Liverpool’s Crossing Conundrum

There’s been a lot of online chatter about how Liverpool seem to be crossing a lot more this season than they did in 2013/14, and perhaps this is down to the Reds’ new recruits at full back, who appear to favour a cross as their method of attack.

The basic stats suggest there has been little difference in Liverpool’s crossing rate in the league; seventeen crosses per game last season has become twenty-one in this campaign. I thought I’d therefore have a quick look at the new Spaniards’ crossing rates both for Liverpool and before they joined. This is definitely an article that raises more questions than it answers.

Javier Manquillo is a tricky one to judge as there’s very little data available prior to him joining Rodgers’ Reds, simply because he hasn’t made many appearances in the major competitions where stats are available.

However, it’s interesting to note that with Atleti he crossed the ball every thirty-one minutes, and with Liverpool so far it’s every twenty-nine; considering the small sample sizes, this is essentially the same rate.

What is also interesting here is that Manquillo only completed one of his twenty-four crosses in Spain, yet he’s already found a colleague with four for Liverpool, including three in one game against Ludogorets, all of which resulted in a chance being created.

His crossing accuracy has been 31% for the Reds after it was just 4% for Atletico Madrid, so maybe he was right to cross for Liverpool? Or is this just proving the random nature of crossing accuracy?

For Alberto Moreno, the opposite of the Manquillo stats seems to be true. His crossing accuracy has remained largely constant (at 25% for Liverpool against 26.7% in Spain), but whilst he crossed the ball every thirty-nine minutes for Sevilla it has been over double as often at every nineteen minutes for the Reds.

In a quick attempt to provide some context to this figure, Moreno is crossing far more often than Glen Johnson (with one attempt every forty-nine minutes) and a lot more often than Jon Flanagan (one per 181 minutes) did last season. Indeed, Moreno has already attempted eight more crosses than Flanagan did in the whole of 2013/14.

Looking slightly further afield, Alberto M. is also crossing more regular than left-backs at other Premier League clubs who favoured crossing more than Liverpool did last season too.  

By crossing every nineteen minutes, Moreno is doing so more often than Leighton Baines (every twenty minutes when set plays are excluded), Luke Shaw (twenty-one) or Patrice Evra (twenty-two) did last season.

So I guess the question is as follows: Is Moreno’s increased crossing frequency down to:

a) a tactical decision by Brendan Rodgers?

b) a decision by the player borne out of i) lack of better passing options offered by colleagues, or ii) crossing being an easier (though less efficient) way of attacking than intricate passing; a lack of a better idea, in other words?

c) a quirk of a small sample, or (as is usually the case with these things)…

d) all of the above!

It’s definitely something to ponder in future anyway. I guess my main point here is that Liverpool aren’t crossing more simply because they bought full backs who prefer to cross a lot, because the evidence shows that Manquillo and Moreno didn’t do that in Spain. But equally they are crossing far more often than Liverpool’s two main full backs did last season.

Lest we forget, no Kopites were complaining about crossing when Moreno assisted Balotelli for the opener against Ludogorets, were they? It’s one of those things where confirmation bias plays a part and people only remember the poor efforts. That’s true of most things in football I guess, but that’s a debate for another day…

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One thought on “Liverpool’s Crossing Conundrum

  1. Interesting point to pick up on.

    I felt in the derby that we had a large number of crosses, and they gave quite a large amount of frustration because the majority of them didn’t even find a Liverpool player, let alone create a chance. Combination of wingers not raising their head and Balotelli being the only red shirt in a penalty area filled with blue ones.

    I feel if Rodgers is instructing the players to exploit width and cross more, it’s not met with a similar instruction of players to actually push forward and give the wingers more to aim at.

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