Crosses, Counter Attacks, and Confirmation Bias

Whilst listening to this week’s The Anfield Wrap podcast (which I thoroughly recommend, and you can download here), I found myself nodding along with their discussion regarding Liverpool’s continual failure to prevent crosses. Mike Girling, one of the podcast’s regulars, noted:

“It’s an obvious tactic that opposing teams are taking with us (Liverpool) now, is to play the ball out wide early as our full backs don’t press, man to man, against a wide player. I’ve never known a team as easy to cross against as us. We never seem to stop the cross coming in”.

I was in complete agreement with him. Until I looked up the figures, that is; I only realised today that WhoScored have the figures for how many and what kind of pass teams face from their opponents, so I have compiled the figures for every team in the Premier League.

It turns out that the Reds face seventeen crosses per game on average, which is actually fewer than every other team in the top flight. This isn’t to say that Enrique and Johnson can’t do more to prevent crosses coming in of course, but I was surprised that the Reds have actually been targeted this way the least, as it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

Sadly I can’t find the goal conversion stats for conceding from crosses, but I wonder if Liverpool concede regularly from wide deliveries which makes people think that the ‘Pool are attacked a lot in this manner? Please comment below if you have the figures.

That said, I have shown recently (here) that Liverpool’s defence from set pieces isn’t actually too bad, and lots of those opportunities would come from crossed corners and free-kicks, so perhaps their defending isn’t so bad (though of course just because they aren’t conceding too many doesn’t mean they defend them well; they might just get away with it).

I also noticed that WhoScored have the stats for counter attacking. It’s widely considered (not least by myself) that Liverpool have been easy to pick off in this way this season, but is it the case that teams heavily attack the Reds via counter attacks?

The stats suggest not; Brendan Rodgers’ team only face an average of 0.4 shots per game on the counter, and only two teams (Everton and Tottenham Hotspur) average fewer.

What is true however is that Liverpool have the joint-worst counter attack goal conceded conversion percentage (and that’s a mouthful!) in the division (24.2%), with three goals conceded.

This got me to thinking: do people assume that Liverpool get frequently attacked on the counter because they have been punished the most pro rata? Arsenal, for instance, have conceded over twice as many goals on the counter (seven), yet I don’t hear people saying they are too open.

The Reds also concede the joint fewest through-balls per game too; in fairness, every team averages either only one or two, but the point here is that Liverpool are not:

  • Targeted with crosses more than any other team
  • Sliced open with through balls in behind their defenders
  • Frequently hit with shots on the counter attack

So why do Liverpool fans think they are? Food for thought anyway…

Related posts you might like:

Set Piece Setbacks – A look at the records for defending and attacking set pieces for all twenty teams in the Premier League.

Moneyball Statistics and Damien Comolli – A piece for The Tomkins Times analysing what effect Liverpool’s former director of football may have had upon recruitment and tactics at Anfield.

Please check out my other articles, and follow me on Twitter or via Facebook. Thanks.

3 thoughts on “Crosses, Counter Attacks, and Confirmation Bias

  1. Maybe not more so that other teams, but perhaps the most common for Liverpool to concede from these attacks. As you’ve stated, Beez, getting those goal conversion rates will offer a clear view.

  2. Pingback: Brendan Rodgers: The Right Appointment? | Bass Tuned To Red

  3. Pingback: Brendan Rodgers’ Cross To Bear | Bass Tuned To Red

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