Walcott To Liverpool?

As rumours circulate that Theo Walcott is refusing to sign a new deal at Arsenal, so people begin to speculate where he might end up if he left north London.

Having looked at his key stats from last season, and compared them with those of Liverpool’s squad, I’m beginning to think that I would like him to move to Anfield. Based on the numbers at least, he could improve the Reds in several areas.

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Liverpool FC 2011/12 In Stats: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 20th May 2012. Statistics are for Premier League games only, and were sourced from EPLIndex and WhoScored.

Has there ever been a more confusing season for fans of Liverpool FC than this one? The match statistics have generally been positive, performances mixed, and results all over the place, so every fan you ask has differing views on whether Dalglish deserved to have his contract terminated.

I will be presenting the numbers for different aspects of play, to try to establish who has performed well in which areas, and how the team as a whole performed in 2011/12. I’m sure you will have read quite a few of these stats before, but this is an attempt to flesh out the story of the season through all of the numbers available. To start, some interesting stats about the season as a whole: Continue reading

Andy Carroll: Finding Form

Now that Carroll appears to have played his last game for Liverpool, I thought I’d bump this piece up to the front of the blog. His form for the Reds wasn’t as bad as you might think…

Andy Carroll has just completed his first full season at Liverpool, but his return of eleven goals and four assists in fifty-six appearances in all competitions since signing from Newcastle hardly seems good enough for a £35m striker. It breaks down like this: Continue reading

Does Andy Carroll Have Time On His Side?

With the January transfer window fast approaching, and with Andy Carroll still yet to justify his £35m price-tag, some Liverpool fans are pondering whether it mightn’t be such a bad idea to cash in on the Geordie striker if a decent offer comes in.

Having been at the club for nearly a year, and with just four league goals to his name, it’s quite hard to make a case for Carroll having been a successful signing.

But then I started to wonder – due to the injury that he already had when joining the club, and the fact that he hasn’t started some of the matches when he has been fit (including the massive clashes with Manchester United and Chelsea for instance), how much of a chance has he actually been given to prove his worth?

Below is a table of the league minutes played by the signings Liverpool have made since January. Due to some having been at the club longer than others, I have arranged them by ‘average length of appearance’. I have excluded Sebastian Coates, as he has played in just one Premier League game to date.

Straight away you can see that Carroll hasn’t really had a fair crack of the whip yet, with his average league appearance for the Reds lasting less than an hour.

It’s fascinating to note that Charlie Adam has basically played the same number of minutes as Carroll, yet the Scot has been at the club for half a season less than the 22-year-old striker.

Interestingly, a lot of Reds fans seem to think that Adam is now finally starting to play consistently well throughout games on a regular basis, which is the opposite of what was happening at the start of the season. Is that because he has now had a decent run in the team? To my mind at least, it certainly can’t have harmed.

That idea got me thinking; look at the above table and what do you notice? It appears to me that there’s almost a direct correlation between ‘average length of appearance’ and ‘success of signing to date’.

Of course, the latter of the two is a hugely subjective matter, but if you moved Suárez to top of the table then I reckon most people would largely agree with that order; perhaps that’s a little harsh on Craig Bellamy, but then as the fourth choice striker brought in on a free transfer who has mainly featured in League Cup games, he’s not expected to feature heavily in the league matches.

The problem facing Carroll is that the team is dire need of more goals (with just 17 from their 14 league games so far) and he isn’t scoring freely, so will he be given the time he needs on the pitch in order to develop? But I think he does at least need an extended run in the team before the fans write him off entirely.

I’m prepared to be patient with him for now; the question is though, is Kenny?

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

Carroll and Crosses

In Michael Cox’s weekly chalkboard round up for The Guardian this week, he pointed out how Liverpool’s crossing had been poor in the draw with Manchester United at the weekend.

The suggestion was that without Andy Carroll on the pitch, there was often no-one for the wingers to aim for in the box.

Using the statistics for each of Liverpool’s league games this season, I thought I’d see if there was any correlation between the amount of time Carroll has played in a match, and how accurate the Reds’ crossing has been.

Broadly speaking there has been. It’s important to remember that the crossing accuracy figures are for the whole match, and not just the time that Carroll has been on the pitch though.

Similarly, the data is not available to show what percentage of the crosses the Geordie striker got himself on the end of, so it’s impossible to state definitively what Carroll’s influence has been.

But it does seem that if Carroll is not on the pitch, then Liverpool need to find a different way to feed chances to their other strikers.

