The Anfield Wrap’s Tuesday Review podcast. 22nd November. Bus home from work, about 5:30. Sean Rogers is talking about Jürgen Klopp’s lack of early substitutes in the 0-0 draw with Southampton.
“Hopefully Andrew Beasley can help us out… I’d love to know what his record was in Germany at late goals, goals in the last twenty minutes. We’ve talked about “I think, I know, and I hope”, and I think the problem with a substitution is unless it’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or David Fairclough, you’re always in the “hope”, whereas I think he can actually see and say “I know what is happening right now. I know that in the next five to ten minutes we are getting another chance. I trust you, keep calm, keep playing, stay positive, keep doing what we’re doing and banging on the door, and it’ll open”, and I think that’s the message he’s trying to get across, which is why I think he’s not doing the whole substitute thing. Now, if his time at Dortmund shows he didn’t do many subs and didn’t get many late goals, then on that basis maybe he needs to start changing his focus and tactics on that. If however, his time at Dortmund shows he’s got a lot of late goals, then why would you change something that’s been successful? There’s good logic with that”.
Challenge accepted, Sean!
Let’s start with this season. Saturday’s match was the first in the league in 2016/17 where Klopp did not use all three of his subs, and it only happened once last season too, meaning that he has so far used 124 out of a possible 126 subs in the Premier League. You might recall that he only used two in his first match in charge (as Jerome Sinclair was ready to come on, but the match at White Hart Lane ended before the change could be made), so that means it had been forty league matches since the Liverpool manager last passed up an opportunity to make a change from the bench.
What is interesting though is that so far this season, Klopp has given his subs the second lowest total of minutes on the pitch (of the managers who have been in charge for all twelve games) and this is doubly interesting as the only manager below him on this chart is Antonio Conte. The top two in the league have used the fewest substitute minutes; coincidence?
His changes have had far less impact this season too, though of course in a lot of games they haven’t had to, and not all subs are used with the aim of scoring more goals. Liverpool’s subs have contributed to two league goals this season (one every 236 minutes played by a sub) whereas they made nineteen goal contributions in a little over double the games last season (one every ninety minutes).
In terms of late goals (which is defined as from the 76th minute onwards for the purposes of this article), just 15% of Liverpool’s league goals under Klopp have been late, compared to a Premier League average of around 22%, and this season it has been just 10%, though again the Reds haven’t required as many late goals in this campaign as they might have. Time-wise, it’s interesting to note that 23% of Liverpool’s goals have been in the first fifteen minutes of the second half this season, which compares favourably to Klopp’s average of 17% at Dortmund, and the Premier League’s average of 16%. Perhaps Klopp’s strength this season has been the half-time pep talk and subtle tactical changes rather than goals from the bench?
Sean asked about late goals in Germany though, so let’s look at that. The below table shows when Dortmund scored their league goals during Klopp’s tenure, and as a comparison I’ve included the Bundesliga average for the final fifteen minutes too.
Klopp’s side were broadly in line with league average for proportion of late goals during his time at Dortmund, though I thought it was interesting that they had a bit of a leap in his third and fourth campaigns when they won the league.
BVB averaged just under fourteen goals per season from the 76th minute onwards, and in Klopp’s 42 Liverpool matches, the Reds have so far scored thirteen, so it would appear that essentially his two sides have scored late goals at roughly the same rate (although there are only thirty-four matches per season in Germany). Dortmund scored 0.41 late goals per game in those seven seasons when the league average was 0.31, though you’d obviously expect them to score more as one of the better sides.
To bring the article full circle, here’s Klopp’s record for using substitutes for both Dortmund and Liverpool.
Similar to what we saw with late goals, it seems that Klopp gives his subs the least time when the club is doing well; his two lowest averages in Germany were Dortmund’s title winning campaigns, and his lowest of any of the last nine years is this season. It doesn’t prove everything (his third lowest average for BVB was his final, fairly poor season), but the figures suggest that when things are going particularly well for a Klopp team, he is more than happy to leave the starting XI out there as long as he can to finish the job as he intended from the start.
Jürgen’s men may not specialise in late goals, but the manager seems happy to let the team get on with it when they are performing well, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised to see more games like Southampton where the changes are few and late. Sorry, Mr Sturridge…