Why Liverpool’s Audi Cup performance matters

The outlook is positive for Liverpool

The Reds lost the final of the pre-season tournament on a penalty shootout to Atletico Madrid, but played well overall.

It would be foolish to read too much into a good performance in pre-season, right? Well, maybe, but maybe not too. There is evidence that a strong warm up to a campaign can lead to a team performing better than they did in the previous season.

Lest we forget, Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 at Wembley last summer. They then went on to record their best opening half season in the Premier League era. ‘Correlation vs causation’ and all that, but if a handsome pre-season win achieves nothing more than a shot of confidence ahead of the real business, then that’s still no bad thing.

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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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Are Liverpool Better At Defending Set Pieces This Season?

It’s far too early to accurately answer this question of course, but I did a quick piece of research which was prompted by a Redmen TV video I watched:

This in turn had been inspired by a John Aldridge column in the Liverpool Echo, where the former striker spoke about recent Reds signing Joel Matip:

“I feel a lot more confident defending set plays because of him in the back four. Matip’s size and height means he’s winning those high balls in the box, he’s a real man mountain. He reminds me of Sami Hyypia in that respect, in how he likes to get his head on everything. We’ve looked susceptible from set pieces in recent times, now we look solid.”

Is this actually the case though? I’ve crunched the defensive set piece numbers for Liverpool in the Premier League since the start of last season, and I’m not convinced that it is.

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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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Georginio Wijnaldum: A Quick Look At The Stats

Liverpool look set to sign Georginio Wijnaldum for a fee believed to be around £25m. I’ve taken a very quick look at some of his stats from the last campaign (with a few words on Mané here for good measure too).

Last season, Wijnaldum scored eleven league goals against an expected goals total of 10.43, giving him a performance rating of 105%. He and another Reds new boy Sadio Mané were very closely matched here (Mané also scored eleven, vs an ExpG tally of 11.64) but whereas Mané missed his one penalty, Wijnaldum scored his.

That aside, their records were virtually identical, and it’s clear that Jurgen Klopp has identified that Liverpool need more goals from midfield; Wijnaldum and Mané were ranked joint-third in the Premier League for goals whilst playing in midfield last season, so both should go a long way to addressing that issue.

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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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Liverpool’s Set Piece Record in 2015/16

From an amateur’s point of view, it’s great that there are multiple websites that freely share football stats. They don’t always publish a simple list of what you want though; as Liverpool’s woes with defending set pieces continued at Carrow Road, fans want to know how the Reds compare to every other side in the Premier League when it comes to conceding from dead ball situations, but nowhere publishes a table of this information.

I’ve put in the hard yards over at whoscored.com, and gone through ten match previews to extract the data. Here’s what I found.

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Analysis: Stoke 0 Liverpool 1

I wasn’t planning to do one of these for this match, but as there were some impressive stats from a very good Liverpool display I thought I would. The Reds played well in any context, but not least when considering the injuries they suffered both before and during the match.

There was a great line regarding this from Klopp at the end of his post-match interview on SKY. When asked about the games coming up with the horrendous injury list, he said “If we have eleven, we will fight”. They certainly fought well at Stoke, and here are a few key stats from the match.

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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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