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 vs Chelsea: League Cup Semi-Final Review

As I was lucky enough to attend the second leg of the League Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Chelsea, I thought I’d post a few thoughts on the match, the tie overall, and of course throw in a few stats.

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Swansea 2 Liverpool 2: Stats Zone Analysis

After my first attempt at analysing a match via Stats Zone two weeks ago, I’ve again taken to the app to cast my critical eye over Liverpool’s 2-2 draw away at Swansea City.

Although I am happy enough with a point, as it maintains the Reds’ five point advantage over their corresponding fixtures from last season, there were many areas of the performance that left a lot to be desired.

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Zenit 2 Liverpool 0: Post-Mortem

Despite playing reasonably well, Liverpool slumped to a 2-0 defeat in St Petersburg against Zenit, and face a massive task if they are to progress in this season’s Europa League. They were unable to maintain the stats I highlighted in my preview, and paid the price accordingly.

It’s not that they didn’t have chances, but Luis Suárez maintained his recent profligate run in front of goal, and so the Reds have it all to do next Thursday.

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To Care Or Not To Care? – The Carling Cup

I was fortunate enough to be at Wembley on Sunday to see Liverpool win their first trophy in six seasons. In doing so, they shook a monkey off their backs that has been weighing them down since Steven Gerrard single-handedly foiled West Ham’s efforts to win the 2006 FA Cup.

Granted, its not the 22 year old burden of wanting another league championship that all Kopites yearn to shed, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Isn’t it? Depending on who you ask, perhaps not. It isn’t that any Liverpool fan is disappointed that the club won, but rather that quite a few would gladly trade it in if it meant that 4th place could be secured.

Whilst I can understand the logic due to the financial benefits of Champions League football, I personally think that the trophy win will give the whole squad a lift, meaning that 4th place is still within reach for this season. I also think that it was an invaluable boost for everyone involved with the club:

  • The owners – they have delivered a trophy, and European football within 18 months of taking over.
  • The manager – Kenny Dalglish has become the first ever Liverpool manager to have brought all three domestic trophies to Anfield, and joins Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho in delivering the triple-crown at one club
  • The players – the vast majority of the club’s players have very few medals. Dirk Kuyt, as an example, has played in a World Cup and Champions League final, yet only had one Dutch cup winners medal to show for his career. A lot of the younger players, such as Henderson and Carroll, now have their first major trophy medal, and you can bet they will be hungry for more.
  • The fans – having had to stomach their beloved Reds nearly go into administration, lose several of their best players and spend time in the relegation zone all within the last two seasons, it is great to finally have something to cheer about, however minor it may be in the wider context of the Premier and Champions Leagues.

As for the match itself, it was similar to so many of Liverpool’s games this season (with the possible exception of Stewart Downing winning the man-of-the-match award, as I doubt that has happened previously). The Reds failed to beat a side who weren’t better than them, they were just more clinical when the chances presented themself.

Across the two hours they had a whopping 37 shots, with 17 of them being on target. Compare that with Cardiff, who put just five on target from their nine shots. The Reds’ shots on target ratio of 46% was no disaster (to give that some context, Manchester United lead the way in the Premier League on this, with a figure of 50%), but to only score two goals from all those shots continues the disappointing trend of profligacy seen for so much of this season.

It was similar with the players’ performances; Henderson was anonymous on the right, Adam went from the sublime to the ridiculous, and Skrtel continued his charge towards the player of the season award.

So in that sense, very little was learned about this current Liverpool team on Sunday. Let’s hope the confidence boost they should surely take from this trophy win inspires them to move up a notch in their pursuit of Champions League football.

Whether they manage to or not, I think it’s safe to say that they care about the Carling Cup, and I for one certainly do too.

I think Pepe is under there somewhere! Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.

The Scouser Report: Stuck Like A Scratched Record

This piece on Liverpool’s recent victory against QPR was written for World Football Columns. However, it was not published during this past week as it should have been. Rather than waste it, I thought I’d publish it here.

It’s getting increasingly difficult to try to write these pieces without sounding repetitive, though at least for the first time since September I can say that Liverpool won a game at Anfield. It was only their third win in their last eight league matches, though as that run has included Chelsea away and both Manchester clubs at home, then that’s not perhaps quite as bad a run of form as it initially sounds.

But aside from the result itself, it was the same old story for the Reds on Saturday as it has been throughout this season.

Were Liverpool denied a good shout for a penalty? Did they contrive to miss a bag full of chances? Did they hit the woodwork? Did Downing play well but be denied his first assist by poor finishing? Did the Reds endure a nervy finish due to their profligacy in front of goal? Did the opposition goalkeeper give probably his best performance of the season?

The answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above, much as it has been in numerous matches this season. Aside from Queen’s Park Rangers, the other two newly promoted sides have already headed home from Merseyside with a point each, and the recurring issues I have mentioned above ensured that the Hoops from West London were in with a very real chance of doing the same.

Liverpool definitely deserved to win though. By putting eight of their fifteen shots on target they recorded their most accurate match in front of goal for the season so far.

