April 29, 2019

SABRMETRIC SOCCER:

Football's new age neutralises philosophies of the past (Ken Early, Apr 29, 2019, Irish Times)

When Liverpool scored after 15 seconds against Huddersfield Town on Friday night, one common reaction would have been to bemoan the lack of competitiveness in the Premier League, and wonder if there was anything else on television. But this was one of the most interesting goals you'll see all season, and it's worth analysing what happened in detail.

From the kick-off, Huddersfield go back to holding midfielder Jon Gorenc Stankovic, who plays it right to central defender Christopher Schindler. Daniel Sturridge closes Schindler down, and Sadio Mane is close to the right back Tommy Smith, so Schindler plays it back to goalkeeper Jonas Lössl and runs towards the right corner of the Huddersfield box to make himself available for a return pass.

Except Sturridge has angled his run to close down Lössl such that he is also threatening that return pass to Schindler, and he has Mane in support. The other centre half, Terence Kongolo, has split to the left corner of the Huddersfield box, but Mohamed Salah is close by: too risky. The easiest available pass is up the middle to Stankovic, who is unmarked and appears to be in space.

Appearances can be deceptive. Naby Keïta is a good 15 yards away from Stankovic, on the far side of another Huddersfield midfielder, Jonathan Hogg. Hogg is pointing and gesticulating to team-mates and paying no attention to Keïta, whose orientation at this moment seems to be entirely defensive.

In fact Keïta is waiting to spring the trap. As the ball goes back to Lössl, he knows his team-mates are leaving the goalkeeper with only two options: hit it long, or pass to Stankovic in the middle. At the precise instant he sees Lössl has chosen the short rather than the long pass, Keïta takes off, goes past Hogg before Hogg realises what is happening, and arrives on Stankovic's blindside as he turns with the ball and attempts to pass. Keïta blocks the ball to the nearby Salah, runs into the area, collects the return pass and scores.

The interesting thing about the goal was that you'd never have seen one like it in the Premier League of 10 years ago. These 15 seconds showed some of the ways the game has changed.



Posted by at April 29, 2019 4:30 AM

  

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