Liverpool vs Watford: Shots On Target Bonanza!

As a self confessed nerd for all things both stats- and Liverpool FC-based, I keep a spreadsheet of how many shots on target the Reds and their opponents have in league games. My database begins in August 2008, meaning that I now have 315 matches in there.

So when Daniel Sturridge had Liverpool’s sixteenth shot on target in injury time against Watford (which was saved but then Wijnaldum slotted home the sixth goal on the rebound), I knew that this surpassed the club’s previous record for this period of fifteen, which was achieved at home to Burnley in 2009/10. But that was only the beginning…
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2016/17 Stats Round-Up: August

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times at the start of September, and will refer to my expected goals system (the full explanation of which can be found here) and my stat benchmarks (which I explained in full here). In future these will only be available to Tomkins Times subscribers, but I have been kindly allowed to share this here as a taster of what will be on offer each month. 

August was always going to be a very tough month for Liverpool, as the Reds faced three games away from home, including travelling to play the teams who finished second and third last season. We know how they did in reality, taking four points out of a possible nine, but how did they perform on the expected goals front?

LFC ExpG AUGUSTBy putting my expected goals figures for each shot from each game into Danny Page’s excellent match simulator (which can be found here, and simulates each match 10,000 times), I can calculate the likelihood that Liverpool would win each match, and how many points they would take on average too.

The final two columns on the above table show these results, and we can see that these figures increased from each match to the next in August. It may have seemed counter-intuitive when watching the match to think that the Reds had essentially a fifty-fifty chance of winning at Burnley, but as the home side scored both of their shots on target that obviously made a huge difference; the aforementioned simulator gave a less than 1% chance that Burnley would win that match 2-0 based on the shots both teams had. Even leaving that aside, as I assign a win for any side winning an expected goals battle by more than 0.5, we can see that my system has the Reds unbeaten on seven points.

It’s very early days of course, but let’s take a look at my expected goals Premier League table, and see how it compares to the actual table.

PL ExpG Table AUGUSTLiverpool are well placed here, and as we know they have three fewer points than their expected goal performances ‘deserve’; only Sunderland are worse off so far (having four fewer than they might’ve expected), and it’s a bit of a sickener to see that Burnley have three more in reality than they deserve, as we know all too well who they got them against.

When I have more data this season, I will also look at how Liverpool’s players are doing against their expected goal tallies, but as Coutinho is the only Red to have had more than two shots on target so far in 2016/17, it would be pointless at this stage. I’ll just mention here though that Coutinho’s shots to date have amounted to 1.93 expected goals, so the fact he has scored two isn’t too surprising.

What we can look at now though is which matches have seen the best net expected goal performances this month. The following table shows the five best homes and five best aways, plus Liverpool’s matches (and please note that as the expected goal values change as I put more data into the system, the values here may differ slightly with the above table as the data is collated week-by-week for the below).

PL ExpG Best AUGUSTIt may just be coincidence, but it’s interesting that four of the five best home performances and two of the aways all came in the most recent matchweek. That probably isn’t that surprising looking at the fixtures, but I wonder if teams are starting to get their new players bedded in properly and are improving as a result? We shall see in time.

Liverpool’s performance at Spurs may not have made the top five aways this month, but it is just outside in seventh, and considering that it is a heavier expected goals home defeat than Tottenham experienced in the whole of 2015/16, that’s a very encouraging effort by Jürgen Klopp’s side even if they couldn’t actually win the match. Granted, by having a penalty which is valued at 0.87 expected goals helped here, but even taking out penalties makes this the only expected goals defeat Spurs have suffered in their past twenty-one league matches at home. Similarly…

As for my stat benchmarks (which are having five shots on target or three-clear cut chances more than the opposition), Liverpool have failed to hit either of them yet this season. A little context is definitely required here though, and the following table provides it. As Burnley weren’t in the top flight last season, I’ve used the three promoted teams for 2015/16 to give us an indication.

