Do Teams That Frequently Cross The Ball Get Bad Results?

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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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Analysis: Liverpool 1 Bournemouth 0

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One of the things I thought I’d monitor this season is which players top the rankings for various stats in each Premier League match. Against Bournemouth, Coutinho became the first player in 2015/16 to have eight shots in a game.

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Liverpool’s Crossing Conundrum

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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.

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Brendan Rodgers’ Cross To Bear

Due to a fixture scheduling quirk that has been brought about by various teams’ cup involvement, Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford this weekend is Manchester United‘s first home game in over a month.

Their last run out at the self-styled Theatre Of Dreams was a 2-2 draw with Fulham, which was notable for the Red Devils setting a new Premier League record for the number of crosses by a team in one game: eighty-two. Eighty-two!

Liverpool are widely perceived to struggle with crosses defensively, so I thought I’d take a closer look at this issue ahead of the match on Sunday.

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Hull City 3 Liverpool 1: Stats Zone Analysis

On the face of it, the headline stats suggested that this was a fairly even contest. You wouldn’t expect to lose a match 3-1 when you’ve had 61.5% of the possession, created seven chances to your opponents’ six, had an equal number of shots on target (four), and only three fewer shots in total. Yet looking deeper into the numbers reveals where the issues were.

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Everton 3 Liverpool 3: Stats Zone Analysis

After a frenetic, see-sawing Merseyside derby (which was Liverpool’s highest scoring league draw since the 4-4 with Arsenal at Anfield in 2009), I guess the most important facts from a Liverpool perspective are that they now have four points more than they had from the corresponding fixtures last season, seventy points from the last thirty-eight league games, and have only had more than twenty-four points from the first twelve games four times in the Premier League era.

Brendan Rodgers has now taken the same amount of league points (eighty-five) as Kenny Dalglish did in his second tenure, but in six fewer games. Overall, the Reds are doing pretty well.

However…

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Liverpool 1 Manchester United 0: Stats Zone Analysis

As an owner of a shiny new smartphone, I’ve recently become acquainted with FourFourTwo’s excellent Stats Zone application. Typically, they’ve now made it available on the web too anyway, meaning that I didn’t need the new phone to access it after all.

Anyway, now that I can use Stats Zone, I’m going to post interesting things from there that I spot from the latest Liverpool match, to try to get to the bottom of why the result turned out as it did; in this case, spectacularly well.

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Crosses, Counter Attacks, and Confirmation Bias

Whilst listening to this week’s The Anfield Wrap podcast (which I thoroughly recommend, and you can download here), I found myself nodding along with their discussion regarding Liverpool’s continual failure to prevent crosses. Mike Girling, one of the podcast’s regulars, noted:

“It’s an obvious tactic that opposing teams are taking with us (Liverpool) now, is to play the ball out wide early as our full backs don’t press, man to man, against a wide player. I’ve never known a team as easy to cross against as us. We never seem to stop the cross coming in”.

I was in complete agreement with him. Until I looked up the figures, that is; I only realised today that WhoScored have the figures for how many and what kind of pass teams face from their opponents, so I have compiled the figures for every team in the Premier League. Continue reading