As Liverpool continue to struggle to make a push towards the top four, it’s very tempting to blame things that are beyond their control. The Reds have only been awarded one penalty in twenty-two league games to date, when they have averaged one every 6.9 league games in the previous ten seasons, and the Debatable Decisions website suggests that Liverpool have lost eleven points through incorrect refereeing calls and should at present be joint third in the Premier League table.
But some of the damage has unfortunately been self-inflicted. I’m referring to defensive errors, and compared to both the Reds’ own form in previous seasons, and the worst defences in the Premier League in recent years, the current Liverpool team is performing exceptionally badly.
The below table shows how many errors the team have committed so far this season, compared to the last four full seasons:
Almost one in three of the goals the Reds have conceded this season have been directly attributed as a result of their own mistakes, which is a terrible ratio. They have also already made double the amount of errors that they did in the previous campaign, and will at this rate commit more this season than in the previous two combined.
What makes matters worse is that far inferior teams to Liverpool haven’t made anywhere near as many errors in recent times. Here are the figures for the teams with the worst defensive records in recent seasons:
The Reds are currently making nearly twice as many errors as the Blackpool side of 2010/11 did, and they’re the worst offender from a full season on the list! But how much has this hypothetically cost Liverpool?
Both of the 2-2 draws that the Reds have been involved in this season have seen both opposition goals scored as a result of Liverpool shooting themselves in the foot. Painful!
That said, fortunately for Brendan Rodgers only five points have been lost due to errors, though had Liverpool’s opponents been sharper with the additional 23 mistakes that have only lead to a shot, then this outcome could have been far worse.
Earlier in the season I argued that these errors would likely disappear once the team became accustomed to Rodgers’ tactics, but it hasn’t happened yet. Who exactly are Liverpool’s worst offenders?
Credit has to go to Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson; as well as playing far more football than they have in recent seasons, they have only made one defensive error apiece, when players with less responsibility at the back (such as Steven Gerrard) have made more.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, only nine players in the whole Premier League this season have committed five-or-more errors, and three of them play for Liverpool!
For the second season in a row, Pepe Reina has made five errors (which is further evidence of his decline), whilst Martin Skrtel has returned to his five-error-form from 2010/11, after earning Liverpool’s player of the year award last season when he made only one.
Joe Allen makes up the unfortunate trio of Red error makers, and his form in this area makes for interesting reading. After not committing a single defensive error last season at Swansea or during his first ten league games for Liverpool, the Welshman has now made five in his last eleven games.
Is this evidence of a downturn in his form, a sign that he is starting to feel the pressure of playing for the five-time European champions instead of a newly promoted side, or perhaps a bit of both? Whatever the reason, Brendan Rodgers could certainly do with his most expensive Anfield signing regaining his early season form.
As Liverpool are scoring more than they have in the last few seasons, they could make real progress if they stopped gifting their opponents so many goal scoring opportunities; so far 12% of the shots the Reds have conceded have been self-inflicted. Whatever the reason for the mistakes, Liverpool need to close the error log and start moving up the table.