goals and assists he’s racked up, you’re going to say that Mohamed Salah is Liverpool’s player of the season, right?

It’s a relief for all concerned to see Salah atop this chart. The runner up aligns with public perception too; I ran a quick Twitter poll to see who Liverpool’s non-Egyptian player of the year is, and Roberto Firmino was the runaway winner with over 90 percent of the vote.

Few Reds fans would disagree with the notion that Sadio Mané would be in the top five either, but Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip? Careful now, Twelve, this is how football stats pick up a bad reputation.

They have an advantage over some of their colleagues in that they are ranked sixth and eighth respectively for minutes played in the Premier League, but amending the chart to ‘Points Per Minute’ does not dislodge them from the top five.

Defensive contribution is highlighted in red, so of course the players in third to fifth here would perform well as it’s what they’re paid to do. But do they really contribute to attack (which is the green bar, and excludes shots) more frequently than Salah? And not just them either; there are 15 players who contributed more points per minute to attack than the newly crowned Golden Boot winner.

It seems Twelve rates contribution from further back on the field more highly, as the likes of Firmino, Ings, Solanke and Sturridge are all outside the top fifteen too. While my scepticism surrounding these figures remains, I am at least heartened by seeing Jordan Henderson at the summit of the attack rankings.

The skipper is a very divisive figure among Liverpool fans. I’m of the opinion the Reds have looked better with him in the side, and while it’s easy to quibble over Twelve’s scoring system, it’s clear that Henderson is definitely contributing to the attack and not just playing safe, sideways passes as his detractors will tell you.

When it comes to off ball work, my player of the season for Liverpool was undoubtedly Roberto Firmino. What he provides when the Reds don’t have the ball is a sight to behold, so why is he so low down in the Twelve rankings?

As with the attack figures, it seems the system rates these actions more highly at the back end of the pitch. Jürgen Klopp would beg to differ though, as he famously stated that “no playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter pressing situation”, and it’s for this reason that Bobby Firmino will always be one of the first names on his team sheet.

Even if Twelve doesn’t value Firmino as highly as Klopp does, the level of off ball work done by the Brazilian is abundantly clear from their interactive widget. It will initially appear blank, so make sure you select the ‘Only important actions’ button.

Look at how many actions there are, and note how they’re across the whole width of the pitch, even with the final third excluded. Click on any of those bubbles, and it will say ‘Pressure on Pass’, illustrating how the former Hoffenheim man is a master of closing down opponents with the aim of springing Liverpool into attack.

There aren’t any surprises with regards to the top points scorers for shots or errors, only to add that the latter emphasises why Klopp was right to abandon Simon Mignolet and opt for Loris Karius between the sticks for the run in.

No model will ever be perfect, and Twelve don’t claim that theirs is. While I don’t agree with their scoring system entirely, with Salah and Firmino in first and second place for Liverpool’s player of the season, Twelve are on the right track here in many ways.