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

All I Am Saying is Give Carroll A Chance

A lot of Liverpool fans have been voicing concerns about how Liverpool play when Andy Carroll is in the side. With the £35m man up front, the Reds resort to hoofball tactics which would shame the likes of Bolton these days.

Or do they? In the seven league matches that Carroll played last season, Liverpool, on average, attempted 45.14 long passes (defined as a pass straight from defence to attack), and 45.86 in the seven matches he missed after he signed for the club.

Similarly, accurate long balls increased in number during the games Carroll missed, for an average of 30.14, as opposed to 27.71 when he did play.  Small margins granted, but those numbers would suggest that the Reds weren’t playing route one football just because Carroll was in the line-up.

Looking at last weekend’s match with Sunderland, Carroll won all of the nine aerial duels he contested, so is the issue him, or is it Jamie Carragher (as an example, but probably the club’s king of the long ball hoof)?

Does Carragher hit it long because Carroll is there? Because Kenny tells him to? Because there are lack of options close to him? Because he’s not a very good ‘footballer’? Probably a bit of all of these things, but to lay the blame at the Geordie striker’s door seems unfair to me.

I’m not going to sit here and say we played better in the league games Carroll played in compared to those that he missed last season, as it’s just not true. His case has not been aided by the dazzling five goal romps against Birmingham at Anfield and Fulham away, when he was entirely absent from the line up.

He has also only scored two goals for Liverpool so far. However, in the interests of fair play, I think some context is required.

Carroll featured in seven matches last season. These included matches against Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Spurs. Or four of the five teams who finished above Liverpool, if you prefer. That clearly is a disproportionately difficult selection of matches.

Twice Carroll was brought on as a sub when the Reds were already 3-0 up (Manchester United and Newcastle at home). Not impossible that the team or Andy himself would have scored more of course, but they were hardly busting a gut to do so.

Another of his matches was Arsenal away – not a happy hunting ground for Liverpool since the early days of the Premiership, when they won five times in their first eight visits. Since Titi Camara secured a 1-0 win in February 2000, the Reds have only scored nine goals in 11 league visits, and only scored twice once. Even then they were soundly taken apart by a Thierry Henry hat-trick in a 4-2 defeat.

So to blame Carroll in any way seems a little off when much better Liverpool teams than the vintage of 2010/11 have hardly done well at Highbury or The Emirates in recent times.

Carroll also had the misfortune of playing against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns with Martin Atkinson as the ref. Big Andy complained about after being kicked from pillar to post, to which the referee laughed and told him to get on with it as he was a striker. Who is the ref for the Arsenal match today by the way? I wouldn’t expect miracles from Carroll today if I were you.

In short, I think the two key questions and answers on the Carroll debate are:

Has Carroll been a resounding success yet? No.
Has he had a fair chance to prove himself yet? No.

I’m going to keep the faith for the time being. The final key question is: will Kenny and the majority of the fanbase do the same?

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

The Cost Of Carroll

It’s perfectly understandable that some Liverpool fans are concerned about the money spent on Andy Carroll. £35m spent, and very little return for it so far.

What does annoy me though is people’s failure to factor in that the price was entirely financed by the sale of Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50m on the same day.

John W Henry said as much here in an interview with The Guardian. The key paragraph is:

“The fee for Torres was dependent on what Newcastle asked for Carroll,” Henry said, explaining that Liverpool wanted Carroll, plus £15m, to replace Torres. Together with the £6m sale of Ryan Babel to Hoffenheim, that effectively financed Liverpool’s £22.8m signing of Luis Suárez, meaning the club bought two strikers but net, spent almost nothing. “The negotiation for us was simply the difference in prices paid by Chelsea and to Newcastle,” Henry said. “Those prices could have been £35m [from Chelsea for Torres] and £20m [to Newcastle for Carroll], 40 and 25 or 50 and 35. It was ultimately up to Newcastle how much this was all going to cost. They [Newcastle] made a hell of a deal. We felt the same way.”

The large price isn’t ideal as it adds pressure, but ultimately Chelsea paid over the odds for Carroll, not Liverpool (if you see what I mean!).

I’m a big believer in the idea that net spend on transfers is the most important thing – I would use that to defend Rafa’s transfer record to non-believers for example.

After the sale of Torres and Babel, the net spend on Carroll and Suárez was just £1.5m or thereabouts. It doesn’t make the price for Carroll ‘right’ per se, but personally I see it as a decent deal.

I can’t help but think that if the prices had been £20m for Carroll and £35m for Torres, then there would not be so much debate on the issue.

Carroll is clearly a player with great potential (see here for my analysis of his performances for Newcastle United in the first half of this season), and is still yet to appear for Liverpool whilst fully fit.

