With just one goal to show for their efforts across their last five league and European games (and it was a heavily deflected goal at that, as we can see below), it’s clear that Liverpool’s attack isn’t working as it should right now.
An unusual stat which may in part illustrate why this is caught my eye after the Reds’ defeats to both Newcastle and Chelsea, so I thought I’d investigate it further.
When perusing the match stats from the aforementioned losses, I noticed that in both cases Liverpool had logged more offsides than they had shots in the box. It’s not something I’ve considered before, but to my mind this seems symptomatic of a struggling attack; attacking players are not timing their runs correctly, and/or the creative players are not playing passes at the right time or perhaps as quickly as they should. Rushing to try to make something happen can lead to poor decision making and offsides too.
I decided to experiment with a stat that I am calling ‘SIBO’ which is the number of shots in the box divided by the number of offsides that a team has. In theory, the higher this figure the better a team has performed, as they have had a lot of shots in their opponent’s penalty box relative to how often attacks have broken down thanks to offsides. Here are the figures for Liverpool’s matches this season.
It won’t surprise you to see that Liverpool’s impressive victory at White Hart Lane has comfortably been the Reds best performance on this front, and the figures also show how dominant Chelsea (unsurprisingly) and QPR (surprisingly) were when up against Brendan Rodgers’ men.
It’s remarkable that almost half of Liverpool’s offsides in the Premier League this season have come in the last two games, and that two match total of thirteen is more than three clubs (Newcastle, Arsenal and Crystal Palace) have mustered in total this season.
It has had a massive impact on the Reds’ SIBO figure for the campaign as a whole, as prior to the Newcastle game it was 5.00, so the last two disastrous performances have almost halved it. Let’s have a look at how the Reds are performing SIBO-wise compared to the rest of the Premier League this season.
A look at the table here suggests that this metric is certainly not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to attacking, as Newcastle have scored seven fewer goals than Everton for instance, despite them being at opposite ends of the above table. It’s also important to remember that the style of a team’s play will have an impact on this, but it seems clear that Liverpool are struggling to get beyond opposition defences, which is something that they thrived upon last season.
As for who is responsible, some of the blame must surely lie with Mario Balotelli, as he has been caught offside the joint most times per game in the Premier League this season. The image below shows the passes that Balotelli has received in the last two games, with the red passes showing the six times in total that he was offside.
What do you notice? Of the five passes that he was due to receive in the opposition box, the Italian striker was offside for three of them. I can’t comment on whether these were his fault or not, and it could easily be a mistake by the linesman, but let’s compare the above to a couple of Daniel Sturridge’s pass received charts from this season.
The England international was offside once in each of the above games, but look at the difference in penalty box activity. He successfully received eight of the nine passes where he was in the box, which resulted in a total of five shots and one goal. Remember that the first chart in this article showed that the whole Liverpool team only had two shots in the box against Newcastle, yet Sturridge alone had four away at the champions.
There will be a lot of pressure on Sturridge to deliver the goods when he returns from injury, but the data here certainly suggests at least that his presence should lower the offside count and raise the shots in the box count, and that can only help Liverpool’s attacking patterns in future games.