Likewise, the Reds had 62% possession, their best figure for a home match this term, and had seventeen corners (five more than their previous highest corner count, and over double their average for the season), so it truly was a dominant performance by Liverpool in all but the scoreline.

In terms of individual performances, Luis Suárez looked a little livelier than he has in recent weeks, and he was able to consolidate his position at the top of the ‘total shots in the Premier League’ table for this season. That said, as he only has five league goals so far, I’d prefer it if he was as prolific as second place Robin van Persie, who has had two less shots than Suárez, but has ten more goals to his name.

After Jay Spearing’s harsh-but-fair dismissal against Fulham last week, it was the turn of Jordan Henderson to step into the breach caused by Lucas Leiva’s season ending knee injury. On the whole he did well, which was hugely encouraging to see, what with Spearing being banned for the next two matches too.

In fact, it had been great to see both Henderson and Charlie Adam show consistently good form in the last few weeks, after slightly slow starts to their Anfield careers.

Adam was on hand shortly after half time on Saturday to place a pinpoint cross onto the head of an unmarked Luis Suarez, who steered it past the otherwise excellent Radek Cerny in the Rangers’ goal.

The Czech keeper was making only his third league appearance of the current campaign, yet he coped admirably; in his first two games he had made a total of seven saves, yet he was required to make that many again in ninety minutes at Anfield. Similarly, opposing keepers have averaged 4.1 saves per league game when facing Liverpool, so it was clearly an excellent performance by Cerny.

He was beaten by his own player towards the end of the game though, but luckily for him Shaun Wright-Phillips diverted the ball onto the frame of the goal rather than into the back of the net.

This kind of attacking near miss has become so recurrent for Liverpool that I’m thinking of renaming this column ‘The Woodwork Report’. The tally now stands at fifteen for the season; more than any other team, and already three more than the Reds mustered in the whole of 2010/11.

To ensure the list of recurring themes is complete, the luckless Stewart Downing also found Suárez with an excellent cross, only for the Uruguayan to put it into Cerny’s hands rather than the net.

Whilst he is still without an assist or a goal, Downing is creating chances more regularly on average than he did for Aston Villa last season (one every thirty-six minutes as opposed to one every forty), and he was the Villan’s player of the season don’t forget.

The three points put Liverpool’s assault on the top four back on track, and all of a sudden they are only three points off a Champions League finish (unless Chelsea beat Manchester City on Monday night that is). It is clearly going to be nip and tuck for the rest of the season, but the Reds’ immediate concern will be a trip to face Aston Villa in the west Midlands on Sunday.

Liverpool lost there on the final day of last season, to a Stewart Downing goal ironically enough. With any luck he can break his duck this weekend to return the favour and put Liverpool in fine spirit ahead of Christmas weekend.

Stats obtained from EPLIndex. Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.

The Scouser Report: The Blues Are Still Blue

This piece on Liverpool’s recent win at Chelsea was written for World Football Columns. However, due to a technical error it was not published during this past week as it should have been. Rather than waste it, I thought I’d publish it here.

Last week, I used my column to nominate my ideal LFC starting XI. Clearly Kenny Dalglish must have read it as he selected Maxi Rodriguez for his first start of the season, and the Argentine repaid his (and my) faith by scoring the opening goal at Stamford Bridge.

Of course, before I could start feeling too smug, Glen Johnson (who I stated should be dropped in favour of Martin Kelly) popped up with a fantastic winning goal. Believe me when I say I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to have been proven wrong.

As has frequently been the case for Liverpool this season, it was in many ways a game of two halves.

The Reds were superb in the first half, pressing Chelsea high up the pitch in the manner that Rafa Benitez used to like the team to.

The tactic paid dividends when Charlie Adam was able to hustle John Obi Mikel off the ball just in front if his own penalty box. Some great one touch play between Bellamy and Suárez then followed, before the ball went to Maxi who applied the finish.

Rodriguez now has an incredible eight goals in his last five league starts for Liverpool (dating back to last season), and must surely have played himself into contention for more pitch time with a lively display at Stamford Bridge. He also has one goal from one shot this season in the league; just the kind of conversion statistics the Reds are crying out for!

Like all managers, Benitez inevitably had a bit of a mixed record when it came to transfers, but picking up Maxi on a free from Atletico Madrid was certainly one of his more shrewd moves.

It was unlikely that Chelsea were going to be as bad in the second half as they were in the first, and so it proved. Despite the pre-match comments from Andre Villas-Boas that he would still pay £50m for Fernando Torres even now, the Portuguese manager opted to bring on Daniel Sturridge in place of the hapless Mikel, rather than the costly Spaniard.

Whilst eyebrows may have been raised, the substitution appeared more than justified when Sturridge was on hand to net the equaliser early in the second half.

As Chelsea poured forward, Liverpool did themselves no favours by defending too deeply, and Johnson illustrated my point about not being the best defensively. He got lost in no mans land, and allowed a cross to go through the box leaving Sturridge with a simple finish.

