Liverpool do not lose with a five-goal deficit. Well, mostly they do not. In fact, since they came up to the top division in 1961-62, Liverpool have lost by a five-goal deficit only three times. The latest defeat of this kind came on Saturday, at Etihad. The one before that was that forgettable loss against Stoke City away, at the end of the 2014-15 campaign. And the one before that was a 7-2 loss at Spurs in 1963.
In fact, the last time Manchester City won with a 5-goal margin over Liverpool was in 1928 and Huddersfield were the champions then. These historical tidbits tell us one thing – the Reds do not lose big. That is why the defeat on Saturday rankles so much for the Liverpool fans. They are used to dropping points now and then but are not accustomed to such humiliation at the hands of any team, let alone a top-four rival.
There is no doubt that Sadio Mane’s red card proved very costly to Liverpool. The Reds might not have lost as badly as they did or perhaps not lost at all, had their Senegalese forward not been given a red card. As I have said before and as pictures of Ederson’s face have later shown, Mane’s red card was a deserved one. What disappointed me though, was the reaction from his ten team mates that stayed on the field. It was as if with Mane, they lost their spine. Here are three stats-related observations that show that Liverpool indeed lost their resilience as soon as Mane was given his marching orders.
Liverpool Stopped Playing Almost Completely Immediately After the Red Card
The red card incident was shocking, but it seemed that Ederson’s injury and Mane’s sending off completely dazed the Reds on the field. In the time between the injury and half-time, Liverpool were completely outplayed by Manchester City. As the panel on this podcast discusses, Liverpool had one-third the touches that City had and one-fifth the passes that City had. Now, that does not happen to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Klopp’s Reds try to hassle the opponent and win the ball and keep it, which means that they should be sharing stats such as touches and passes with City 50-50. Instead, they completely lost their minds and stopped pressing and playing.
Liverpool Had Zero Shots After the Red Card
Liverpool – with no shots for more than 60% of the game. The last time that might have happened must have been in the away game at Real Madrid in the 2014-15 campaign. There the Reds were determined to defend, but in Manchester on Saturday, they simply could not create an opening good enough for one of them even to have a shot. Before the red card, Liverpool had 7 shots, 3 on target. After the red card, they had not even a single shot and of course none on target. That simply is unacceptable from the team that has been hovering near the top of shots charts for two seasons.
Manchester City Managed to Outperform Their Expected Goals by a Large Margin
Depending on whose stats we depend upon, City had an xG of 2 to 3 goals in Saturday’s match. But they ended up scoring 5. This means that Liverpool conceded at least a couple of goals that would have been improbable, had the Reds been actually defending. Instead, shots with marginal probabilities of conversion – such as the Sane goal from outside the box – were allowed to be taken and were converted.
This experience tells Klopp one thing – he does not have a clear leader in his team. Henderson went numb after Mane was gone, as did everyone else. No one bucked the team up. Klopp himself was not his usual animated self. If Liverpool are to strive for silverware or top-four this season meaningfully, they will need to find a few reserves of resilience because the going is going to get easier – neither in the Premier League nor the Champions League.