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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Liverpool’s Crossing Conundrum

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There’s been a lot of online chatter about how Liverpool seem to be crossing a lot more this season than they did in 2013/14, and perhaps this is down to the Reds’ new recruits at full back, who appear to favour a cross as their method of attack.

The basic stats suggest there has been little difference in Liverpool’s crossing rate in the league; seventeen crosses per game last season has become twenty-one in this campaign. I thought I’d therefore have a quick look at the new Spaniards’ crossing rates both for Liverpool and before they joined. This is definitely an article that raises more questions than it answers.

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Liverpool’s Predictable Problems

As Liverpool slumped to their third league defeat in five games, I couldn’t help but notice that three things I had identified as possible concerns regarding the Reds in recent months all seem to be coming to pass at once.

This isn’t a ‘Ha, told you so!’ exercise, but I thought it would be worth re-iterating the points as they seem to lie at the heart of Liverpool’s troubles at the moment, and I’ve tried to look a little deeper to the cause of the issues too. Continue reading

Liverpool vs Aston Villa: Stats Preview

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As I’m compiling stats throughout this season for use in the Anfield Index Analytics podcast, I figured it’d make sense to use them to write match previews too. With only three games played, it’d be wrong to read too much into the numbers, but equally I think they show that Aston Villa haven’t been playing that well, despite being unbeaten and currently sitting third in the fledgling 2014/15 Premier League.

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Diamond(Formation)s Are Forever

In the first episode of the Anfield Index Analytics podcast (which I took part in, and you can listen to here), I mentioned that Liverpool have recently had a phenomenal record when starting matches with a diamond in midfield: seven wins and one draw from eight matches.

I was even more intrigued in the formation’s possibilities when I saw this tweet on Monday:

Optajoe Diamond

On the same day as the above tweet, England triumphed 2-0 in Switzerland by employing a diamond formation too, so it definitely seems to be the strategy du jour right now.

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Balotelli vs Welbeck

When Danny Welbeck made his slightly surprising move from Manchester United to Arsenal on transfer deadline day, I noted that there were several parallels with Liverpool’s new signing, Mario Balotelli.

Both born in 1990, the two strikers each moved for a fee of £16m to teams of broadly similar standard. The obvious question to consider is therefore which of the two will score the most goals this season?

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Crocks and Rodgers

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Prior to signing Mario Balotelli, Liverpool were in desperate need of a new striker. Why? Because Daniel Sturridge is injury prone and will inevitably miss a sizeable chunk of the 2014/15 campaign at some point.

Or will he? I’ve looked at the injury stats on the physioroom website to try to put into context how often he (and the rest of Liverpool’s squad, where possible) pick up knocks, niggles and strains.

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Super Mario?

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There are very few players who divide opinion as much as him. Capable of moments of madness and brilliance from minute-to-minute, his ability to entertain, infuriate and court controversy are largely unrivalled.

But enough about Luis Suárez. Liverpool need to move on from the Uruguayan and secure a replacement striker. What do the stats tell us that Balotelli can bring to Anfield?

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Lucas: Tackling Decline

Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League

There was a lot of online bemusement regarding the selection of Lucas Leiva to face Southampton in the opening match of the season on Sunday, so I thought I’d take a quick look at his stats to see how he performed and what the trends are, particularly with regards to his tackling.

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Chance Quality: 2014/15 Prediction

Regular readers will know that I spent last season compiling chance quality information for the Premier League, to see which teams created scoring opportunities in the best and worse areas. Simon Gleave is compiling pre-season predictions on how the league table will look at the end of 2014/15 season, so I’ve decided to give it a go using this system.

It may turn out that chance quality is not consistent from season-to-season (and indeed I do expect this to be the case), but there’s only one way to find out, so I will attempt to forecast the final 2014/15 Premier League table using this data.

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Javier Manquillo: Cross Blocking Beats

Manquillo

I wasn’t planning to write a piece on Liverpool’s new loan signing Javier Manquillo, simply because there is very little available data. The 20-year-old has only made sixteen appearances for Atletico Madrid’s first team, and seven of those were in the Copa del Rey (for which there are no detailed stats).

However, when having a look at his numbers from the nine games I could get information for, I found one particularly eye-catching stat that perhaps explains Liverpool’s interest in the young Spaniard.

