Liverpool’s Goalscoring Subs Since 2008

Christian Benteke scored the first league goal of the Jürgen Klopp era against Southampton at Anfield, and in doing so became the most recent substitute to bag a goal for Liverpool. How have the Reds fared from the bench since 2008, and likewise how did their new manager fare at Dortmund for bringing on goal scoring and assist providing substitutes?

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The Importance Of Beating The Bottom Eight

Liverpool squeezed past Queens Park Rangers 2-1 at Anfield on Saturday, thanks to an 87th minute header by Steven Gerrard. In most seasons a match like this would be soon forgotten, but in 2014/15 such a result has proved relatively rare. I’m talking about a home win against a team in the Premier League’s bottom eight, and the below table shows how important a good record in these games can be.

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Mignolet vs Reina: 2013/14

Ahead of Simon Mignolet’s move to Anfield last summer, I wrote this comparison of his and Pepe Reina’s form over the previous three seasons. The stats suggested that the Liverpool man was in decline whilst the Sunderland stopper was on the rise.

It was therefore interesting to see the image here on Twitter, which suggested that Reina had a better season performance-wise with Napoli in 2013/14 than Mignolet did with Liverpool. Whilst I don’t expect Reina to ever play for the Reds again, clearly the stats needed further investigation, so here’s what I found.

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Brendan Rodgers: Liverpool Elite

As the Liverpool title charge continued with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Manchester City, the result meant that Brendan Rodgers set a couple of memorable records. In doing so, in one way he joined the club’s managerial elite.

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Liverpool: League Leaders In More Ways Than One

As a statto, it’s always a joy to find a new source of football information that you’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s a rare treat these days, but today I stumbled across this.

It contains the data on how long each team in the Premier League has been leading and losing this season, and for previous campaigns too. I thought it was worth a look to see how Liverpool compare to their own past efforts, and those of other top performing sides too.

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Which Win At Old Trafford Is The Greater?

Following a fantastic 3-0 victory by Liverpool over Manchester United, the debate amongst Kopites has begun over whether this victory was better than the famous 4-1 win in 2008/09.

Whilst there is no way to settle it conclusively, I thought I’d take a quick look at the match stats and make a judgment that way.

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Liverpool’s Most Successful Formation Is…

Last season, using data obtained from WhoScored, I wrote an article which looked at whether or not Brendan Rodgers was tactically flexible in 2012/13; the evidence suggested he was, and you can read the piece here.

The aforementioned stats website has the formation data, including results, dating back to 2009/10, so I have now compiled Liverpool’s statistics for the previous four seasons to see which set up has provided them with the best results. The answer may surprise you.

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Assessing Tactics Statistically

As a statto whose tactical knowledge is rather limited, I find the task of trying to assess which manager in a match had the better of the tactical war a fascinating subject.

I will always rely on the key match numbers to try to determine who dominated a game irrespective of the result, but who do you award the tactical match up to, when such things come down to opinion rather than fact?

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Brendan Rodgers: The Right Appointment?

As Liverpool’s season appears to be petering out, there is lots of talk online that perhaps FSG hired the wrong man last summer, or indeed that they shouldn’t have fired Kenny Dalglish in the first place.

I’m going to look at if Liverpool have improved on last season, and also at the form of the other names that were in the frame to be appointed as manager at Anfield last summer, to try to see if Rodgers really is the right man to lead Liverpool forward.
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The Decline Of Pepe Reina

I read today (in this piece on The Tomkins Times) that Pepe Reina saved 69% of the shots he faced in the Premier League this season, which happened to be the average percentage figure for all of the ‘keepers who made at least ten appearances in 2011/12.

Pepe Reina? An average goalkeeper? Whilst that initially seemed surprising to me, thinking back it’s clear that he didn’t seem at his best last season, and indeed he hasn’t since Rafa Benitez left Anfield in the summer of 2010.

I have previously looked at Reina’s form as part of other articles (here and here), but I thought it would be interesting to assess his statistics now that his seventh season on Merseyside has concluded. Below is a table showing the trend of his Premier League save percentage across his time at Liverpool:

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Kenny Goes, Who Comes In?

Kenny Dalglish has today been sacked as manager of Liverpool football club. For me, this was the wrong decision (as I have previously explained in detail here), and he should have remained in charge for 2012/13 at the very least.

