The corresponding fixture from last season provided me with probably my favourite stat of the whole season; Liverpool hit the woodwork four times, whilst Villa only had four shots in total!
I think that stat sums up the Reds’ 2011/12 campaign pretty well; generally dominant, but not good enough in front of goal to win enough games. It has been a similar story in many ways for this campaign so far too, but can we expect this to change at Anfield on Saturday?
Whilst it’s good to see that Liverpool have had the most shots at home of any team in the Premier League this season, I prefer to focus on ‘shots on target’ figures as they have a greater bearing on results. Luckily they should still provide the Reds with plenty of encouragement.
Brendan Rodgers’ men have averaged 5.3 shots on target per home game this season, whilst Villa only manage 2.5 per match on the road, which is the lowest figure in the Premier League at present, and explains why they’ve scored the joint-fewest goals away from home this season (four).
In fact, Villa are actually one of the few sides who are less effective in front of goal than Liverpool are.
They have converted just 23% of their shots on target this season, whilst the Reds have managed to net 27% of theirs. As Villa only average 2.5 shots on target per away game as I mentioned, this increases my belief that they will be lucky to score on Saturday.
Liverpool should get plenty of opportunity to breach the Villa rearguard too, as the Midlands outfit have had 33% of their actions in their defensive third away from home, which is the join-most (and so joint-worst) in the Premier League this season.
The numbers for the other end of the pitch appear to favour the Reds too. Liverpool have conceded the second fewest shots per game (9.5) on their own patch during this campaign, whilst Villa give away nearly twice as many (17.1) per game when away from Villa Park.
Villa do have the edge with regard to conceding from shots on target though. They have let in 33% of the shots on target they have faced, compared to 37% for the Reds. If Liverpool maintain their 5.3 shots on target per home game form, then they should still bag at least one and win the game.
As Liverpool have allowed their opponents a divisional best of just 39% of their shots in the Reds’ box, then these numbers suggest Villa will only have three or four shots within the area, so the chances of a Liverpool clean sheet should be strong. Any other stats of interest?
Villa have won the fourth most aerial duels in the division, so the Reds can probably expect an aerial bombardment; the Villans have also played the second most long balls in the Premier League too, which backs this up.
That said, Liverpool have already played the three teams above Villa in the aerial duels table (Stoke, West Ham and Reading), and taken seven points with two clean sheets, suggesting that Skrtel and Agger will be up to the task.
The other interesting stat I’ve recently noticed is that Liverpool have been caught offside the fewest times per game (1.4) at home in the league this season, but the most (3.1 per game) away. That’s the difference between deep defences and linesmen at Goodison I guess! But it does add weight to the notion that Villa will probably ‘park the bus’ at the back and hit the ball long to try to cause Liverpool problems at the back.
A quick word on the match referee, Neil Swarbrick. It’s easy (and usually very tempting) to have a pop at the men in black, but independent referee assessing website Debatable Decisions recently revealed that Swarbrick has not made a major incorrect call yet this season, so credit to him for that. As Villa have only had one such call go against them this season whilst Liverpool have had eleven, I certainly hope he keeps his record up.
It’s hard to see Aston Villa scoring based on their form, so I’m going for a 2-0 win for Liverpool, and some seasonal cheer around the fields of Anfield Road.