Which Teams Are Best At Defeating A Parked Bus?

Liverpool’s win against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend was obviously well received by Reds everywhere, but at the same time it didn’t teach them anything new about the strengths and weaknesses of their team. Jürgen Klopp’s men have been ruthless this season against teams who play a high line, as Spurs did to suicidal effect at Anfield, but they have seemed toothless against the low block favoured by the Premier League’s lesser lights.

The Tomkins Times published a very good article this week (here) which looked at how Liverpool have fared against teams who have ‘parked the bus’ against them this season. The findings were certainly interesting, but in my continual quest for context with statistical analysis, I thought it would be worthwhile comparing the Reds to the other members of the big six to see how each team has fared. My assumption is that all teams struggle against a low block, but is that actually the case?

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Do Teams That Frequently Cross The Ball Get Bad Results?

It has been widely noted that Liverpool have been crossing the ball more frequently during their recent poor run of form, and whilst looking at which teams crossed the ball most last weekend, I happened to notice that all three of them lost. For the record, this was Stoke and Crystal Palace, alongside Liverpool, and I used a purely arbitrary figure of at least thirty crosses excluding corners.

I wondered if teams that had crossed lots this season often had poor results, and it turns out that they have. The following table shows the twenty-five occasions so far in the 2016/17 Premier League that a team has attempted at least thirty crosses (not including corners).

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Klopp’s Record With Subs And Late Goals

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!

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Are Liverpool On Track To Win The Premier League?

Rather than use in depth stats to try to answer this question, I’ve kept it simple. The below spreadsheet shows how the champions from the past ten Premier League seasons have won points as the campaign has unfolded. Being ahead or behind these teams doesn’t prove anything either way with regards as to whether Liverpool will win the league or not, but it can give us an indication as to how they’re doing as the 2016/17 campaign progresses. I will also include the points tally for this season’s leaders, to see how far adrift the Reds are, if at all.

Any cells highlighted in green contain a points tally lower than Liverpool have at that point in the season. I will update the Reds’ total after each match, and pin this post to the home page so that we can track their form.

I don’t believe in tempting fate or jinxes, but maybe Liverpool will fall away in the championship race and this post will soon look foolish. But at the time of writing (after game 11), the Reds are very much on track so let’s see how we go.

Please follow me on Twitter or Facebook for blog updates. Scroll down to see the related posts for this article. Thanks.

Should Coutinho Take Liverpool’s Corners?

I recently looked into whether Liverpool were better at defending set pieces this season (here), and the numbers suggested that they weren’t. The Reds then proceeded to let in dead ball goals against Hull, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion in three of their next four league matches. Either I might have a clue regarding what I write about on here, or I’m a jinx. You decide.

Anyway, that article was prompted by a John Aldridge column in the Liverpool Echo, and something he has said this week (here) inspired me to write another quick post. When talking about Liverpool’s performance at Crystal Palace, Aldo said:

The fact that we’ve found a corner taker is also a real positive. Our corners have been horrendous for a long time, I could never see us scoring from them. But Philippe Coutinho put in some really good deliveries and hopefully we’ll stick with him now… When we had Suarez and Steve Gerrard deliveries, you could see the percentage of goals getting knocked up.

Have Liverpool found a decent corner taker in Coutinho though? Or did the Reds benefit from some random variation at Selhurst Park?

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Klopp’s First Thirty-Eight Premier League Games

Following my quick preview of Monday’s match, here’s a very quick look at the league table for the period since Jürgen Klopp took charge of Liverpool. This table isn’t available on any website that I am aware of, so I figured it was worth sharing here as the German has now racked up his first full ‘season’.

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A Ton Of Sturridge: The Stats From His First 99 Liverpool Matches

This article has happened almost by accident. I wanted to look at how Sturridge’s form has fluctuated over his time with Liverpool, so visited his ESPN stats page. Some swift copying, pasting and counting revealed he has made ninety-nine appearances in the Red shirt to date, so I figured that made this a very good time to share the findings on here.

