I didn’t see Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat at The Hawthorns yesterday (perhaps fortunately), but for a bad loss there were certainly some encouraging statistics.
Last season, Liverpool made the joint most Final Third Regains in the Premier League, at an average of 3.32 per game. Yesterday they made a whopping eight, which is clear evidence that their pressing is improving even only a short while into the Brendan Rodgers era.
In the creativity stakes, the Reds averaged 2.4 clear-cut chances per game last season; they had three yesterday. That may not be hugely better, but it’s certainly not bad for a heavy defeat.
Against West Brom, Liverpool’s passing accuracy in the final third of the pitch was 83%, against an average of 70% in the last campaign. To give that a little context, last season Manchester City were accurate with 77% of their final third passes on their way to the title, whilst Manchester United averaged 76% as they finished second. If the Reds can keep that figure up, they’ll definitely have a good season.
Update 22 August 2012: I have conducted some further research, and Liverpool’s final third passing accuracy on Saturday compares well to the average for a top four side. The Reds attempted 155 passes and completed 128 for their figure of 83%; on average in the last two seasons, a Champions Leaue qualifying side has attempted 140 and completed 102 for a 73% accuracy.
In terms of ball retention, the early signs from yesterday are very positive. Liverpool lost possession on average 165 times per match last season, but yesterday they only did so on 133 occasions. As the number of touches was virtually identical (706 vs West Brom compared to 701 per match in 2011/12) that means their ‘touch per loss of possession’ ratio improved from 4.25 last season to 5.30 on Saturday.
Of course, not all of the statistics were better than last season (crossing accuracy, total chances created and shooting accuracy were all down), but I think some encouragement can be taken from the improvement seen in the above numbers. After all, Brendan Rodgers has barely had a chance yet to get his ideas across.
Pressing more, creating better chances, keeping the ball better and passing more accurately in the final third of the pitch. If they can manage all of that when losing 3-0, then there’s certainly hope for Liverpool this season yet.