Although Newcastle’s winning goal didn’t occur for a further twenty seconds, the Magpies regained possession and began the move that lead to it following a blocked Glen Johnson shot from outside of the penalty box.
Ah, a blocked Glen Johnson shot from outside of the penalty box. If you’re a Liverpool fan, you can picture it perfectly in your mind; Johnson receives the ball in a wide area, cuts inside, and then shoots wastefully. Rinse and repeat, ad naseum.
Or is that actually the case? If you regularly read my work you’ll know that I like to investigate perceived wisdom, and Glen Johnson is the latest to receive the in-depth Bass Tuned To Red treatment.
Before we look any closer though, one thing is abundantly clear; the goals have certainly dried up for Johnson. In the three seasons prior to Brendan Rodgers taking charge at Anfield, the former Portsmouth defender scored six goals, at a rate of one every 16.5 appearances.
Under Rodgers, Johnson has bagged just two goals, last scoring nearly two years ago at West Ham in December 2012, which means he has only found the net every 40 games whilst playing for the Ulsterman. I have therefore focussed upon the Rodgers era for my research.
In order to establish how many of Glen’s shots fall into the ‘cut in and waste shot’ category, I have created a matrix which shows where he received the key pass (which is the one preceding his shot) and the location of his subsequent attempt at goal.
The key pass locations are divided as follows:
By combining the data using the below matrix, we can see how many of his shots have involved receiving a pass in a wide area and then cutting in before shooting from outside the box. They are highlighted in red.
Some of the boxes in this chart are highly unlikely to ever contain many shots; it’s hard to think of too many occasions where you might receive the ball in the box but shoot from outside it, for instance. I have marked these boxes grey.
We can see that the most common combination is Other/Other, and these are the shots that Liverpool fans fear; receiving the ball in an area wide of the penalty box, and then shooting before either getting into the goal area or even the central zone in front of it. As just under one third of Johnson’s shots fall into this category, it’s no wonder that it seems like they’re always happening.
I’m not able to determine how many of the shots outside the box resulted in a costly counter attack (as we saw at Newcastle last weekend), but equally the chances of scoring from the ‘other’ zone is only 8% if the shot is on target, and even then only three of Johnson’s twenty-seven shots from this area have tested the goalkeeper (though the aforementioned goal at West Ham is one of them). As 89% of the shots in the ‘Other’ zone have been blocked or off target, we can see what poor shot choices Johnson has been making.
Researching this article has really brought home how the right-back’s attacking involvement has declined in the last year or so.
In Rodgers’ first season, Johnson had fifty-four shots, with twenty-four (44%) of them being in the penalty area, yet last season those figures dropped to twenty and six (30%) respectively.
Not only that, but eleven of the twelve shots that have been in the centre of the box after receiving a pass there were in 2012/13, so it definitely seems that Johnson simply hasn’t been getting into the box enough recently.
This may be a tactical decision on Rodgers’ part, but the stats suggest that it may not be the smartest move as it leaves Johnson attempting low probability shots which are almost always a waste of having the ball in a threatening area.
Perhaps as he has been waiting two years for a goal, the law of averages means that at some point soon, Glen Johnson will cut in from a wide area and actually score a goal again. Based on this data though, I wouldn’t bet any money on it.