Despite winning more trophies in the last three months than Harry Redknapp has won in the previous four years, or Arsene Wenger has in the last seven, Dalglish’s contract was terminated. If a sentence ever demonstrated how finishing in the top four has become the be-all-and-end-all in football, that might well be it. Continue reading

Liverpool’s Defensive Issues

After another two points were dropped yesterday against Norwich City at Anfield, a lot of the focus was on the wasted chances. Twenty opportunities were created (double the amount as in the recent matches with Everton and Manchester United), but the Reds only found the back of the net once, and paid for it when substitute Grant Holt equalised for the Canaries.

I have covered the chance conversion issue previously here. Whilst it is clearly still a problem, the team is having difficulty at the defensive end of the pitch too.  After all, you can afford to miss a few chances yourself if you can be confident of registering a clean sheet, but unfortunately for Liverpool, that’s not the case at the moment.

Take a look at the table below:

Whilst the percentage of chances conceded that have resulted in goals is lower than it’s been in any of the previous three seasons, the interesting thing here for me is the correlation between chances conceded per game and clean sheet ratio:

It might seem obvious that the two things would correlate, but it’s still fascinating to see that this is very much the case.

It becomes clear that Benitez had his defensive tactics spot on, though having a team featuring Alonso, Mascherano and peak-era Carragher wouldn’t have harmed either of course.

The chance creation rate for the Reds, currently at 12.8 per game on average, is the highest it has been since 2008/09 (14.6 per game) when they nearly won the league, so it’s clear that some defensive solidity has been sacrificed for a more attacking style.

Which is fine in theory, but with chances going begging up front, Liverpool could really do with tightening up at the back. Only two clean sheets this season, both attained when the opposition have had a man sent off, is not good enough for a team with Champions League aspirations.

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

Rafa’s ‘Rant’ – The Context

Following my recent post regarding the facts that prove that Rafa’s ‘rant’ (always in inverted commas, as it was nothing of the sort) did not cause Liverpool to blow their chance of the 2008-09 title, it was put to me that people perhaps still go on about it as it was at around this point that the lead in the league switched to Manchester United.

I thought I’d take a look to see if this was the case, and indeed it was – once United took the lead in the championship race in mid-January, they never relinquished it properly (once a full set of weekend fixtures had been played then United were always top, though there were times when Liverpool regained the lead by virtue of playing first).

So what is the timeline of ‘rant-gate’?

The ‘rant’ took place on 9th January 2009. At that point, Liverpool were top with 45 points from 20 games, whilst United were 3rd with 38 points from 18 games. Winning their games in hand would have put the Manchester side only a single point behind the Merseysiders anyway.

I think a lot of the furore surrounding the ‘rant’ was because the match that Liverpool played the next day was drawn, 0-0 away at Stoke. Gerrard hit the post in the last minute of the match,  so it could easily have been a win, but two points dropped was the final outcome. Cue tabloid overdrive – “Rafa’s lost it” etc. Had the Reds won that game then it might not have been made into such a big deal.

The following day, United beat Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford, putting them five points behind with two matches in hand, and they then also won another home game during the following midweek (1-0 against Wigan). Therefore, within five days of the ‘rant’, Liverpool had only played once, and a tough away game at that, and yet Manchester United had gone from being seven points behind to being two behind with a game in hand thanks to two home wins.

The following weekend United won away at Bolton (1-0) on the Saturday, and Liverpool drew at home to Everton on the Monday (1-1). Ten days after the ‘rant’, and the two teams were now level on points, with Liverpool having played a game more.

The next league matches took place during a midweek (27th and 28th January): United won 5-0 at West Bromwich Albion, and Liverpool drew 1-1 at Wigan. Having played a game more than their fiercest rivals, Liverpool were now two points behind them.

After that small blip, Liverpool went on to win 12 of their last 15 games, but it wasn’t quite enough to reel United in, even allowing for the glorious 4-1 win at Old Trafford.

So it could certainly be argued that the initiative was surrendered around the time of the ‘rant’, but of course it’s impossible to prove cause and effect.

Personally, I think you have to take account of the fixtures that took place during this period.

