I was lucky enough to be at Anfield yesterday to watch Liverpool draw 1-1 with Newcastle, and doubly lucky enough not to be soaked by the sprinkler!
It was my first opportunity to see a Brendan Rodgers team in person, and in truth the match panned out as I expected. I had tweeted prior to the match that the Reds had given away the 2nd fewest shots at home in the Premier League this season, whilst having the 5th most themselves, and whilst on the day Liverpool dominated possession and had more chances, they were not creative or clinical enough to secure the win.
Overall though, I’m still satisfied with how Liverpool have been playing this season, even if the results haven’t matched the performances. I was still surprised however to read that Brendan Rodgers has bagged fewer points from his opening ten league games in charge at Anfield than Roy Hodgson did in 2010/11.
My immediate thought upon learning this was that Rodgers must’ve had more difficult fixtures; his first three home games were against the top three from last season, after all. I therefore thought I’d provide some “difficulty” figures on Brendan and Roy’s first ten fixtures to aid the online debate.
As a simplistic measure, I looked up the opponent’s league position from the preceding season to assign them a difficulty rating. This system is far from perfect, and doesn’t take account of transfer spend or squad inherited, but it will at least gives us an indication of how good an opponent is.
In this system, for Brendan Rodgers Manchester City are rated one as they won the league last season, Manchester United are two as they were the runners up, and so on. The lower the average figure therefore means that the more difficult the matches have been. The scores are in….
Brendan Rodgers’ home matches (on paper at least) have been approximately twice as difficult as Roy Hodgson’s, with the current manager’s away matches about one third easier than the current England gaffer’s. The difference for their totals is roughly 21% more difficult for Rodgers.
If we divide ‘points earned’ by ‘average difficulty’, then we see that Roy has a score of 1.07, and Rodgers has a score of 1.25. It’s reasonable to say that Rodgers has performed slightly better, and I think we can all agree that the football has been preferable too. How do the managers’ fixtures rate when compared to a seasonal average?
Across the whole season, the average difficulty for a league fixture this season is 12.0, and for Hodgson in 2010/11 it was 12.1 (as the sixth place Championship team got promoted, rather than the third last season).
On that basis, Roy’s fixtures were only 8% more difficult than average, whilst Brendan’s have been 36% more demanding. Another way to look at it would be this: from a ten game sample, the difficulty average ranges between 5.5 (by playing the previous season’s top ten) and 16.4 (by playing the lowest ten sides).
Clearly Rodgers (who has an average of 8.8, and is 70% of the way along the possible difficulty scale) has hard it harder than Hodgson (whose 11.2 average is only 50% along; a pretty fair set of matches in short). This is not to say that Rodgers has done everything right so far, but using Hodgson’s record as a stick to beat him with seems a little unfair at this point.