Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0: Chance Combinations

As I’ve recently had some positive feedback for my chance creation combinations work, I’m contemplating writing a piece on each match next season, rather than posting the figures for the whole season as I have been doing in this campaign. This is therefore very much a pilot, and all feedback will be gratefully received in the comments selection below.

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What’s A Reasonable Points Target For Rodgers?

The Reds have suffered defeats in their past two matches, and as anyone would have predicted, ‘Rodgers Out’ tweets were not too far behind. 2013/14 was a remarkable season, with this one broadly acceptable (but more on that below) and so I’m happy for Brendan Rodgers to continue as manager next season. The recent results have made me ponder what an acceptable points tally would be this season though. I was comparing Liverpool’s points total so far this season with previous campaigns and spotted the following:

The Reds are on target to match the club average for a Premier League season this year, but what if we look at longer time-frames? One season isn’t a very large sample, after all. Continue reading

The Truth About Sterling’s Stats

As the Raheem Sterling contract saga rumbles interminably on, the following tweet appeared in my timeline on Wednesday night.

The stats here are undoubtedly impressive, not least for a 20 year old playing in a team that has struggled to get close to the heights of 2013/14. They don’t take any account of how much time Sterling has spent on the pitch though, so I’ve taken a closer look by factoring that information in.

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Brendan Rodgers’ Goalscoring Low

As a regular listener of the excellent The Anfield Wrap podcasts (and seriously, check out The Tuesday Review), it’s very clear to me what is currently bothering host Neil Atkinson; Liverpool aren’t creating enough chances, and Liverpool aren’t scoring enough goals.

This obviously seems strange and unusual when they scored 101 (mostly great) goals in 2013/14, but it’s certainly the case right now. One of the many things I keep an eye on is how many points and goals both for and against Liverpool have accrued over their previous thirty-eight league games, and a recent TAW-inspired look at the figures hammered home what Neil is talking about.

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A Closer Look At Liverpool’s Chance Creation Combinations

I recently received some compliments for my chance creation combination work (with specific regard to this season’s figures, which you can see here) so I thought I’d dig a little deeper and expand upon the data for the most frequent link ups to see which duos have actually been the most potent in 2014/15.

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Race For The Top Four: An Analysis

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I recently appeared on an Anfield Index Analytics podcast (which you can listen to here) in which host Dan Kennett and I ran through the pros and cons of the five contenders who are aiming for a third or fourth placed finish in the Premier League this season. As there is only one third of 2014/15 now remaining, I thought I’d share the stats and my thoughts here.

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Liverpool’s Penalty Record Without Gerrard

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Steven Gerrard became Liverpool’s joint-fifth top all time scorer on Tuesday night, with 183 goals, when he converted a penalty against Spurs at Anfield. Now that he is injured, who should take any penalties that the Reds are awarded? I’ve taken a quick look at Liverpool’s recent penalty record excluding Gerrard, and it does not make for pretty reading.
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Danny Ings: Why Liverpool Are Interested

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Although no deal has as yet been confirmed, Liverpool are clearly looking to bring in Danny Ings from Burnley in the summer when his contract expires. As usual, I thought I’d take a look at his stats, and having done so I can definitely see why he would appeal to Brendan Rodgers.

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Liverpool vs Chelsea: League Cup Semi-Final Review

As I was lucky enough to attend the second leg of the League Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Chelsea, I thought I’d post a few thoughts on the match, the tie overall, and of course throw in a few stats.

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Coutinho to Sturridge – Liverpool’s Best Creative Partnership?

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Any Liverpool fan you talk to will wax lyrical about the magic of the Coutinho-Sturridge partnership, and how the Brazilian will be setting up chances galore for the England international when he finally returns from injury.

Has this actually been the case regularly in the past though? Everyone remembers fantastic assists from Coutinho to Sturridge against Newcastle, Fulham, Everton and Arsenal, but what’s the chance creation story for their whole time together in the Premier League?

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Does Jordon Ibe Deserve A Recall?

With rumours rife that Jordon Ibe will be cutting his loan at Derby County short to rejoin the Liverpool squad for the second half of 2014/15, I thought I’d take a quick look at his attacking stats to see how he has been getting on.

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Aston Villa vs Liverpool: Preview

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Since the 2011/12 season, Aston Villa and Liverpool have had a slightly peculiar relationship; the Reds have won three out of three at Villa Park, whilst the Villans have left Anfield with two wins and two draws from their four visits. Does the two teams’ form this season suggest that this run will continue with a Liverpool win on Saturday?
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Sunderland vs Liverpool: Stats Preview

Although the Reds won their last match, their previous league game saw two points dropped as Leicester City took a 2-2 draw home from Anfield. On Saturday at 12:45 they will aim to get back on track league-wise, at the Stadium of Light.

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Defending The Liverpool Defence

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This article was originally written for issue five of the excellent We Are Liverpool fanzine (Twitter / Facebook). As such, the stats are a little out of date, but the main themes are still valid and I’ve written a little postscript to give the up-to-date picture…

Since the summer of 2013, Liverpool FC have spent somewhere in the region of £60m trying to improve their defence and goalkeeper. As back line stalwarts of the Benitez era left the club for various reasons (Carragher; retired, Agger; semi-retired, Reina; retired from regularly keeping the ball out of the net), the likes of Mignolet, Sakho, Lovren and Moreno have come in at considerable expense to try to solidify things.

