2016/17 Stats Round-Up: August

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times at the start of September, and will refer to my expected goals system (the full explanation of which can be found here) and my stat benchmarks (which I explained in full here). In future these will only be available to Tomkins Times subscribers, but I have been kindly allowed to share this here as a taster of what will be on offer each month. 

August was always going to be a very tough month for Liverpool, as the Reds faced three games away from home, including travelling to play the teams who finished second and third last season. We know how they did in reality, taking four points out of a possible nine, but how did they perform on the expected goals front?

LFC ExpG AUGUSTBy putting my expected goals figures for each shot from each game into Danny Page’s excellent match simulator (which can be found here, and simulates each match 10,000 times), I can calculate the likelihood that Liverpool would win each match, and how many points they would take on average too.

The final two columns on the above table show these results, and we can see that these figures increased from each match to the next in August. It may have seemed counter-intuitive when watching the match to think that the Reds had essentially a fifty-fifty chance of winning at Burnley, but as the home side scored both of their shots on target that obviously made a huge difference; the aforementioned simulator gave a less than 1% chance that Burnley would win that match 2-0 based on the shots both teams had. Even leaving that aside, as I assign a win for any side winning an expected goals battle by more than 0.5, we can see that my system has the Reds unbeaten on seven points.

It’s very early days of course, but let’s take a look at my expected goals Premier League table, and see how it compares to the actual table.

PL ExpG Table AUGUSTLiverpool are well placed here, and as we know they have three fewer points than their expected goal performances ‘deserve’; only Sunderland are worse off so far (having four fewer than they might’ve expected), and it’s a bit of a sickener to see that Burnley have three more in reality than they deserve, as we know all too well who they got them against.

When I have more data this season, I will also look at how Liverpool’s players are doing against their expected goal tallies, but as Coutinho is the only Red to have had more than two shots on target so far in 2016/17, it would be pointless at this stage. I’ll just mention here though that Coutinho’s shots to date have amounted to 1.93 expected goals, so the fact he has scored two isn’t too surprising.

What we can look at now though is which matches have seen the best net expected goal performances this month. The following table shows the five best homes and five best aways, plus Liverpool’s matches (and please note that as the expected goal values change as I put more data into the system, the values here may differ slightly with the above table as the data is collated week-by-week for the below).

PL ExpG Best AUGUSTIt may just be coincidence, but it’s interesting that four of the five best home performances and two of the aways all came in the most recent matchweek. That probably isn’t that surprising looking at the fixtures, but I wonder if teams are starting to get their new players bedded in properly and are improving as a result? We shall see in time.

Liverpool’s performance at Spurs may not have made the top five aways this month, but it is just outside in seventh, and considering that it is a heavier expected goals home defeat than Tottenham experienced in the whole of 2015/16, that’s a very encouraging effort by Jürgen Klopp’s side even if they couldn’t actually win the match. Granted, by having a penalty which is valued at 0.87 expected goals helped here, but even taking out penalties makes this the only expected goals defeat Spurs have suffered in their past twenty-one league matches at home. Similarly…

As for my stat benchmarks (which are having five shots on target or three-clear cut chances more than the opposition), Liverpool have failed to hit either of them yet this season. A little context is definitely required here though, and the following table provides it. As Burnley weren’t in the top flight last season, I’ve used the three promoted teams for 2015/16 to give us an indication.

PL Home Benchmark DefeatsPerhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the Reds have not hit the benchmarks yet, as very few teams did in the same fixtures last season. This idea certainly passes the common sense test, as the big teams are too good to let it happen on their patch very often, and Premier League new boys tend to defend in numbers and try to not give much away. As you’d expect anyway, the two benchmarks were met away from home less often across the board; a combined total of 64 on the road compared to 102 when playing in front of your own fans.

A quick look at all stats across the Premier League to finish, and it has revealed the following quirky nuggets of gold:

  • A team has had six-or-more shots on target fifteen times so far this season. Have a guess who is the only team to do it in all of their matches? No, you’re wrong, it’s Everton.
  • Despite a less-than-stellar set of results, Leicester had four clear-cut chances against Hull and five against Swansea. The rest of the league combined has only had four-or-more four times between them, so I think the Foxes are in better shape than they may appear.
  • I’ve started collecting data on penalty box touches for the first time this season, yet so far it has a lower correlation with winning than possession! Colour me surprised, I expect to see this increase as the sample of data does likewise.
  • Manchester United (at Hull, with twelve) are the only away side in the Premier League this season to have won the ‘shots in the box count’ by more than Liverpool did against Tottenham (five), Arsenal (six) and Burnley (nine). That said, if Liverpool are going to be successful this season, they need to replicate their shot profiles from Arsenal and Spurs, and definitely not Burnley…

See you next month!

Are Liverpool Better At Defending Set Pieces This Season?

