Without meaning to sound disrespectful, a draw away at Luton Town can only be viewed as two dropped points.
The 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road is the sort of result you look back on at the end of the season as a huge missed opportunity, especially when you consider that Liverpool have missed out on a title by a single point on two occasions recently.
It didn’t help that the game on Sunday afternoon felt like a repeat. The Reds struggled to break down defensive teams last season before being sucker-punched on the break.
There was a feeling of deja vu watching Ross Barkley power through the centre of the pitch before the ball finally arrived at the feet of Tahith Chong. The former Manchester United man had effortlessly breezed past Alexis Mac Allister to arrive unmarked in the penalty area, just as a number of players did against Fabinho and Jordan Henderson last term.
Despite the similarities, at least in terms of optics, the match against Luton had many differences from the games against Wolves, Brentford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Nottingham Forest and Leeds during the 2022/23 campaign. These differences matter as they point to a team learning from past mistakes. And they also highlight why it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom, despite the result.
Last season, Liverpool struggled to create and had a tough time limiting the opposition.
For example, in the 3-0 loss to Wolves, the Reds had almost 60% possession and created chances with an Expected Goals value of 1.96 but the hosts finished with an Expected Goals haul of 2.03. Delve a little deeper into the numbers and you see that despite having 22 efforts, Jurgen Klopp’s side carved out just one big chance. By comparison, Wolves had 12 shots and six big chances.
Against Brentford, Liverpool lost 3-1. They had 73% possession and their 16 efforts had an Expected Goals value of 2.03. The hosts had fewer shots (10) but more on target (seven to six) while also creating more big chances (four to three).
It was the same sort of story against Nottingham Forest. The hosts ceded possession - finishing the game with just 25% of the ball - but they had the same number of efforts on target as Liverpool (seven), had a higher Expected Goals total (1.86 to 1.66) and created more big chances (five to four).
Leeds claimed a 2-1 win at Anfield despite having just 31% possession. They finished with fewer big chances (three to two) but did end up with a slightly higher Expected Goals haul (1.77 to 1.74).
All of these results shared a number of similarities. Liverpool dominated the ball but failed to control the space, hence it turned into a bit of a basketball game - end to end.
The opposition carved out big chances at an alarming rate while Liverpool peppered the goal but struggled to create anything of real note.
This didn’t happen against Luton.
The Reds dominated the ball with 74% possession. They had 24 shots to Luton’s eight and finished with more efforts on target (six to five).
At Kenilworth Road, Liverpool created six big chances to the home side’s two. Their chances had an Expected Goals value of between 2.85 and 3.5 depending on which model you are looking at while Rob Edwards’ men managed to create chances with an Expected Goals value of just 0.81.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 5, 2023
Klopp and his team limited the hosts in all but one moment and it just so happened to be the situation they took full advantage of to open the scoring. With better finishing and a bit of luck, the exact same chances result in Liverpool romping to a big victory.
It wasn’t just Darwin Nuñez missing chances either.
Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and Mohamed Salah all missed big chances and that rarely happens. All strikers miss chances but it is rare for your entire attack to miss big chances galore in the same match. It was just one of those days.
However, more importantly, it wasn’t just one of those days from yesteryear. In those games, Liverpool didn’t really deserve anything.
In this one, they deserved all three points.