I noticed an interesting statistic regarding ‘action zones’ whilst browsing on WhoScored recently; no team in the Premier League has had a higher proportion of their actions (e.g. passes/touches) in the attacking third of the pitch this season than Liverpool have (thanks to Dan Kennett for clarifying that WhoScored mean the attacking third of the pitch, rather than the ‘opposition half’ as they confusingly list it as).
What is even more impressive is that Barcelona are the only team across the top five leagues in Europe (taken in no particular order as Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France) who can out-do Liverpool at this statistic. As WhoScored hold these figures for the two seasons prior to this one, I have collated the data for the Premier League to see how Liverpool compare to their rivals, and what this might mean for the future.
Liverpool’s figure of having 32% of their action in the attacking third has only been bettered by two out of fifty-nine other teams in the last three seasons, and only by 1% at that. Similarly, only three teams have had a greater difference between the percentage of action in their attacking and defensive thirds than the Reds in this period too, and again only beating Liverpool’s figure (6%) by a single percent.
So whilst Liverpool have undoubtedly had their troubles with scoring goals this season (they currently rank joint 23rd out of sixty teams in terms of goal difference), they are at least using the ball frequently enough at the right end of the pitch, which is hugely encouraging.
I have plotted the data of ‘goal difference per match’ against ‘difference between the attacking third and defensive third’ to illustrate the general correlation between the two sets of numbers:
Whilst there is positive correlation for this data as you would expect (with a Spearman’s Rho of 0.573), this season’s Liverpool side are an outlier as their goal difference is only currently 0.12 goals per game. Whilst we can only speculate at what goal difference Liverpool could have had this season with better finishing, the graph suggests that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think they should be at around 1.00 per game based on how much more of their play has been in their attacking third rather than their defensive third.
That would obviously equate to +38 for the whole season, and surely a place in the top four as a result. Although I can’t make a claim that Liverpool have always used the right pass in the final third this season, and their finishing certainly requires some work, the above figures show that the Reds have been on the right line overall with their play this season.
If they can maintain this general dominance on the pitch, and score the amount of goals that this generally appears to bring, then 2012/13 could be a very interesting season indeed at Anfield.
Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.