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It’s far too early to accurately answer this question of course, but I did a quick piece of research which was prompted by a Redmen TV video I watched:

This in turn had been inspired by a John Aldridge column in the Liverpool Echo, where the former striker spoke about recent Reds signing Joel Matip:

“I feel a lot more confident defending set plays because of him in the back four. Matip’s size and height means he’s winning those high balls in the box, he’s a real man mountain. He reminds me of Sami Hyypia in that respect, in how he likes to get his head on everything. We’ve looked susceptible from set pieces in recent times, now we look solid.”

Is this actually the case though? I’ve crunched the defensive set piece numbers for Liverpool in the Premier League since the start of last season, and I’m not convinced that it is.

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Get Sturridge In The Box (and here’s why)

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As Liverpool passed themselves into endless cul-de-sacs whilst on their way to a 2-0 defeat at Burnley, one of their many issues became painfully apparent (and not for the first time): Daniel Sturridge was not in or even near the box enough.

The Reds (or should that be the toxic greens) completed twenty-two passes in the Burnley box, which on the face of it is a decent total; Liverpool only bettered that once on the road last season, with twenty-five at Crystal Palace, and Saturday’s tally was only bettered twelve times by away teams in the 380 Premier League matches last season.

The problem was that Daniel Sturridge, the only proven and consistent Premier League goal scorer in the Liverpool squad, was only the recipient for three of them. A dig into the numbers shows that this is part of a very concerning trend, and they back up what Kopites have seen themselves whilst watching the matches in 2016.


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The Value Of A Good Home Record

New Anfield

Ah, fortress Anfield. Where visiting teams arrive beaten before the kick off, and depart with their tails between their legs and nothing more than some ‘toffee’ and maybe a beer from the boot room.

The above paragraph is sadly hazy rose-tinted nostalgia; I knew Liverpool weren’t quite as strong at home in recent times, but it wasn’t until I looked closely that I saw just how bad their record has become.

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Georginio Wijnaldum: A Quick Look At The Stats

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Liverpool look set to sign Georginio Wijnaldum for a fee believed to be around £25m. I’ve taken a very quick look at some of his stats from the last campaign (with a few words on Mané here for good measure too).

Last season, Wijnaldum scored eleven league goals against an expected goals total of 10.43, giving him a performance rating of 105%. He and another Reds new boy Sadio Mané were very closely matched here (Mané also scored eleven, vs an ExpG tally of 11.64) but whereas Mané missed his one penalty, Wijnaldum scored his.

That aside, their records were virtually identical, and it’s clear that Jurgen Klopp has identified that Liverpool need more goals from midfield; Wijnaldum and Mané were ranked joint-third in the Premier League for goals whilst playing in midfield last season, so both should go a long way to addressing that issue.

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Divock Origi Season Review

Origi celebration

This article was originally for subscribers of The Tomkins Times (here).

When will we learn, eh? Well, most of you reading this don’t need to learn, but large swathes of the wider fanbase certainly do; when will fans accept that young players usually take time to settle, as do players coming to England from overseas, so when a new signing ticks both boxes maybe they deserve a little leeway?

September 23rd 2015. Liverpool are struggling to get past Carlisle United of League Two in the Capital One Cup. Divock Origi, a twenty year old Belgian who has recently joined the squad (having been officially signed a year earlier) comes off the bench in the 34th minute to replace another new signing, Roberto Firmino, to make just his third appearance for the club. A search of Twitter suggests he wasn’t doing too well (and I stuck to a fairly mild swear word; far worse versions of this are available)…

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Liverpool FC Creativity Combinations 2015/16

LFC v EFC chances

Having originally devised this idea in 2013, this is the third season where I have collated data on which Liverpool players linked up to create chances in the Premier League. You can see the information for 2013/14 here, and 2014/15 here.

In previous years I have looked at other aspects beyond the raw figures, and whilst I plan to do similar with this season’s numbers, time is as usual against me so this will have to suffice for now. Without further ado…

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Loris Karius: Stats Review

Loris Karius

Liverpool have completed the signing of Loris Karius, a goalkeeper who plied his trade in the Bundesliga for Mainz. The first statistical tweet I saw regarding him came from Sam Jackson (Twitter) last week. You may or may not be familiar with Sam, but I saw him give an excellent presentation on goalkeepers at this year’s Opta Pro Forum (which you can watch here), and this was his initial reaction to the news:

Oh. That’s not good. You can imagine Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce licking their lips at this news (sorry for the horrible image there). If Karius is struggling with crosses in a league where teams average 13.7 crosses per game (and no team averages more than 19 per match) and is coming to a league where the average is 20.9 per team per game (and only two teams average fewer than 19 per match) then he is going to be severely tested in one potential area of weakness in the Premier League.

So far, so Mignolet. The Belgian trades on his ‘decent shot stopper’ reputation, but how does Karius compare? Fear not, Reds fans, this is where the good news starts.

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Why Liverpool Need To Focus Their Wins in 2016/17

Regular readers will have noticed that this blog has gone very quiet in recent months. Sadly not because I have secured a writing or statto job somewhere, but because I’ve been too damn busy in the real world.