Whilst Chelsea looked the more likely winners thereafter, at the same time, they didn’t force Reina in to making too many saves; indeed, all three of the Blues’ shots on target in the match came in a three minute period surrounding their goal.

With six minutes to go, former Reds Torres and Raul Meireles were summoned from the bench to apply a bitter finish to the match from a Liverpool point of view. Thankfully the double substitution came to nought for Chelsea.

After Dirk Kuyt sent a late chance wide of Cech’s goal, a draw seemed the only outcome. I for one would not have been  disheartened by that, in view of the quality of the performance.

Glen Johnson and Charlie Adam had other ideas though. Although Adam did his disappearing act in the second half as usual, I have to credit him for playing a key role in both of the Reds’ goals.

An excellent pass by the Scot found Johnson with space to run into, and the right back duly obliged by charging through it and tucking the ball away with his left foot.

After only five league goals in his first two seasons, and two of those came in his first four appearances don’t forget, I hope we see a lot more of this from Johnson over the rest of the season (assuming he remains injury free and first choice of course).

A long range shot of no threat by Meireles aside, Chelsea were unable to muster much of a response, and Liverpool were free to celebrate a well earned three points.

Whilst Dalglish has taken some criticism for his tactical selections previously this season, he has to be given some credit on this occasion. It’s seems ludicrous to me, but the gaffer was under pressure in some quarters of the media (notably in James Lawton’s laughably bad piece in The Independent at the weekend), yet Liverpool are now nine games unbeaten in all competitions.

If anyone should be under pressure, it’s probably Villas-Boas. Not that I think he should be sacked yet; far from it. But his employer has had an itchy finger on the trigger of the firing gun since he bought the club, and his early season record is nothing to be proud of.

For instance, World Cup winning manager Luiz Felipe Scolari lasted less than one season, even though the Brazilian dropped only seven points in his first twelve games in charge. The Portuguese has shed twice as many in the same time.

Similarly, Chelsea have conceded seventeen times already this season, two more than they did in the entirety of José Mourinho’s first season at the club.

But enough about the Blues and their blues. Kenny Dalglish has Liverpool on target for a seventy point total for the season, so things are looking nice and rosy in the Anfield garden.

Statistics sourced from EPLIndex. Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.

Bass Tuned To Brighton: Albion 1 Liverpool 2

I don’t normally post match reviews on here, but as I was actually at the match for once, I thought I’d share my thoughts on a good performance by the Reds.

The clear man-of-the-match for me was Craig Bellamy. Industrious throughout, he provided a constant outlet in the second half when Liverpool were under the cosh a little. Indeed, his smart play on one such occasion fed Maxi, who in turn laid the ball off for Dirk Kuyt to score the decisive second goal.

Bellamy also took his first goal for Liverpool since the Nou Camp in 2007 well following good work by Suárez, and rattled the bar later in the first half with a powerful free kick from some 30 yards or more.

So one full debutant (albeit second time around) played himself into contention for the forthcoming match at Anfield with Wolves, but how did the other one do?

It would be easy to be harsh on Sebastian Coates, following his suicidal crossfield pass early in the second half that nearly enabled Brighton to get back on level terms. But that aside, I thought he had a very good game and dealt comfortably with most things that came his way.

In view of the nightmare that Martin Skrtel suffered at Tottenham, albeit whilst not playing in his favoured position, I think Coates stands a fair chance of retaining his place for Saturday’s match.

It would be fair to say that the whole back four did very well in fact. Carragher had a solid game, and was unlucky to concede the late penalty that Albion scored following a howler by Jay Spearing. Jack Robinson continues to impress me more and more with every appearance, and were it not for the fine form displayed by the first choice Jose Enrique so far this season, I’m certain Robinson would be featuring more. In any case, he is proving to be a more than able deputy for the Spaniard.

Martin Kelly was also in fine form, not least when he cleared off the line during Brighton’s only serious chance of the first half. He also supported Kuyt well on the right flank, and assuming that he stays fit, he will be making it very difficult for Glen Johnson to get back in the team I suspect.

Other than the defence, Kuyt was his usual industrious self, and Suárez buzzed around as usual; he should probably have scored with his one-on-one opportunity, but was unlucky not to score with a header that grazed the post from a free-kick. I felt Maxi was fairly anonymous, and Spearing was fine (penalty mishap aside).

For me, it was great to see Lucas have such a great game, and getting praise from the travelling Kop of 2,403 Reds; whilst this is not a new phenomenon in itself, as an irregular match go-er it was nice to experience this in person, as it has certainly not been the case at previous games I have attended in years gone by.

Finally a word for the returning captain. Gerrard played around 15 minutes and looked fit and possibly a little thinner too, and whilst he didn’t do all that much, neither did he put a foot wrong. I suspect he will still be on the bench for the Wolves game, but it’s encouraging to have him back in contention all the same.

In summary, Liverpool went through to the next round, did not pick up any injuries, Bellamy and Kuyt both got off the mark for the new season and Gerrard got closer to a full first team return.

A lovely day out by the seaside, wouldn’t you say?

Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.