I last wrote a Chance Quality preview ahead of Liverpool’s recent home match with Arsenal, because the two sides are the top two for overachieving on the number of assists they’ve had this season, and so I thought it was worth a closer look.
The Reds’ next match sees them face up with Southampton, who are currently ranked fourth, so I thought it was worth looking at the data again. The figures show that Liverpool are likely to face a stern test on the south coast.
As always, in case you’ve not seen any of my previous Chance Quality articles (a list of which can be found here), here is a pitch map which shows the six zones I record.
So in which areas have the two teams beaten the expected assists model?
Liverpool have been particularly deadly in the centre of the box, and indeed I highlighted their fine form on set play chances in this area in my Arsenal preview; the Reds repaid me with two such goals in the opening ten minutes.
The ‘Pool shouldn’t assume that they can prosper in this way against the Saints though; Pochettino’s team have only conceded seven goals from set pieces this season, with their opponents scoring a below-league-average percentage of their set piece efforts (8%) against them. More on this later…
Perhaps Liverpool will find more joy with counter attacks, as Southampton have conceded three such goals this season, with all of them at home. That may not sound like many, but it’s nearly double the league average (1.65), and the Reds have scored six goals on the counter themselves, which is at least three more than every other team.
From an attacking perspective, we can see that Southampton haven’t massively over-achieved in any one specific zone, but their home attack is the seventh best in the division at present, with them only failing to score twice in their thirteen games to date, so the Reds’ backline can expect to be busy. As the following tables demonstrate…
Brendan Rodgers’ team have been scoring for fun in 2013/14, yet we can see that Southampton have actually created more chances in the centre of the box overall than the Reds have, and especially in open play.
Liverpool may have fashioned more goal scoring opportunities overall, but the Saints have had a higher proportion of their efforts in the oppostion penalty area. From a Reds perspective, we can at least see it is a similar story in the defence; Liverpool have allowed more chances overall, but Southampton have seen more open play opportunities in the center of their box.
However, breaking the data down to away games for Liverpool and home for Southampton shows what a tough assignment this match is likely to be for the Reds.
Liverpool have at least created more CBOs than they have allowed on the road in 2013/14, but the net difference is just 0.7 per match, whilst Southampton have a net CBO figure of 2.2 per game at St. Mary’s. Just under half of their total chance difference at home has occurred in the all-important CBO zone, so this could prove to be a long evening for the Reds.
Remember how I said Liverpool may struggle to score from a set piece in this one? The Saints have conceded a CBS chance less than once every three games when on home turf, so they clearly defend dead balls well (and better than the Reds do on the road, as we can see).
My gut instinct for this one is to predict a score draw. Southampton have won none of their five home games against top half sides so far this season (and are the only team in the division to have drawn a blank in this way), whilst Liverpool have won just one of their six away matches at top ten teams.
Although that one win was a fantastic 5-0 trouncing of Tottenham Hotspur, Brendan Rodgers does seem to have a brain freeze when facing Pochettino’s Southampton, employing an almost 4-2-4 formation in a 3-1 defeat at St. Mary’s last season, and using a backline made entirely of centre backs in Liverpool’s only home defeat in 2013/14.
Which ever team scores the first goal, Liverpool will have a decent chance of a positive result. Southampton have lost more points from winning positions (fifteen) than any other team in the top flight this season, whilst at the same time being one of the five teams yet to win a league game after going behind in this campaign.
With Southampton not having a great deal to play for, and Liverpool still in the title hunt, I’m hopeful that an increased level of desire and application can see the Reds heading back north with three points. I’m going to the match for once, so I certainly hope that this is the case, but the stats certainly show this won’t be a walkover by any means.