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The Stats That Suggest Klopp’s Liverpool Is Taking Shape

The Liverpool Echo had an article at the weekend which claimed to have ‘the proof Liverpool fans are right to be excited by start of season‘. It spoke of the Reds scoring four-or-more goals in the first two home games for the first time in the top flight since 1922, and scoring the most goals the club has managed in the opening eight games since 1895, and there were some impressive individual player stats from the Hull City rout thrown in too.

This is all well and good, but finishing can blow both hot and cold so for an amateur football analyst like myself a little deeper digging into the underlying numbers is required, and the good news is that the findings are both positive and, based on Klopp’s managerial history, entirely expected.

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Get Sturridge In The Box (and here’s why)

As Liverpool passed themselves into endless cul-de-sacs whilst on their way to a 2-0 defeat at Burnley, one of their many issues became painfully apparent (and not for the first time): Daniel Sturridge was not in or even near the box enough.

The Reds (or should that be the toxic greens) completed twenty-two passes in the Burnley box, which on the face of it is a decent total; Liverpool only bettered that once on the road last season, with twenty-five at Crystal Palace, and Saturday’s tally was only bettered twelve times by away teams in the 380 Premier League matches last season.

The problem was that Daniel Sturridge, the only proven and consistent Premier League goal scorer in the Liverpool squad, was only the recipient for three of them. A dig into the numbers shows that this is part of a very concerning trend, and they back up what Kopites have seen themselves whilst watching the matches in 2016.


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The Value Of A Good Home Record

Ah, fortress Anfield. Where visiting teams arrive beaten before the kick off, and depart with their tails between their legs and nothing more than some ‘toffee’ and maybe a beer from the boot room.

The above paragraph is sadly hazy rose-tinted nostalgia; I knew Liverpool weren’t quite as strong at home in recent times, but it wasn’t until I looked closely that I saw just how bad their record has become.

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Divock Origi Season Review

This article was originally for subscribers of The Tomkins Times (here).

When will we learn, eh? Well, most of you reading this don’t need to learn, but large swathes of the wider fanbase certainly do; when will fans accept that young players usually take time to settle, as do players coming to England from overseas, so when a new signing ticks both boxes maybe they deserve a little leeway?

September 23rd 2015. Liverpool are struggling to get past Carlisle United of League Two in the Capital One Cup. Divock Origi, a twenty year old Belgian who has recently joined the squad (having been officially signed a year earlier) comes off the bench in the 34th minute to replace another new signing, Roberto Firmino, to make just his third appearance for the club. A search of Twitter suggests he wasn’t doing too well (and I stuck to a fairly mild swear word; far worse versions of this are available)…

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Liverpool FC Creativity Combinations 2015/16

Having originally devised this idea in 2013, this is the third season where I have collated data on which Liverpool players linked up to create chances in the Premier League. You can see the information for 2013/14 here, and 2014/15 here.

In previous years I have looked at other aspects beyond the raw figures, and whilst I plan to do similar with this season’s numbers, time is as usual against me so this will have to suffice for now. Without further ado…

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Loris Karius: Stats Review

Liverpool have completed the signing of Loris Karius, a goalkeeper who plied his trade in the Bundesliga for Mainz. The first statistical tweet I saw regarding him came from Sam Jackson (Twitter) last week. You may or may not be familiar with Sam, but I saw him give an excellent presentation on goalkeepers at this year’s Opta Pro Forum (which you can watch here), and this was his initial reaction to the news:

Oh. That’s not good. You can imagine Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce licking their lips at this news (sorry for the horrible image there). If Karius is struggling with crosses in a league where teams average 13.7 crosses per game (and no team averages more than 19 per match) and is coming to a league where the average is 20.9 per team per game (and only two teams average fewer than 19 per match) then he is going to be severely tested in one potential area of weakness in the Premier League.

