Set Piece Sustainability

Following the publication of this excellent statistical analysis of Liverpool’s 2013/14 campaign by Colin Trainor, there has been a lot of debate on Twitter about whether the Reds have been lucky to score as many goals as they have this season.

One particular aspect that interested me is set pieces, as Liverpool have scored more goals via this route than any other team in the Premier League this season: 24.

A closer look at the data reveals that this is the most any team has scored in the English top flight from 2009/10 onwards. My concern here is therefore is this sustainable, or can Liverpool expect a drop off next season?

The bad news for Brendan Rodgers is that fewer Liverpool goals from set plays in 2014/15 is almost inevitable. The following table shows how many set piece goals each team in the Premier League has scored each season, and (where appropriate) how much this has changed from the season before. The data is taken from WhoScored, and so does not include penalties.


The total number of set piece goals remains fairly constant from season to season, and teams don’t tend to see such a severe swing in fortunes from year to year (though it’s interesting to see that last season’s champions saw almost as big a drop as Liverpool saw gain this season).

To cut down the noise in the above table, here are the change figures for the eleven teams that have been in the Premier League for each of the five seasons in the study.


These figures definitely suggest that Liverpool should expect to score fewer set piece goals in 2014/15, as teams tend to average a change of 3.93 set piece goals per season, not thirteen like Liverpool have seen in this campaign.

Who knows though, perhaps Gerrard and Skrtel can maintain their impressive set piece combination? Eight of Skrtel’s thirteen chances this season have been created by the Liverpool skipper (though of course we don’t know whether that is due to hard work at Melwood, or luck).

I would also expect the Reds to be awarded a similar number of penalties next season, as the way they tend to win them (fast runs into the box, and clever handballs ‘created’ by Suarez) should remain as facets of Liverpool’s attacking play in 2014/15.

With an outside chance of Liverpool clinching the Premier League title, I don’t expect people to pay too much attention to this information immediately. But it might be worth revisiting if the Reds score fewer goals next season.

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