In the Premier League, he has scored two goals in seven appearances for the Reds. However, in terms of minutes on the pitch, he has only registered 446 so far, which is the equivalent of just under five games.

Two goals in (effectively) five games, whilst unfit. Bit soon to be writing him off, whatever his cost, don’t you think?

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

Andy Carroll – A Closer Look

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 8th February 2011.

Andy Carroll played some part in all of Newcastle’s first nineteen league games this season before succumbing to the injury that currently delays his Liverpool debut. In that time he scored eleven goals, which is more than a goal every two games (widely considered to be the mark of a good striker).

He has also been involved in a further eight goals (by this I mean he made a pass in the build up, or was fouled to win a penalty; it may not be an actual assist).

I must confess that I don’t watch too many matches aside from Liverpool’s, and seldom bother with Match Of The Day. So whilst I have heard good things about our new number nine, I can’t claim to have seen too much of him in action. I still haven’t, but I have had a closer look at his statistics via The Guardian’s chalkboards.

Starting with a breakdown of the types of goals he has scored, I found there was a pleasing variety.

Obviously no striker at this (or any half-decent) level only scores one type of goal, but it’s still good to see he’s found the back of the net with both feet and his head, especially as I’ve read a lot in the last week about how good he is aerially, with little mention of his shooting ability.

It’s also good to see that he scored against Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and of course Liverpool, so he’s no mere flat-track bully.

Let’s take a look at his main statistics. I have divided them to a ninety minute average, as he didn’t play the full match in two games.

There are some interesting numbers here. The key one is that he has been involved in a goal in some way more than once every ninety minutes he has been on the pitch, an impressive record by anyone’s standards but especially for a young player in an inconsistent mid-table side.

A striker’s passing stats will never be as good as those of midfielder, who have multiple short ‘safety first’ passes to bump up their figures. To give his figure of 58.13% some context, Liverpool’s passing success rate for the opposition half of the pitch (where Carroll will have made the majority of his passes) in league matches so far this season is 71.86%, so he possibly has a little room for improvement here.

I have broken tackles down into aerial duels as well, as clearly a 6ft 3” striker is going to have the ball hit up to him quite a bit during the average match (though let’s not consider what might have happened had Roy Hodgson had him to utilise). He has done well on this front winning nearly two out of every three.

Although he has been bought in as firepower, this shows he could also be an asset at defending set-pieces. As has been noted on here before, Liverpool have quite a small team compared to the days of Crouch and Sissoko.

Carroll measures up at 191cm, and the average for Liverpool’s twenty other ‘first team’ (as in ‘have played in the league so far this season’) outfield players is 181.2cm, so his height and heading ability is more than likely to come in useful . A stat not included above is that he has won seven out of the twelve aerial tackles (58.33%) he has contested in his own penalty box this season.

Whilst Liverpool clearly would not have spent thirty-five million pounds on one player on the basis of just one performance, if you consider Carroll’s statistics from the match he played against the Reds, they show just what Damien Comolli and the Anfield hierarchy would have seen (and been impressed by) first hand:

Carroll was involved in all three goals, scoring one himself (his sole strike this season from outside the area), attempted 35% more passes than on average, and absolutely dominated our defensive players in the tackles. He may have scored a hat-trick against Aston Villa, but for all round play, this was probably his best match.

John W. Henry confirmed in this interview that Carroll “was No1 on our list of possibilities for the summer”, and that the Torres sale price depended on the cost of the Toon forward, not the other way around. Sounds like a huge vote of confidence in the newcomer to me.

Whilst clearly not an exact like-for-like replacement, Carroll was bought in during the January transfer window primarily to replace the departing Fernando Torres. Via Optajoe I was able to obtain Opta’s statistics for both players this season (so these may differ slightly from the above ones I compiled myself via The Guardian):

Remember, we’re comparing a European Champion and World Cup winner, with a twenty-two year old playing his first half season in the Premiership, and yet the Geordie’s stats compare favourably to the Spaniard’s on several levels.

Whilst most people would agree that Torres is currently the better player, if he’s disinterested (as everyone assumed he was, and having forced a move, it seems certain) then he’s surely less use than a decent up-and-comer with something to prove.

Plus Carroll has the time and potential to improve further; if Torres maintains his current level for another few years, then realistically that’s the best Chelsea can hope for.  He certainly won’t be able to improve much, if at all.

Of course, none of this means that Andy Carroll will be a success at Liverpool, but the statistics certainly show why the club had him on their wish-list, and that he has a good chance of doing well at Anfield. Now it’s up to him.

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