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Mignolet vs Reina: 2013/14

Mig v Reina

Ahead of Simon Mignolet’s move to Anfield last summer, I wrote this comparison of his and Pepe Reina’s form over the previous three seasons. The stats suggested that the Liverpool man was in decline whilst the Sunderland stopper was on the rise.

It was therefore interesting to see the image here on Twitter, which suggested that Reina had a better season performance-wise with Napoli in 2013/14 than Mignolet did with Liverpool. Whilst I don’t expect Reina to ever play for the Reds again, clearly the stats needed further investigation, so here’s what I found.

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Are Liverpool Too Light On Champions League Experience?

Having looked up how much Champions League experience that Liverpool’s squad has previously had, I’m beginning to get a little concerned that there is a distinct lack of it.

There’s nothing to say that this will definitely be an issue of course, but having compiled the data I thought I’d share it here.

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Would You Take 84 Points?

If you’re the kind of person who reads my site, I’m sure you probably also listen to The Anfield Wrap. To my mind it’s the best Liverpool podcast in a very crowded marketplace, but I’m not writing this piece to sing it’s praises particularly.

Since the end of last season, Anfield Wrap host Neil Atkinson has been asking contributors to the podcast if they would take Liverpool getting eighty-four points in 2014/15 if they could, to match the tally they posted last season.

As you’d expect, there’s been a mixture of responses. Some people wouldn’t accept the offer as they feel the Reds are capable of winning more points than that. Others would take it, as it would surely guarantee another season of Champions League football at the very least.

Personally, I would take eighty-four points, and here’s why.

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A Closer Look At Loïc

LR v DS Tweet

When it became clear that Loïc Remy was likely to be signing for Liverpool, I took a quick look at his headline stats from 2013/14 and noticed how similar they were to Daniel Sturridge’s. Surely a look at a few other attacking metrics would reveal a major difference between the pair?

LR v DS Shot Chance DribbleOh, okay. So you’re telling me that Liverpool will have secured Sturridge and a very similar alternate option for around £21m in total?  You are? Marvellous! I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t dig a little deeper though….

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Dejan’s Defending; The Look of Lovren

Lovren after scoring at Anfield

Dejan Lovren, Southampton’s Croatian centre-back who they purchased from Lyon twelve months ago, is the latest player to be strongly linked with a move to Liverpool.

As defensive stats are hard to make use of, as a lot of the important aspects of defending (e.g. positioning, anticipation, marking etc) aren’t measured (or at least, the data isn’t available in the public domain), I’ve looked at some stats in a slightly different way to try to get more useful information out of them.

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Lallambert vs Suarridge

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It’s rare for a club to purchase two players from the same team during one transfer window, yet that is exactly what Liverpool have done by taking Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert from Southampton (and I have previously written about the players at length here and here).

This is good from an amateur analyst’s point of view, as it has enabled me to see how they linked up last season. I looked at the Suárez and Sturridge partnership here, so I thought I’d compare the Liverpool new boys with the Anfield heroes of 2013/14.

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Suárez Goes; What Will Liverpool Need?

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Although the news was confirmed today that Luis Suárez will be leaving Liverpool, clearly it has been on the cards for some time. Including penalty wins, the Uruguyan scored (eighty-two) or assisted (fifty-three) a total of 135 goals in 133 appearances for the Reds, at a rate of a goal or assist every 84 minutes. Clearly he will be missed, and not least as Liverpool only had twelve different scorers in the league in 2013/14, the joint-fourth fewest in the division.

Yet Liverpool’s league record without Luis Suárez in the team is surprisingly good. In the 18 league games he has missed since his debut in 2011, the Reds’ record is W11 D3 L4; exactly two points per game, in other words. If they can repeat that form next season then Rodgers’ Reds might start to edge towards becoming CL regulars.

It won’t be that easy to achieve without Suárez though, and here is why.

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Is Ben Davies The Answer At Left Back?

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Liverpool were recently linked to Ryan Bertrand, though as I wrote here there was nothing in his numbers that could explain why particularly. The latest left back to be rumoured to be in Brendan Rodgers’ sights is Ben Davies of Swansea City, and as his raw numbers looked more favourable, I thought I’d dig a little deeper.

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