In January 2013, I wrote a piece bemoaning Liverpool’s innate ability to cause themselves self-inflicted damage via defensive errors. Whilst the team’s form in this area improved over the rest of 2012/13, with the error per game rate dropping from 1.45 to 0.95, in 2013/14 the Reds unfortunately performed even worse than in Brendan Rodgers’ debut campaign.
Let’s take a look at how Liverpool’s error rate this year compares to previous seasons.
Liverpool have conceded as many goals thanks to errors in two seasons under Brendan Rodgers as they did in the four years prior to that. They may not have conceded the most goals in the 2013/14 Premier League due to their on-ball defensive gaffes (with Spurs, on a whopping twenty-one taking that particular dubious honour), but Liverpool did concede the most shots from errors in total.
Although the above table is sorted by errors committed, we can also see that the Reds conceded the highest proportion of opposition shots this way too. This has risen slightly since the figure of 8.3% that Liverpool posted in 2012/13.
So who have been the main culprits? Remember that these are on-ball errors, so giving away a penalty or scoring an own goal (as examples) will not be counted.
It’s worth noting that Daniel Agger was at the bottom of this chart in the original article, though of course the number of errors are so small that each additional one will make a huge difference to the figures in the final column. Even so, he still made more than last season, though it’s not as if his left sided centre back replacement was mistake-free either.
It’s disappointing to see Simon Mignolet committing so many mistakes too, as he was brought in to improve upon Pepe Reina’s efforts, yet his error rate is essentially the same as the Spaniards was last season; one per 489 minutes compared to one every 465.
Whilst these Opta-recorded errors are at most a small part of the data that the transfer committee will be looking at, the defenders that Liverpool have been linked with were light on mistakes in 2013/14; Alberto Moreno made two, and Dejan Lovren only one. Watch this space…
Let’s take a look at how costly the goals conceded from errors have proved to be (albeit only based on removing goals against from the full-time score, which isn’t an ideal measure, but gives an indication at least).
I was under the impression that own goals were not counted in the error stats, else Skrtel would obviously have more, yet Toure appears to have been penalised for an error at Fulham when it was clearly an own goal. Answers on a postcard please.
There were three games last season where two opposition goals were conceded due to Liverpool errors, and the same phenomenon occurred this year too. It does perhaps suggest that if one of the Reds is making errors then the uncertainty spreads at times.
The costliest gaffe of all would surely have to be Toure at West Brom, as it was the only one that cost two points where the only goal Liverpool conceded was via the error, though of course Gerrard’s against Chelsea probably stung the hardest.
This isn’t to say that Liverpool haven’t benefitted from errors too of course; here are the stats for the 2013/14 Premier League.
It’s often dangerous to play the ‘correlation = causation’ game, but it’s interesting to me that teams that are known for pressing up the pitch and making lots of final third regains (such as Southampton, Liverpool and Manchester City) feature highly on this chart; perhaps there is a link between hassling your opponents and causing defensive errors?
Whatever the reason, as shots from defensive errors are converted at almost four times the rate that shots in total are, it would certainly appear to be a sensible tactic to force your opponents into making mistakes wherever possible.
Regular readers will know that I have been trying to add context to raw statistics wherever possible this season by using location data, and so I’ve taken to Stats Zone to see where Liverpool and their opponents made errors this season, and how many of them were converted into goals.
I have split the pitch into four: penalty box, central zone outside of the area, rest of the final third, and then the rest of the pitch behind that. Here are the figures, and remember when it says Liverpool it refers to errors that they have made allowing their opponents to potentially score.
The major difference between Liverpool and their rivals appears to be their ability to seize on mistakes a long way from goal and make the most of them, as they converted five of the nine opportunities that they were gifted in this area.
You won’t need a highlights reel to picture Suárez scoring the fourth against Everton or the second against Spurs at Anfield, Sterling’s breakaway for the third goal at Carrow Road, or Liverpool’s two open play strikes in that unforgettable opening twenty minutes against Arsenal. All five of these strikes were in part thanks to defensive errors outside the final third by the opposition.
Perhaps the thing that stood out to me most whilst compiling the data is the difference in Liverpool’s record this season when they committed an error and when they kept an ‘error clean sheet’.
The Reds won eleven and drew one of the twelve games where they didn’t make any Opta recorded gaffes, for a points-per-game average of 2.83 per game. On the other hand, when making an error, Liverpool won fifteen, drew five and lost six, which equates to 1.92 points-per-game.
It is obviously unrealistic to expect no errors at all over the course of a season, but equally the points-per-game figures here illustrate the difference between a battle for fourth and a title challenge. It’s time for Rodgers’ Reds to make their opponents work a little harder for decent opportunities.