So far, so Mignolet. The Belgian trades on his ‘decent shot stopper’ reputation, but how does Karius compare? Fear not, Reds fans, this is where the good news starts.

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Liverpool’s Chronic Lack Of Goals

I reviewed the stats from Liverpool’s disappointing 2-0 defeat at Leicester City, and I noticed that the Reds’ two shots on target were by Emre Can and Dejan Lovren.

Leaving aside the damning indictment that this fact makes on the performance of Liverpool’s forward players in this match, my immediate thought was “no wonder we didn’t score, those two only have one league goal between them”.

The problem for Jürgen Klopp is that these two are far from an isolated case.

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Sturridge, Liverpool, and The Power Of The Through-Ball

Long-term readers will know that I like to collate which players link up to create chances for Liverpool. This season, I thought it would be interesting to also look at what type of chances they create. Before we get to that though, here’s a look at what the conversion rates are for different types of pass in the Premier League across the last six full seasons. The data is from WhoScored, and the pass types are sorted by subsequent shot conversion rate. 

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Liverpool’s Record at Attacking Corners

John Aldridge has been writing in the Liverpool Echo (here) about how poor the Reds are at corners.

“The situation with Liverpool corners and set-pieces in general has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous… from our own corners, we don’t look like we even know what we’re doing.”

Regular readers will know that this is exactly the sort of thing I like to look into, so here’s what I found.

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Should Benteke and Sturridge Play Together?

A couple of tweets from fellow Liverpool stathead @natefc (Twitter, blog) caught my eye on Sunday as the Reds slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle:

Those stats don’t make good reading for Benteke’s match impact when starting (though with/without stats are never really down to just one player) or his partnership, if one pass in an hour can be called that, with Roberto Firmino.

I decided to find the pass, out of morbid curiousity as much as anything…

To be fair, Ibe had a shot at the end of this sequence, so it wasn’t the worst pass of the match by any means (which is easily done when Liverpool misplaced more passes than in any league match for the last five years), but clearly the Reds need more from their front two if they choose to play one. In fairness, Firmino and Benteke exchanged seven passes in the previous league match against Swansea, though none lead to either of them having a shot at goal.

So based on the above stats, should Benteke’s role be limited to that of an impact substitute, or should he perhaps be given a chance up top alongside Daniel Sturridge?

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Analysis: Southampton 1 Liverpool 6

It’s always essential to remember that all shots are not equal; hence the proliferation of expected goal models across the blogosphere. But I’m sure Brendan Rodgers would have a wry smile at the stats from this match; I wrote here how the Reds had forty-seven shots (including seven on target from inside the box) in an earlier round of the competition against Carlisle, yet only scored once, but Liverpool had seven shots on target against Southampton and managed to score six.

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Analysis: Liverpool 1 Swansea City 0

I didn’t see this match, so this will be brief. Liverpool had a top-level performance at one end of the pitch, and a bad one at the other. Let’s cover the good first, and my observation on this was prompted by this tweet:

Having looked at the data for this for the period since August 2012, it’s clear how rare this is; Liverpool have done this just once a season in the last three years. Here’s a table of the matches in question, and I’ve ranked them by an additional stat, opposition shots in the box:

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Analysis: Are Liverpool Winning The Ball Higher Up The Pitch Under Klopp?

I’ve read and heard different opinions on this issue recently; for instance, Michael Cox wrote for Four Four Two (here) that Klopp’s influence is demonstrated by the fact that Liverpool completed more ball recoveries, interceptions and tackles in the opposition half in certain games under Klopp than they did in Brendan Rodgers’ last match.

Sean Rogers, speaking on The Anfield Wrap’s excellent Tuesday Review show (here, subscribers only) was quick to point out how Manchester City won the ball higher up the pitch than Liverpool did last weekend though, which most people would not have expected.

So has there been much of a shift this season since Jürgen Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers?

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