Liverpool had Stoke away (where few big teams win, and indeed Liverpool have still to win there in the Premier League era), Everton at home (“form-book goes out of the window”, other clichés are available!), and Wigan away (another place where Liverpool don’t win too often, though you could certainly argue perhaps they should be more likely to, so perhaps two points dropped there).

Then look at United – a home match with Chelsea in the final days of Scolari’s reign (still not the easiest of matches, but CFC were clearly in turmoil), Wigan at home (Dave Whelan doesn’t allow his team to try to beat United I don’t think!), Bolton away (not so easy, granted) and West Brom away, the team who finished the season bottom of the league.

So the same outcome in match results for both teams is hugely plausible, ‘rant’ or not.

As with most things in football, it’s fine margins – Gerrard hit the post in the last minute at Stoke, Cahill scored in the 88th minute to snatch a point for Everton, and Wigan scored via an 83rd minute penalty to draw Liverpool’s other match in this period. Any (or maybe all) of these games could easily have been a win. Were any of the teams involved affected by the ‘rant’? It’s hard to believe that this is the case.

Conclusion? It’s unlucky for Rafa that the team had a minor lull (combined with United winning every game) after his ‘rant’, as that made it easier for the tabloids to stick the knife in. All teams lose points, but the timing of a run of three straight draws could definitely have been more favourable for the Spaniard.

Liverpool hit probably the best league run of his whole tenure after this three game period (starting with a 2-0 win over Chelsea at Anfield), averaging an incredible 2.53 points-per-game over the final 15 games of the season, but as with most things surrounding Rafa Benitez, people tend to remember what they want to remember.

I like to remember a manager who took Liverpool very close to winning the league that season. Closer than they have been at any point in the last 21 years. And that’s a fact.

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

Rafa’s ‘Rant’ – The Facts

First up, clearly this is not a topical post.

However, despite Rafa’s so-called rant (nice use of alliteration there by the tabloids) occurring over two years ago, many football fans (which sadly, includes Liverpool supporters) still believe and flaunt the view that it lead to Liverpool throwing away their chance of the 2008-09 title.

As I’m fed up of stating that this was not the case, I’m putting it on here so that people can locate it and see the facts.

Points per game went up only fractionally, but crucially, did not decrease as many people think. The main point of interest is that the goal scoring went through the roof – over an extra half-a-goal per game.

In half of the 18 post-rant games, Liverpool scored three or more goals, including four goal hauls against Manchester United (who finished 1st), Arsenal (4th) and Aston Villa (6th). Although this data only includes league games, it’s also worth mentioning that Liverpool put four past Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and scored four against Real Madrid at Anfield, in the Champions League during this period too.

The main difference pre and post rant was the form of Manchester United – 2.11 points per game before, and an amazing 2.60 after. Liverpool played their part in trying to stop United by beating them at Old Trafford in this later period, but the Manchester side racked up 17 wins from their other final 19 games to take the crown. Was this upturn in the form a response to Rafa’s rant? I’m sure Ferguson will have used it as a point for motivation, but it’s hardly the sole factor.

So there we are, hopefully I’ve put that myth to bed once and for all. Rant over.

A further piece looking at how the lead in the league changed hands following the ‘rant’ can be read here. You can follow me on Twitter here. Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.

Defence and Defence-ability

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 21 January 2011.

Following the first two league games of the second Dalglish managerial era, something worrying occurred to me: in both games we had taken the lead, only to subsequently conceded twice and go behind.

Don’t panic, this is not a rabid, foaming mouthed ‘DALGLISH OUT’ rant; rather a look at how Liverpool’s defensive record has shifted for the worse overall this season. I don’t profess to have all of the answers as to why, but I’ll share some relevant statistics I have in the aim of encouraging smarter people than I to get to the bottom of it.

Dear oh dear. Liverpool have already conceded more than they did in four of the six Benitez seasons, and matched the average figure for a full season, despite still having sixteen fixtures to play. Indeed, if they carry on at the current rate, then we can see that they will concede around double the amount of goals that Rafa’s team did in their four best league seasons.

Liverpool have been on the wrong end of more hidings (e.g. conceded three or more goals) than in previous years too. This occurred in four of Roy Hodgson’s twenty league games (20%), yet this has only happened to Liverpool fifty times in 716 Premier league games overall (6.98%).

But why has this downturn occurred?