Anyway, after Liverpool recorded a 2-0 win over Watford in a relatively low key end of season contest, I noticed something about the number of wins that they’ve had this season so thought I’d pen a very quick post on why it’s worth thinking about ahead of next season.

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¿Benteke y Sturridge deberían jugar juntos?

Here’s the latest Spanish translation by James Hillyard (Twitter), and here’s the original version.

Un par de tuits de un compañero seguidor y estadista del Liverpool @natefc (Twitter y blog) lograron captar mi atención el domingo cuando los de Anfield cayeron 2-0 ante el Newcastle

öh yoü beaüty @natefc

Benteke y Firmino salen del campo después de haber tenido 1 pase combinado entre los dos en una hora de juego.

öh yoü beaüty @natefc

Goles cada 90 mins con Benteke como titular: 1.12 (403 mins), goles cada 90 mins con Benteke entrando desde el banquillo: 3.24 (111 mins), goles cada 90 mins sin Benteke: 1.91 (566 mins)

Estas estadísticas no se ven bien y tampoco muestran el impacto que tiene Benteke cuando arranca de titular (aunque con/sin estadísticas generalmente no dependen de solo un jugador) o de su juego asociado, si así se le puede llamar a un pase en una hora, con Roberto Firmino.

Decidí encontrar ese pase, esa maldita curiosidad mórbida es mas fuerte que yo…

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Liverpool’s Chronic Lack Of Goals

I reviewed the stats from Liverpool’s disappointing 2-0 defeat at Leicester City, and I noticed that the Reds’ two shots on target were by Emre Can and Dejan Lovren.

Leaving aside the damning indictment that this fact makes on the performance of Liverpool’s forward players in this match, my immediate thought was “no wonder we didn’t score, those two only have one league goal between them”.

The problem for Jürgen Klopp is that these two are far from an isolated case.

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Comparación: Pelotas Paradas del Liverpool vs los del Dortmund

Here’s the latest Spanish translation by James Hillyard (Twitter), and here’s the original version.

Jürgen Klopp solo ha sacado un punto de sus primeros dos partidos en Anfield y esto es básicamente debido a que se concedieron goles tardíos desde tiros libres del equipo opuesto en esos partidos. Pensé, entonces, que seria interesante ver como el Dortmund se manejo con situaciones de pelotas paradas para ver si la fortuna del Liverpool cambiara.

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Liverpool’s Set Piece Record in 2015/16

LFC corners

From an amateur’s point of view, it’s great that there are multiple websites that freely share football stats. They don’t always publish a simple list of what you want though; as Liverpool’s woes with defending set pieces continued at Carrow Road, fans want to know how the Reds compare to every other side in the Premier League when it comes to conceding from dead ball situations, but nowhere publishes a table of this information.

I’ve put in the hard yards over at whoscored.com, and gone through ten match previews to extract the data. Here’s what I found.

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Sturridge, Liverpool, and The Power Of The Through-Ball

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Long-term readers will know that I like to collate which players link up to create chances for Liverpool. This season, I thought it would be interesting to also look at what type of chances they create. Before we get to that though, here’s a look at what the conversion rates are for different types of pass in the Premier League across the last six full seasons. The data is from WhoScored, and the pass types are sorted by subsequent shot conversion rate. 

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Analysis: Stoke 0 Liverpool 1

Clyne-Ibe

I wasn’t planning to do one of these for this match, but as there were some impressive stats from a very good Liverpool display I thought I would. The Reds played well in any context, but not least when considering the injuries they suffered both before and during the match.

There was a great line regarding this from Klopp at the end of his post-match interview on SKY. When asked about the games coming up with the horrendous injury list, he said “If we have eleven, we will fight”. They certainly fought well at Stoke, and here are a few key stats from the match.

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Liverpool’s Record at Attacking Corners

John Aldridge has been writing in the Liverpool Echo (here) about how poor the Reds are at corners.

“The situation with Liverpool corners and set-pieces in general has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous… from our own corners, we don’t look like we even know what we’re doing.”

Regular readers will know that this is exactly the sort of thing I like to look into, so here’s what I found.

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Should Benteke and Sturridge Play Together?

A couple of tweets from fellow Liverpool stathead @natefc (Twitter, blog) caught my eye on Sunday as the Reds slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle:

Those stats don’t make good reading for Benteke’s match impact when starting (though with/without stats are never really down to just one player) or his partnership, if one pass in an hour can be called that, with Roberto Firmino.

I decided to find the pass, out of morbid curiousity as much as anything…

To be fair, Ibe had a shot at the end of this sequence, so it wasn’t the worst pass of the match by any means (which is easily done when Liverpool misplaced more passes than in any league match for the last five years), but clearly the Reds need more from their front two if they choose to play one. In fairness, Firmino and Benteke exchanged seven passes in the previous league match against Swansea, though none lead to either of them having a shot at goal.

So based on the above stats, should Benteke’s role be limited to that of an impact substitute, or should he perhaps be given a chance up top alongside Daniel Sturridge?

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