Divock Origi: Should Liverpool Stick Or Twist?

Until this issue is settled once and for all, I think I’ll leave this on the homepage…

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?

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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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Liverpool’s Record With and Without Lucas

After Lucas Leiva made a very impressive eight tackles, four interceptions and twelve ball recoveries in Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Leicester City, there was lots of online chatter from Kopites suggesting that the Brazilian might finally be returning to something like his best form, which occurred prior to his anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2011.

Tweets like this one were soon doing the rounds after the match:

I’m always wary of reading too much into with/without stats, as there are so many other factors to consider, and the above tweet only covers this season so is a very small sample. Looking at Liverpool’s league form since 2009/10 though, it’s impossible to deny that the team has performed a lot better on the whole when Lucas has played.

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Two Goals Is Too Many; Liverpool’s Away Defence

As Liverpool slumped to a 3-1 defeat at Selhurst Park on Sunday, they racked up their fourth away defeat of the season, and sixth in total, with both of these loss figures matching their total for the whole of 2013/14.

Once Crystal Palace had equalised, it should’ve come as little surprise that they scored again before the end of the match; conceding two-or-more goals on the road has been a trademark of the Brendan Rodgers era at Liverpool.
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Liverpool’s Big Chance Problem

LFC v Spurs Big Chances

When I was recently updating my creativity combination info (which you can see here), it really hit home to me just how poor Liverpool have been in creative terms this season, and particularly so recently.

It’s hard to know what to say on here though without endlessly repeating myself. The three issues I thought might cause the Reds problems this season, which I wrote about at length here (fewer set piece goals and big chances than last season, and Balotelli being a poor finisher), have basically bogged Liverpool down from day one.

The big chance issue is frankly terrifying right now though, as it illustrates just how poorly Liverpool are doing in attacking terms at the moment.

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Liverpool’s Broken Attack: An Analysis

With just one goal to show for their efforts across their last five league and European games (and it was a heavily deflected goal at that, as we can see below), it’s clear that Liverpool’s attack isn’t working as it should right now.

An unusual stat which may in part illustrate why this is caught my eye after the Reds’ defeats to both Newcastle and Chelsea, so I thought I’d investigate it further.

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Glen Johnson Needs Shooting Practice

Although Newcastle’s winning goal didn’t occur for a further twenty seconds, the Magpies regained possession and began the move that lead to it following a blocked Glen Johnson shot from outside of the penalty box.

Ah, a blocked Glen Johnson shot from outside of the penalty box. If you’re a Liverpool fan, you can picture it perfectly in your mind; Johnson receives the ball in a wide area, cuts inside, and then shoots wastefully. Rinse and repeat, ad naseum.

Or is that actually the case? If you regularly read my work you’ll know that I like to investigate perceived wisdom, and Glen Johnson is the latest to receive the in-depth Bass Tuned To Red treatment.

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A Look At Luis Alberto

I can’t claim to have watched any of Luis Alberto’s games for Malaga this season, but it was disappointing to see the following tweet:

Not least as I was under the impression that he was actually doing pretty well, thanks to this radar tweet:

Having not seen the matches, I can’t provide a definitive answer to this difference of opinions, but I thought I’d take a closer look at the numbers in the above radar to see what they say to me about Alberto’s performance so far this season.

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Balotelli In The Box

Balo Box

There seems to be consensus online that both Mario Balotelli and the Liverpool team as a whole perform better when the £16m Italian international is partnered by another striker; ideally with Daniel Sturridge (as we saw at White Hart Lane), but also when alongside Rickie Lambert or Fabio Borini.

Whilst it is hard to quantify this performance improvement, I thought I’d take a quick look at Balotelli’s impact in the opposition penalty box when he has played alone compared to when he has had a strike partner.
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Creating From Corners

In a recent piece I wrote on Liverpool’s predictable problems (see here), one of the issues I highlighted was that the Reds were highly unlikely to match last season’s record haul of twenty-six league goals from set pieces. As the following tweets illustrate, it seems that there is a widespread perception that Brendan Rodgers’ men are particularly struggling with their corners this season:

Are these opinions justified, or are things not as straightforward? I’ve taken a closer look.

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LFC Creativity Review: Seven Games In

Liverpool have not made a flying start in 2014/15, yet I don’t believe that things have been quite as bad as they have been portrayed.

One of the key things that I monitor is expected assists, which as you may know by now is based upon where on the pitch chances are created, and the likelihood that those opportunities will be scored. Using this metric, the Reds appear to be in fine fettle.

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Liverpool FC Creativity Combinations 2014/15

Last season I hit upon an idea: a creativity combination heatmap (which you can see here). It shows which players have linked up to create goalscoring opportunities most often, and how creative players have been overall.

Well, it’s back for 2014/15, except with a few enhancements…

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