My previous article (Roy vs. Rafa: Endgame), suggested that this could be down to the Reds having less possession in games, and defending deeper. Another seismic shift has been the switch between zonal and man-to-man marking.

Last season, Liverpool conceded 16 of their 35 goals against from set-pieces (45.71%). So far this season, they have conceded 11 set-piece goals. If they continue the season at the same rate, then by the end they will have conceded 19.

Some people might think that the defensive problems are down to the absence (for very different reasons) of two key players this season: Jamie Carragher and Javier Mascherano. The loss in form of one Pepe Reina may have contributed too, so I have looked at these three player’s statistics to try and determine what impact these issues may have had.

Javier Mascherano

A lot of people assumed that Liverpool would massively miss the Argentina captain, and even more so once his replacement turned out to be a 30 year old Juventus cast-off. After all, he won the most tackles in the Premier League last season (144), and that was in the club’s least successful season of his time here. But how did Liverpool cope overall without him in the league during the three full seasons he had at Anfield?

Perhaps a little surprisingly, Liverpool earned more points and conceded fewer goals on average without Mascherano in the team. The interesting statistic here is that Liverpool only lost one of the matches they played without him in the side; a closer look reveals it was an away game at West Ham in January 2008, where Liverpool only lost 1-0 thanks to a last minute penalty. The Masch-less Liverpool were within one minute of an unbeaten league record, which is very impressive.

Mascherano missed an even split of fourteen home and fourteen away matches, and to give some context to the difficulty of these games, he missed two home games with Everton, two away at Arsenal, and one home game with Chelsea, but he did play in all six against Manchester United.

I can’t say conclusively that Mascherano has been missed (indeed I think he has), but the Benitez team certainly managed without him reasonably well; this year’s side don’t appear to have done so.

Jamie Carragher

The analysis of Carragher’s influence has to be slightly different, in light of the fact that he missed so few league games in the Benitez era; he played no part at all in just seven of Rafa’s 228 league games in charge (a mere 3.07%). Instead, I will present the statistics from so far this season, where he has missed seven league games already.

The evidence shows that Liverpool have earned less points and conceded more goals without Carra in the side; in fairness, they have also scored more goals too. Whilst seven games is clearly too short a spell to provide serious statistical analysis, when you consider the seven teams we have played, I think it’s right to be a little concerned about these defence stats:

Aston Villa, Newcastle, Wolves, Bolton, Blackburn, Blackpool and Everton.

It’s hard to foresee a much kinder run of seven fixtures at any point in any season, especially considering that four of the seven matches were at home, and yet we’re averaging over 1.7 goals a game against.

Of course this can’t all be down to the absence of Carragher, but at the same time whatever you might think about him (either on or off the pitch) it’s hard to argue that he knows how to organise a defence, and on a purely defensive basis, is probably still our best centre-back.

There’s also no doubt there’s some relevance in the facts that Agger is returning from injury, Kelly is a young lad trying to find his way in a struggling team, and Paul Konchesky’s mum does his talking for him. But as the only player who spanned the entire Benitez era, which was defensively sound by-and-large, Carragher was definitely doing something right.

Pepe Reina

José Manuel “Pepe” Reina Páez (thanks Wikipedia) is the goalkeeper who reached 100 league clean sheets faster than any other for Liverpool, and faster than any other Premier league ‘keeper aside from Petr Cech. In his five full seasons in England, he has won the Barclays Golden Glove award outright three times, shared it once more, and only missed out on a share of it by one clean sheet in the other season (hence Carra having a go at Arbeloa at The Hawthorns in 2009). In short, both he and the defence in front of him have done outstandingly well during his time in England.

Up until now that is. But not since the departure of Benitez, and what part has Pepe’s personal form played in this defensive dip?

Roy Hodgson and his goalkeeping coach Mike Kelly are alleged to have wanted Pepe to keep goal in a more English fashion. The stats suggest they have succeeded in this, as they appear to have made him worse.

What we can see from these stats is that Reina has conceded a goal for every 1.74 saves he has made this season, which is by far his worst figure since signing for the club.  This would explain why we’re conceding over a goal a game on average, because any team you play, no matter how good or bad or be it home or away, will inevitably have at least a couple of shots on goal. Back in 2006 he was making nearly four times as many saves between goals. In fairness, some of this will be down to the team giving away less chances than in some previous years.

