Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield. The problems that have dogged the Reds this season were evident though, as they delivered a below par performance in the second half of the match as usual.
In their seven league matches in 2013/14, Liverpool have yet to trail at the half time break, leading in six and drawing the other. In view of this, it’s not surprising that they’ve been on the back foot in the second period as they have had something to protect rather than a game to chase.
Viewed through this reality, I’m going to show that they’ve had better control of their second halves than you might think.
The first thing to note is that Liverpool’s opponents have only scored 0.57 goals per game in the second halves of matches this season. At the time of writing, only eight Premier League teams have a better defensive record after the break, so whilst Liverpool have room for improvement here, they are not performing disastrously.
Drilling down further, the Reds’ opponents have so far had more of their shots in the second half in three of the seven matches. But thanks to this excellent shot benchmark piece by Dan Kennett, we know that shot tallies in their raw form can be deceptive.
What we really need to worry about are shots in the box, as around one in eight of them (excluding penalties) is converted on average, which is far better than the one in thirty-seven (excluding free kicks) from outside the area that find the back of the net.
So if Liverpool are struggling in the second halves, they must allow their opponents a lot of shots in the box, right?
The Southampton game was a horror show, and there’s no escaping that, but even allowing for that Liverpool are only conceding three shots per match on average in the box, and only just over two a game in the centre of the box (which is an important distinction as the conversion rate is much higher there than in the wide areas of the penalty area).
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Stoke had no second half shots in the box until their penalty (and the follow up shot after Mignolet saved the spot kick), and Sunderland’s only shot on target in the penalty area came after the Belgian ‘keeper parried a shot back in to the centre of the box rather than into a wide area. Defensive errors gifted these teams their best opportunities, not the quality of their own attacking play.
The eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted that Swansea, Sunderland and Crystal Palace all converted their only shot on target in the box in the second half, which demonstrates the importance of restricting such opportunities, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Liverpool can (and need to) perform better in the second half of matches, not least with regards to their own attacking play.
But as they’re keeping 60.6% of opposition shots outside their own box when defending a good half time position (and 66% excluding the Southampton debacle), I think they’ve had better control of their opponents after the break than you might initially think.
Not that I want it to happen of course, but it will be very interesting to see how Liverpool play the next time that they are trailing at half time. If their opponents can limit the Reds’ decent opportunities as well as Rodgers’ men have done after half time this season, then it will be a very long afternoon for Liverpool.
Recent and related posts you might like:
Boxing Clever – Liverpool’s record in both penalty boxes has been very impressive in 2012/13.
Reds Bounce Back – Brendan Rodgers has an impressive record when following a league defeat.
Shots On Target Against: A Closer Look – Mignolet has faced more shots on target than any other goalkeeper this season. But that stat doesn’t tell the full story…