Fastest to 40 as Reds’ set-piece prowess proves key – 5 key stats from Liverpool 2-1 Brighton

1 December 2019

Liverpool’s set-piece potency proved key in the 2-1 win over Brighton as the Reds maintained their impressive unbeaten run in the league.


After 14 rounds of action, Liverpool sit atop of the Premier League table with 40 points to their name and an 11 point buffer over reigning champions Man City.

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds retained their stranglehold on their position after two goals from Virgil van Dijk in the opening 45 minutes.

While Liverpool looked on course to keep a rare clean sheet, the contest burst into life late in the piece to see Alisson given his marching orders and Lewis Dunk score from the subsequent free-kick.

It set up a tense and nervy finish at Anfield, but Liverpool held on to secure their 13th in 14 league games so far.

Here are five key statistics from Saturday’s win.

 

Reds Equal Record Run

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 30, 2019: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s incredible run of form in the Premier League rolled on against the Seagulls, with another three points added to their impressive tally.

And while Klopp’s chargers ensured the victory was not without drama, the result sees Liverpool stretch their unbeaten streak in the topflight to 31 games.

It is a tally which equals the club record set by Kenny Dalglish’s team between May 1987 and March 1998, and one which ranks third in the Premier League‘s history:

From the last taste of defeat against Man City in January, the current crop of Reds have gone on to win 26 games and draw a further five – meaning they have collected 83 from a possible 93 points.

It is an astonishing record and one which has Liverpool firmly on course to achieve their set goal this season, but now the team can kick on and claim the record for their own by avoiding defeat against Everton on Wednesday.

The Toffees were the side to end the run in 1988, but with 14 consecutive wins at Anfield under their belt in the league – the club’s second-longest winning run – Liverpool are in prime position to keep the streak going.

 

Set-Piece Prowess

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 30, 2019: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk scores the first goal with a header during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Despite Brighton boasting one of the tallest Premier League players in their backline, Dan Burn, the Reds’ prowess at set-pieces once again came to the fore.

When Van Dijk twice found himself on the end of two sumptuous deliveries from Trent Alexander-Arnold, he took Liverpool’s set-piece Premier League goal tally since the start of the 2018/19 campaign to 40, the most of any other side in the same period.

And in addition to that, the Dutchman’s avenue to goal saw the Reds take their tally to 29 headed goals in the league since the start of last season.

With the likes of Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson on hand to whip in inch-perfect deliveries and the increased aerial threat in the box, the Reds have added another crucial avenue to goal when the opposition prove hard to break down in open play.

Earlier in the season, Klopp said: “I love scoring from set-pieces, you have a lot of them in the game and you need to use them.”

And the Reds have done just that having evolved from a side who notched 13 and 11 respectively in 2016/17 and 2017/18.

In a league where the finest of margins are to prove decisive, Liverpool’s set-piece potency provides a further headache for the opposition to work out how best to stop the vast threat the Reds pose.

 

Alisson Irony

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 30, 2019: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker walks off after being shown a red card and sent off during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After spending 10 weeks and 12 games on the sidelines with a calf injury, Alisson is set to add another to game to the list after being dismissed late in the second half.

The undisputed No. 1, who has yet to keep a clean sheet since his return, had a largely comfortable afternoon at Anfield before a moment of madness saw him needlessly handle the ball outside the area as Leandro Trossard looked to lob the Brazilian.

It was an instantaneous decision from Martin Atkinson and one which saw the Reds pull Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the field to see Adrian return in between the sticks for the first time since the win over Leicester.

Brighton would go on to score from the subsequent free-kick to deny Liverpool yet another clean sheet.

But the irony of the sending off was that Alisson was the first ‘keeper to be dismissed in the league for handball since February 2015, a game which saw his replacement Adrian commit the same offence for West Ham:

It also made Alisson the first Liverpool goalkeeper to be sent off in a league fixture since Doni in April 2012.

And while Adrian looked a little shaky on his return to the team, which Klopp said he was in fact “frozen” when he came off the bench, the Reds have a more than qualified back-up to help steer the team to another three points at Anfield.

 

Imperious Van Dijk

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 30, 2019: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While the Reds had to wait 43 league appearances to see Van Dijk etch his name onto the scoresheet, the Dutchman has since more than made up for the wait.

It comes as no surprise that Liverpool’s No. 4 is widely considered a leading Ballon d’Or candidate such is his ability at both ends of the field, thwarting attacks at will, proving an immovable force at the back and leaving opposition defenders with their heads in their hands.

And on Saturday he was again dominant in both attack and defence, towering over Brighton to establish a two goal buffer in the space of six minutes.

And since the start of last season, no Premier League defender has scored more goals than Van Dijk (7).

The Dutchman’s importance to Liverpool cannot be understated and with just 14 games on the board, there is no doubt a lot more is to come from Van Dijk.

 

Fastest to 40

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 30, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp waves to the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1 with ten men. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In the Premier League, 40 points are widely considered the ‘safety point’, the target teams in the lower half of the table cast their eye to as they look for another season in England’s first division.

At the end of the 2018/19 campaign, five teams had failed to hit that target, but Klopp’s side have hit the mark with just 14 games on the board this season.

It is the fewest games Liverpool have taken to reach 40 points in the Premier League, as explained by Carl Clemente, surpassing last season’s record of 16:

It is an incredible position to be in so early in the season, with the gap between members of the chasing pack slowly starting to grow as a result.

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