Unfortunately I don’t have the stats for shots off target by opposing teams, else I could properly see how the number of chances Liverpool have allowed against them has changed over time.

The figures I do have show, rather worryingly, that if this season’s record carries on at the same rate, then Reina will have conceded 53.55 goals compared to 35 in 2009-10, yet the number of on target chances against him will be virtually the same (146.82 to 138).

Obviously a team’s defending as a whole is responsible for the number of chances they give away, but these statistics do seem to confirm that Reina has definitely seen a downturn in his own personal form this season. Whether that’s entirely down to coaching is impossible to say, but it can’t be a complete coincidence that his relative loss of form has occurred after a significant change in the club’s management structure.

As with every aspect of a team’s success (or lack thereof), there are so many different factors to consider that not one thing can be pinpointed as the dominant cause. That said, Liverpool’s previously impressive defensive record has seen a definite downturn, which needs to be arrested sooner rather than later.

Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Roy vs Rafa: Endgame

This piece first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 11th January 2011.

As we all know, Rafael Benitez was sacked as Liverpool manager for finishing seventh in the league, which was deemed unacceptable, and for supposedly losing the dressing room (or at least key members of it).

The highest position Liverpool managed in the league at any point under Roy Hodgson was eighth, with an average placing of 12.35. He has now also been sacked, after twenty league games.

After writing articles earlier in the season comparing Roy’s early efforts against Rafa’s in 2009 (the same fixtures) and 2004 (so both were judged as the new manager), I thought it would be interesting to compare some statistics from their final twenty league games. Obviously in Roy’s case, these were his first (and only) twenty too.

Inevitably in a comparison of this nature, there are differences between the circumstances that the two managers faced which could be used to defend or attack them. For example, Benitez had bought all of the players (aside from the home grown lads) in his squad himself, whereas Hodgson had not.

On the other hand, the ownership issue was resolved during Roy’s tenure, so he should have had a ‘bounce’ from both that and his status as the new manager; Rafa’s position was rapidly becoming untenable due to multiple issues within the club and his management influence had probably grown inevitably stale after nearly six seasons in charge.

Needless to say the fixtures weren’t identical, but both managers played ten home and ten away games, and some of the traditionally big fixtures (Manchester United away and Chelsea at home, as well as matches with Arsenal and Everton).

Understandably, there has been a lot of discussion about the change in tactics between Rafa’s favoured 4-2-3-1 and Roy’s 4-4-2. More specifically, the shift in emphasis between pressing high up the pitch and defending deeper. But do the possession stats illustrate this at all?

Whichever way you look at it, Benitez’s team had more of the ball than Hodgson’s, and the difference in the two manager’s tactical approaches must surely be the primary reason for this.

In the twenty matches I looked at, Rafa’s Liverpool only had less of the possession in two games. As you’d probably guess, these were the games against Manchester United and Chelsea.

By comparison Roy’s team had less of the ball in nine of his twenty matches, and as you might assume, seven of these games were away from home. Ceding possession whilst down to ten men and leading for half a match against Arsenal might be viewed as acceptable, but to have significantly less of the ball against teams such as Wigan(42%-58%), and Stoke (a mind boggling 36%-64%) is surely not.

Of course, possession alone does not win games. After all, Liverpool had more of the ball in the first Merseyside derby this season at Goodison Park, yet it made little difference as they lost tamely by two goals to nil. That said, by having more of the ball, it seems safe to assume that you’d be more likely to score and less likely to concede:

I must admit I was slightly surprised to see that the number of goals scored was fairly similar for the two managers, though clearly Rafa’s team was streets ahead defensively. Obviously these figures have an impact on the figures regarding scoring and conceding first:

Whilst little of any major interest can be gleaned from these figures, it’s worth taking a closer look at the goals for and against by the same criteria (e.g. matches where Liverpool scored or conceded first):

Benitez’s team scored (on average) just over two goals a game when they scored first, which goes a long way to explaining why they won on ten of the thirteen occasions that this happened. Hodgson’s side conceded an average of over two goals whenever they conceded first, and this clearly contributed to the eight defeats from nine matches (the recent Bolton game stopped a complete whitewash of nine defeats on this front). A clear shift in defensive and offensive success had occurred, and if nothing else, this proves just how vital the first goal in the majority of matches is.

