Whatever the logic behind Brendan Rodgers’ initial tactics against Aston Villa was, the system did clearly not work out well at all. Paul Lambert’s side performed superbly, especially in the first half, and dominated the statistics more than any visiting team at Anfield has previously in 2013/14.
The Villans created a clear-cut chance (CCC) inside the first sixty seconds of the match, and they got better from there onwards.
By the end of the encounter, the visitors had crafted three of the best quality chances to Liverpool’s two, which is the joint most by an away team at Anfield in 2013/14 (alongside Stoke City on the opening day), and this was the first occasion this season where the Reds have had fewer CCCs than their guests.
The match certainly showed the value of clear-cut chances, as all four of the goals were classified as such, and the only one that was missed was the aforementioned Agbonlahor effort in the opening minute.
In terms of the standard class scoring opportunities, my chance quality work gives important context to the raw stat which shows that Liverpool had ten chances to Villa’s nine.
We can see here that Aston Villa had five chances in the centre of the box, whilst the Reds only had one (which Sturridge converted on the stroke of half time). Liverpool only concede 3.2 per game at home on average, whilst having 4.8 themselves, so the stats from the match provide further evidence that Villa comfortably won the tactical battle here.
It’s probably no surprise that Villa created better chances as they dominated the final third possession, which is a rare occurrence for a visiting side at Anfield.
On average, Liverpool have usually had 61.6% of the final third passes during home games in 2013/14, but they only had 47.9% on Saturday, and Villa attempted more passes in the attacking zone (146) than any other visiting side has in L4 this season.
Not that they needed too many final third passes to score their first goal, as this chalkboard from the official Liverpool site shows.
It was depressingly simple. From Suárez losing the ball just outside the Aston Villa penalty box, to a goal down within eleven seconds. Pass, pass, run (not even a dribble in statistical terms, as Agbonlahor didn’t need to beat a man), pass, tap in. Ugh.
The second, scored by Benteke, was little better. Liverpool actually handled the big Belgian pretty well throughout the match as a whole, limiting to him just one shot on goal, and no aerial duels inside the penalty area.
The problem was, the defensive error by the Reds’ own Belgian, Simon Mignolet, meant that Benteke didn’t really need to do anything more than stand still to have his one shot and get on the score sheet.
Defensive errors have been a huge problem for Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers (which I wrote about in-depth here). The Reds have committed more of these since the start of last season than any other team in the Premier League (with sixty-two in total). Bear in mind that Liverpool only made sixty-six errors in the four years prior to the former Swansea manager taking charge at Anfield, so the rate per game has more than doubled.
Rodgers’ team got away with making three errors at Stoke by scoring five; the Villa match illustrated how a team can not be expected to win regularly when being so error prone.
Perhaps the biggest error on the day was leaving Steven Gerrard as the sole holding midfielder against a fast, counter attacking side, for half of the match.
The skipper made just one tackle in the opening forty-five minutes, no interceptions in the whole match, and the half time switch allowed him to prosper by spraying his trademark ‘Hollywood’ passes across the Aston Villa half.
Gerrard averages 6.8 accurate long balls per game this season, which is the most by any midfielder in the Premier League, and the sixth most overall. Yet we can see here that he completed five in half a game against Villa, including playing in Suárez (via the blue line that meets the ‘D’ on the edge of the penalty area on the above chart) for the foul that lead to Gerrard’s equaliser from the spot.
This game certainly suggested to me that Gerrard can still be an attacking force to be reckoned with when playing to his strengths, higher up the pitch, and shouldn’t be written off entirely just yet.
Although Liverpool won the shot count from six to three after the match had reached 2-2, only one of their efforts was from inside the box, which continued the form of the match as a whole.
The Villans had nine shots in the box to Liverpool’s six, and if you focus on the centre of the box, the visitors won by seven to two (excluding the Reds’ penalty). As with most of the stats I’ve mentioned, this compared unfavourably from a Liverpool perspective with regards to their previous home form.
Brendan Rodgers’ team usually win the shots in the box count at Anfield by 11.4 to 5.5 on average, with a 7.0 to 3.8 edge in the centre of the box. They’ve only allowed more than Villa’s seven central box shots once (with nine against West Bromwich Albion) and have only had as few as two themselves once (against Southampton, which happened to be the only other one of the eleven home games not to be won in 2013/14 so far).
I always finish with a Liverpool star man; not easy on the showing in this match, but I’ve gone for Jordan Henderson.
The former Mackem attempted and completed the most passes for the Reds, created three chances including assisting Sturridge for the first goal (with Liverpool’s only successful through ball on the night), made the second most ball recoveries (six) and also weighed in with three tackles. He also passed to every one of his team mates and got a pass from each of them too; a rare occurrence indeed. On a numbers basis, it’s actually a remarkably good performance.
If only the same could be said for Liverpool. Instead, it’s definitely the visiting team that take all the credit away from this one.
Recent posts you might like:
PLCQ: Twenty Game Round Up – My project to determine the quality of chance that each Premier League team has and allows is just past half way, so here are the findings so far.
Second Half Swing, and Fine First Halves – How have Liverpool fared in first and second halves, compared to their Premier League peers?
Liverpool’s Chance Champion – A look at which Reds have created the most chances in 2013/14, and who has found the best areas most frequently.
How Many League Goals Can Suárez Score in 2013/14? – This features a forecast table, which is updated after every match.
LFC Pass Combination Heatmaps 2013/14 – A look at which players have been most involved pass-wise, and who they’ve linked up with in every league match this season.