Yet in 2013/14, the Reds conceded more goals per game (1.32) than in any previous Premier League campaign, and at the time of writing (on the eve of Liverpool’s match at Selhurst Park) it’s slightly worse this season (with an average of 1.36 goals conceded per game).

When you consider that the Reds averaged 0.98 goals a game against in the Premier League before last season, you can see that Liverpool are conceding an extra goal every three games these days, and now that the goals have dried up at the right end, Brendan Rodgers could really do with his back line tightening up sooner rather than later.

Sadly for the boss, Lovren and Moreno have already made more (Opta-defined) defensive errors in the league than they did in the whole of last season for their respective clubs, and Martin Skrtel is another Red in the top ten (or that should really be ‘worst ten’) for committing on the ball errors that lead to shots. This goes a long way to explaining why Liverpool have the joint fewest clean sheets in the top flight this season (again, as at November 22nd).

In spite of all of this, I’m going to show you that things aren’t that bad in defensive terms for Liverpool this season. I imagine quite a few people have now turned the page in disbelief, to read something a little more realistic. But if you’re still here, a) thanks, and b) here’s what I mean.

If Liverpool are as bad defensively as everyone says this season, then presumably they must be allowing their opponents to have loads of shots? Actually no, they’re not. At present, only two teams (Arsenal and Southampton) have conceded fewer shots than the Reds have.

Ah, but not all shots are equal. Perhaps Liverpool are allowing lots of good quality shots?

Yes and no. When shooting at goal, there’s a massive difference in conversion rate depending on whether or not you’re in the penalty box. Thanks to @DanKennett (when writing for the StatsBomb website), we know that around one in eight shots in the box (excluding penalty kicks) results in a goal, but this drops hugely to around one in thirty-seven (excluding direct free-kicks) once you are outside the penalty area.

Are Liverpool’s opponents shooting lots in their penalty area then? As the table below shows, they’re not.

Shots In The Box againstOnly three teams in the Premier League have allowed fewer shots per game in their penalty box than Liverpool this season. On the whole, the hapless Dejan Lovren and co. have restricted their opponents from shooting close to goal far better than most rival teams in the English top flight have. It’s also interesting to note that despite the widely perceived notion that the defence is worse this season than it was last year, Liverpool are actually allowing 0.4 fewer shots per game in their box (and 2.1 overall) this term.

Clearly all is not rosy though, as I alluded to earlier; despite not allowing that many shots in Simon Mignolet’s penalty area, Liverpool’s opponents are having lots of ‘big chances’. These are defined by Opta as “a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range”, so how are teams getting these opportunities without shooting in the box too often?

Remember the high number of defensive errors? That’s how teams are able to get so many top quality shots away against the Reds. So if (and this is the biggest ‘if’ in this whole fanzine; possibly in the western world) Liverpool can cut out the stupid mistakes at the back, then their defensive record should rapidly improve, as teams aren’t shooting in the Reds’ box too much otherwise.

Of course, the issue with stats based articles is that they are out of date quicker than a ‘reduced’ shelf at the supermarket; maybe when you read this the picture has shifted and become better anyway (or more likely worse).

But rest assured, the majority of Liverpool’s basic defensive numbers are actually pretty good anyway, and so their goals against record should improve. Watch this space…

Postscript: Six weeks on and the picture is broadly the same, though perhaps the main positive is that shots in the box against Liverpool has dropped to 6.0 per game, which is the fourth fewest in the Premier League. More teams are allowing fewer shots overall than the Reds now than when the piece was written, but as the total in the box has dropped then my defence of the defence still stands!

Please check out my articles on Liverpool’s transfer targets, and follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Scroll down to see the related posts for this article. Thanks.

How Good Is Brad Jones?

Brad Jones has an unenviable position these days. It’s doubtful one fan of his club believes he is good enough to play for them, and inaccurate stats and general abuse towards him flood the Twittersphere. Here are some of the least offensive tweets:

But how bad is he? I thought I’d use a simple expected goals system to try to figure this out.

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SLiCk: How Liverpool’s New Front Three Interact

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On the 6th December, Liverpool hosted Sunderland at Anfield, and laboured their way to a 0-0 draw in which they only had two shots on target. Rickie Lambert lead the line that day, with a threesome of Sterling, Lallana and Coutinho (can you see where SLiCk comes from now?!) behind him.

The match was Liverpool’s twenty-second of the season, yet it was only the sixth time that this trio had appeared on the pitch at the same time. Now that they’ve played together in the Reds’ last five games, with impressive results, I thought I’d take a quick look at the impact they have had and how well they have linked up.

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Divock Origi: Should Liverpool Stick Or Twist?

Rumour and counter-rumour are always the order of the day on Twitter, but the latest one to actually catch my interest is the talk that Liverpool might pay Lille an additional fee in order to bring Divock Origi to Anfield in January, rather than in the summer as was originally agreed. But should they; how is he performing in Ligue 1, and how does that compare to the strikers already on Liverpool’s books? Continue reading