In view of this, who defended their leads the best, or clawed back any points from being behind?

Whilst Roy did recover four points from losing positions to Rafa’s zero, he did have eleven occasions (the nine where we conceded first, plus Sunderland at home and Tottenham away) to attempt and save the game to Rafa’s three, so it isn’t too much to be proud of.  For the record, Rafa’s team lead in thirteen matches to Roy’s eleven.

It wouldn’t be an article of mine without taking a look at the substitution info:

There isn’t necessarily a better or worse time to make a substitution, but the real issue here is one of media consistency. Rafa made more changes and made them earlier on average, yet you never hear accusations of Roy ‘managing by numbers’ or suchlike. I had to smile when I saw that Rafa’s average time for his first tactical substitution across these twenty games was sixty-five minutes, the exact time that Andy Gray et al accuse him of working to. So please don’t tell anyone at Sky what I’ve found!

If anything, Roy seems to be guiltier of being limited with the scope of his substitutions. For four games in a row this season (from Blackpool to Bolton) the first substitute brought on was David N’Gog every time, and for three games more recently (West Ham, Spurs and Aston  Villa) the first sub was Fabio Aurelio on 73, 74 and 76 minutes respectively. These may be coincidences, but these little statistics suggest to me that Roy had little in the way of a Plan B, or any major tactical expertise, which is probably what many Liverpool fans suspected all along.

The basic match facts illustrate the two men’s differences as simply as anything can, and are, after all, the ultimate barometers of football success:

Extrapolated over a whole season, Roy would have earned 47.5 points and Rafa 68.4. If you use last season’s final table as a guide, Hodgson’s team would have finished 11th (so slightly ahead of his average placing so far this season) and Benitez’s side would have been 5th.  The real point of interest here is that Fulham finished last season with 46 points and only one away win – sound familiar?

I have a multitude of other statistics I could throw at you, but they all basically illustrate the same point: Rafa was a more effective manager at Liverpool than Roy, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that. At the end of the season, I intend to do a similar comparison between Roy and Kenny’s halves of the campaign. No prizes for guessing who I think will come out on top.

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

Comparison: Roy 2010/11 vs Rafa 2004/05

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 21st October 2010.

Following my recent piece comparing Roy Hodgson’s stats this season with Rafa Benitez’s last season, an idea was posted that I hadn’t considered. As Roy was inheriting Rafa’s squad, how did Rafa get on in comparison when he inherited Houllier’s squad?

The fixtures are actually fairly comparable – two promoted teams at home (West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City for Benitez), two trips to top four sides (Manchester United and Chelsea), with the other games being Tottenham, Bolton and Fulham away, and Manchester City at home to open Rafa’s Anfield account. So comparing the two sets of results seems reasonable. Here are the stats:

Fairly similar results. What’s interesting is that Rafa’s Liverpool came from behind to win two of the five games where they conceded first (Manchester City at home, and more famously, from 2-0 down at half time away at Fulham).  Whilst Liverpool did claw back a two goal deficit at Old Trafford this season, though ultimately losing in the end, Roy’s back-to-basics English approach hasn’t appeared to make Liverpool any more spirited or resilient than they previously were; I’m sure most people would say considerably less so.

In this respect, Benitez once again comes out on top. Whilst the two eras have two clean sheets a piece, Rafa’s team have double the number of goals (14 to 7) and a much better first half scoring record (5 to 1). As with when I looked at Rafa’s figures from the same eight matches last season, the Liverpool of 2004 had scored two first half goals in two games (West Brom and Norwich at home), and so effectively won the games.

My final stats relate to substitutions:

Rafa never had the chance to make a tactical substitution at 0-0 in any of his eight opening league games, though we can see he intervened around six minutes earlier on average, and made slightly more substitutions.  As there were no 0-0s, I broke it down to average time for a substitution when Liverpool were winning, drawing or losing:

Clearly I don’t need to point out that the ‘Rafa’s 65th minute substitution’ myth is shattered yet again. Personally, I think that by not intervening until late in games when Liverpool were losing, Roy has done himself no favours at all. To not bring on a substitute away at Everton until 21 minutes after  the second goal was conceded, and similarly 26 minutes after the second goal away at Manchester City baffled me (and that’s putting it politely).

