Liverpool Beat Fulham 2-0 to Continue Unbeaten Run in the League

Liverpool Beat Fulham 2-0 to Continue Unbeaten Run in the League

In the pre-match conference, when an eager journalist had asked if Liverpool will use the Fulham game to bolster their goal difference, Jurgen Klopp had replied sternly that he expected Fulham to give a tough time to the Reds and also elaborated on how he rated Fulham’s attack very highly. I’m not sure that the guys at bet365 review would have agreed but today, his team played exactly as if they were playing to get his word to be true – at least in the first half. Fulham might have upped their game in comparison to their past performances, but Liverpool were far less penetrative in the attack, as compared to their form last season. In the first half, they were also a bit shaky in defence, as compared to their defensive form earlier this season.

In the pre-match conference, when an eager journalist had asked if Liverpool will use the Fulham game to bolster their goal difference, Jurgen Klopp had replied sternly that he expected Fulham to give a tough time to the Reds and also elaborated on how he rated Fulham’s attack very highly. I’m not sure that the guys at bet365 review would have agreed but today, his team played exactly as if they were playing to get his word to be true – at least in the first half. Fulham might have upped their game in comparison to their past performances, but Liverpool were far less penetrative in the attack, as compared to their form last season. In the first half, they were also a bit shaky in defence, as compared to their defensive form earlier this season.

Liverpool were coming into this game from a massive upset in Champions League when they had lost to Red Star Belgrade in Serbia. Everyone expected a reaction that would blow away Fulham. And indeed, they were the more dominant side in the game by far. But that dominance did not lead to as many goals as one would have expected. It is not often that Mohamed Salah misses out on scoring from a chance that has a 0.48 xG or an unchallenged Xherdan Shaqiri misses the goal altogether from the outside of the box. But that was the major theme of most of the first half. The other theme was the number of chances Liverpool allowed Ryan Sessegnon, Andre Schurrle, and Aleksandar Mitrovic to create in that first half. All that changed in the first half, when Mitrovic scored from a cross in the 40th minute he was deemed off-side and Alisson, Trent, and Salah had the presence of mind, as well as the speed to get the ball into the Fulham goal in a mere thirteen seconds after the offside call.

If that goal had put a dampener on Fulham’s adventurous spirit at the half-time break, just eight minutes into the second half, Andrew Robertson’s early cross to Shaqiri and the Swiss International’s smart finish put paid to all their aspirations. As expected after that second goal, Liverpool mounted wave after wave of attacks but Fulham managed to thwart most of them. Jurgen Klopp showed that he was satisfied with the scoreline by bringing Henderson on in the 70th minute for Georginio Wijnaldum, flattening the midfield in effect. There were some very good chances for the likes of Robertson and Firmino, but Sergio Rico managed to save all of those that were on target. That in fact, was the story of the game. Fulham showed improvement in defence and even in attack, but had Liverpool been better with their chances, especially the direct free-kicks, the score-line would have been more punitive for the Cottagers.

Statistical Highlights

Attack

Liverpool’s average number of shots per prior to this fixture was 14.45, out of which 38.4% were on target. Today, they had 20 shots but only 35% were on target. The difference is not too much and it shows that today’s performance, while in contrast with the last season’s incision, is very much in line with how the Reds have done this season. They managed three big chances and as mentioned above, did not score from their most likely chance. Fulham allowed Liverpool ample space as they tried to defend narrowly, allowing the Reds 32 touches in their penalty box. Liverpool had an attempt every 4.7 minutes, which was better than their league average of an attempt every 6.4 minutes. They had an xG range of 1.75 to 2.1 depending on the source, meaning they did score in line with the quality of their chances overall.

Fulham on the other hand, while thought highly of by Jurgen Klopp, came into this game having scored only 5 goals on the road in the league. However, an xG range of 0.5 to 0.57 does not do justice to the kind of attacking intent that Fulham showed in the first half when for a few minutes, a Fulham goal seemed more likely than a Liverpool one. But Fulham shoulders dropped after the Reds scored their goals and there were no attempts of note after the second goal.

Defence

Liverpool have not had a better defensive start to a league campaign since close to 40 years. Just five goals conceded in 12 games. But for a brief while in the first half, that record did seem to be in danger of not being achieved. But, that period was brief and then Liverpool’s defenders were more of attackers – both the goals were scored by assists from the full-backs – or onlookers. Liverpool’s xG conceded per game was 0.83, while today it was 0.5. Liverpool did concede one big chance today, but that did not hurt the Reds. Liverpool’s PPDA (passes allowed per defensive action in opposite half) was 5.33, which reflects the Reds’ high defensive line more than their pressing intensity.

Fulham, on the other hand, expected to be tested in defence, and at least from the standpoint of build-up, they were tested very well. So far, Fulham had conceded 15.9 attempts per game, Liverpool attempted 20 shots. But they did manage to keep half of Liverpool’s shots from outside the box, a feat they have struggled to achieve so far. Thus far, only 5.2 shots the Cottagers have faced per game, have come from outside the box. Today, they managed to keep the Reds out of their box for 10 of their shots. Fulham’s PPDA of 32.21 reflects the approach that the Cottagers took – of defending deep.

Conclusion

If one looks at Liverpool’s position in the table – a clear second (given Chelsea’s draw against Everton) and even a possible first (depending on the result of Manchester derby) at the end of the 12th game week, the season and today’s game would look like successes. But, the manner of the Reds’ victories, their gameplay has not been as exciting as last season, which gives the impression that they are off-form. But, as Klopp argued in the pre-match conference, it is due to the high expectations set by the team last season that even an unbeaten start to the league season feels underwhelming to the Reds supporters. The attack, while seemingly less rampant, is more varied this season, while the defence is far more dependable. That is clear progress from Klopp’s side.

For Fulham, the challenge is going to be to see if they can attack as they did in the first half today, for a sustained period of time and also to see if they can defend better than they have in the past. If they can, they might be able to mount a recovery from the bottom of the table. If not, they are one of the favourites to be relegated.