This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 14 November 2011. Stats correct up to 05 November 2011.
There has been a lot of debate, both on here and elsewhere, about how efficient Liverpool have been in front of goal so far this season. The stats show that they have only converted 14 of the 194 shots they have had in the league
That’s a paltry 7% return in front of goal, which makes for painful reading when you consider that both Manchester clubs have a conversion rate of 17%. Take United (if we must) – they have had 26 less shots than the Reds, yet have scored double the amount of goals. Ouch.
Whilst the likes of Andy Carroll and Luis Suárez will be in part responsible for these disappointing figures, the opposition goalkeepers will have played their part too; for instance, Swansea’s Michel Vorm (who incidentally picked up a clean sheet at Anfield with Utrecht in last season’s Europa League) and Norwich’s John Ruddy only conceded one goal between them in 180 minutes at Anfield, despite Liverpool amassing fifty-four shots across the two games. They must have had the game of their lives.
Or did they? I’m going to look at how the performance of goalkeepers against the Reds compares to their average for the other league games they have appeared in so far this season, and hopefully pull out some key numbers.
As with all statistical analyses, it’s important to remember that there is context that unfortunately I can’t possibly provide; that is, the quality of the shot that a goalkeeper has had to face.
A scuffed effort that rolls serenely across the turf into the ‘keeper’s grasp is, statistically at least, the same as an unstoppable blast that flies into the top corner, in that they’re both a shot on target. It’s also worth bearing in mind that when considering the form of the goalkeepers in their other matches, that they won’t have all played the same opponents.
The first thing I noted when looking at the statistics of the various goalkeepers is that Liverpool have yet to benefit from any mistakes that they might have made. Opta record ‘missed crosses’ and ‘defensive errors’, and although over a whole season these figures are usually low (Reina, for instance, has only averaged five and two respectively over the last three seasons), the Reds have so far been the beneficiaries of zero missed crosses and only one defensive error.
Even then, as the goalkeeper who made the defensive error (Asmir Begovic of Stoke City) kept a clean sheet, clearly it was of little real benefit to Liverpool. The eleven goalkeepers who have faced the Reds so far this season have missed a total of nine crosses and made thirteen defensive errors in their other matches between them. These aren’t huge numbers as I said, but at the same time, as the team who have had the second highest number of shots this season, Liverpool can perhaps feel a little unfortunate not to have received one or two helping hands from goalkeeping gaffes.
The lack of missed crosses is probably the more painful of the two statistics for Liverpool; on average two of their crosses are caught by the opposition keeper each game, whilst the same keepers only catch 1.16 crosses (on average) in their other matches. Perhaps the Reds’ widemen are putting their crosses too close to the goalkeeper in comparison to players on other teams?
Here’s a look at which keepers have been tested the most by Liverpool this season, when compared to their other appearances:
No surprise to see a general correlation between the number of shots on target the Reds have had and the number of points won in the match. Credit therefore goes to Ruddy and Begovic for bucking this trend. Interesting to note that only six of the eleven goalies faced more on-target shots from Liverpool than from their average for other teams; more evidence that a lot of the shots the Reds have been taking have been largely wasted.
One thing the information I researched reveals is that Arsenal don’t allow many shots on target against smaller teams; 28 of the 49 shots on target that Szczesny has faced this season came in just three matches, against Liverpool, United and Chelsea. Who knows, but this apparent frugality against the lesser lights could prove the difference in the race for fourth place. As I’m sure you’re wondering – Liverpool have given away 38 shots on target so far in the league.
Based on the percentage of the shots on target that they saved, which ‘keepers appear to have excelled against the Reds this season?
Unlike with the ‘shots faced’ statistics, there is a slightly more decisive seven/four split in favour of ‘keepers who have made a higher percentage of saves against Liverpool than against their other opponents.
Whilst I mentioned Vorm and Ruddy as good performers in the introduction, it’s worth crediting the performance of Asmir Begovic in this area; I noted last season about how he had performed well, and (against Liverpool at least) he has continued where he left off.
As Brad Friedel only had one shot on target to save against Liverpool, he doesn’t deserve too much credit for his 100% record. John Ruddy of Norwich, however, saved eight of the nine shots on target that he faced, and went a long way to earning his side a point. In fact, he has only made 25 saves in his other nine league games in total, so he clearly passed a stern test at Anfield.
If we take a closer look at the figures of Vorm, Begovic and Ruddy, we can see what difference their performances against Liverpool may well have made to the results.
Hypothetically, if they had only saved their average figures from the other matches they have played, then Liverpool would have won all three games: Swansea 1-0, Stoke 2-1, and Norwich 3-1. Those seven points would have put Liverpool level with Manchester United; title challenge anyone?
Doesn’t help the Reds now of course, and I hope this doesn’t come across as making excuses on behalf of the strikers, as they do have to take some responsibility for the team’s poor shot conversion figures. But those three ‘keepers in particular performed above their average against Liverpool and denied them points in the process.
Fingers crossed that an opposition ‘keeper has a nightmare at some point this season. With Chelsea and Manchester City coming up in the next two games, now would be a good time for that to happen.