As with the previous piece, I’ll sum up with the match stats for the eight games in question, if only to prove what you’re probably all already thinking:

Rafa 04/05 – Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 3, For 14, Against 8, Points 13.

Roy 10/11 – Won 1, Drawn 3, Lost 4, For 7, Against 13, Points 6.

A final point: a lot has changed at Liverpool in the six years that separates these two sets of eight games, with the ownership issue clearly being a cloud over Roy’s head that Rafa didn’t have to cope with straight away.

That said, Rafa had at that point never managed in this country before (so certainly didn’t know what to expect away at Bolton in his third league match – he soon learned!) and had lost both of the previous season’s first choice strikers, inheriting a worse squad than Roy did (despite what ex-players and pundits might tell you) and yet he still doubled Roy’s points tally from comparable games.

Quite an achievement if you ask me.

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

Progress? Roy 2010/11 vs. Rafa 2009/10

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on October 20th 2010.

Firstly, a couple of important points. I realise showing that Rafa did better last year than Roy has this year is a no-brainer, both in terms of the team’s results so far and also in view of the mindset of the majority of readers of this site. It’s also far too early to apply any serious statistical analysis to Roy’s tenure. However, I thought I’d share some stats I have researched in order to try and illustrate how much they differ so far. These apply to league games only:

What we can see from the above figures is that Liverpool are scoring first less, and conceding first more.  Not a good way to evolve. As it’s fair to say that Roy has been dealt some of the more difficult matches he’ll have to face during the first eight games, I thought I’d also compare his stats with the corresponding fixtures from last season. I have had to replace Blackpool with Burnley (previous season’s play-off winners) and West Brom with Birmingham (promoted as 2nd in the Championship) for Rafa’s figures.

I have to point out that in two of these seven games where Liverpool scored first last season (Arsenal home, Manchester United away) they lost the match, so scoring first isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to getting results. But it doesn’t half help most of the time.

I’ve also broken it down into an average timing for each. This table includes the whole season of 2009-10 for Rafa:

This is for the ‘matching’ eight games that Roy has had:

From eight league games so far this season, Liverpool have mustered just one solitary first half goal. If you asked Steve Bruce (and we won’t), they wouldn’t even have that, as it was the controversial first goal against Sunderland.  By comparison, Rafa’s Liverpool scored eight first half goals in comparative fixtures, and in two games (Sunderland and Burnley at home) they had scored two by half time, and gone a long way towards securing the points.

Add to this that there have been five first half goals conceded so far this season, and only two clean sheets overall, and it becomes apparent that Liverpool have big problems at the moment defensively too. Liverpool’s percentage of league clean sheets is currently 25%; Rafa managed 45% for the whole of last year, and 50% for the same eight games as Roy has faced so far.

Regular readers will know I keep a record of substitution timings after researching an article earlier this year. But I’ve devised another stat since then – time of the first substitution when the match is 0-0.

Everyone (without any access to any actual statistical research) KNOWS that Rafa never made a change before 65 minutes in a match. Well, last season he tried a change when the match was 0-0 after 54.67 minutes on average.  Media favourite Roy Hodgson, on the other hand, hasn’t intervened until 68 minutes have passed in matches that are deadlocked and goalless, though in fairness this has been only two games so far. He also makes less changes, and makes his first ‘tactical’ (e.g. not including forced substitutions due to injury that occur in the first half of matches) slightly later on average. This seems to back up what one poster on The Tomkins Times had heard from a Fulham fan friend of his – with Roy, it’s Plan A all the way.

This isn’t intended to be a fish-shooting-in-a-barrel exercise, and I desperately want Roy to do well, because it will mean Liverpool are doing well. But knowing that people who read the site are interested in statistics and how they disprove perceived media wisdom, I thought I had to share what I had found.

In many ways you can make what you like out of these stats, as they’re based on small samples, and Rafa probably had certain advantages over Roy (e.g. the fact he had more of his own players in the squad and they were more accustomed to his tactical plans etc), but the one statistic that matters most is this – results from the comparative eight league games:

Rafa – Won 3, Drawn 3, Lost 2, For 14, Against 7, Points 12.

Roy – Won 1, Drawn 3, Lost 4, For 7, Against 13, Points 6.

Grim reading indeed.

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