PL Home Benchmark DefeatsPerhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the Reds have not hit the benchmarks yet, as very few teams did in the same fixtures last season. This idea certainly passes the common sense test, as the big teams are too good to let it happen on their patch very often, and Premier League new boys tend to defend in numbers and try to not give much away. As you’d expect anyway, the two benchmarks were met away from home less often across the board; a combined total of 64 on the road compared to 102 when playing in front of your own fans.

A quick look at all stats across the Premier League to finish, and it has revealed the following quirky nuggets of gold:

  • A team has had six-or-more shots on target fifteen times so far this season. Have a guess who is the only team to do it in all of their matches? No, you’re wrong, it’s Everton.
  • Despite a less-than-stellar set of results, Leicester had four clear-cut chances against Hull and five against Swansea. The rest of the league combined has only had four-or-more four times between them, so I think the Foxes are in better shape than they may appear.
  • I’ve started collecting data on penalty box touches for the first time this season, yet so far it has a lower correlation with winning than possession! Colour me surprised, I expect to see this increase as the sample of data does likewise.
  • Manchester United (at Hull, with twelve) are the only away side in the Premier League this season to have won the ‘shots in the box count’ by more than Liverpool did against Tottenham (five), Arsenal (six) and Burnley (nine). That said, if Liverpool are going to be successful this season, they need to replicate their shot profiles from Arsenal and Spurs, and definitely not Burnley…

See you next month!

The Value Of A Good Home Record

Ah, fortress Anfield. Where visiting teams arrive beaten before the kick off, and depart with their tails between their legs and nothing more than some ‘toffee’ and maybe a beer from the boot room.

The above paragraph is sadly hazy rose-tinted nostalgia; I knew Liverpool weren’t quite as strong at home in recent times, but it wasn’t until I looked closely that I saw just how bad their record has become.

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Why Liverpool Need To Focus Their Wins in 2016/17

Regular readers will have noticed that this blog has gone very quiet in recent months. Sadly not because I have secured a writing or statto job somewhere, but because I’ve been too damn busy in the real world.

Anyway, after Liverpool recorded a 2-0 win over Watford in a relatively low key end of season contest, I noticed something about the number of wins that they’ve had this season so thought I’d pen a very quick post on why it’s worth thinking about ahead of next season.

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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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Defending The Liverpool Defence

This article was originally written for issue five of the excellent We Are Liverpool fanzine (Twitter / Facebook). As such, the stats are a little out of date, but the main themes are still valid and I’ve written a little postscript to give the up-to-date picture…

Since the summer of 2013, Liverpool FC have spent somewhere in the region of £60m trying to improve their defence and goalkeeper. As back line stalwarts of the Benitez era left the club for various reasons (Carragher; retired, Agger; semi-retired, Reina; retired from regularly keeping the ball out of the net), the likes of Mignolet, Sakho, Lovren and Moreno have come in at considerable expense to try to solidify things.

Yet in 2013/14, the Reds conceded more goals per game (1.32) than in any previous Premier League campaign, and at the time of writing (on the eve of Liverpool’s match at Selhurst Park) it’s slightly worse this season (with an average of 1.36 goals conceded per game).

When you consider that the Reds averaged 0.98 goals a game against in the Premier League before last season, you can see that Liverpool are conceding an extra goal every three games these days, and now that the goals have dried up at the right end, Brendan Rodgers could really do with his back line tightening up sooner rather than later.

Sadly for the boss, Lovren and Moreno have already made more (Opta-defined) defensive errors in the league than they did in the whole of last season for their respective clubs, and Martin Skrtel is another Red in the top ten (or that should really be ‘worst ten’) for committing on the ball errors that lead to shots. This goes a long way to explaining why Liverpool have the joint fewest clean sheets in the top flight this season (again, as at November 22nd).

In spite of all of this, I’m going to show you that things aren’t that bad in defensive terms for Liverpool this season. I imagine quite a few people have now turned the page in disbelief, to read something a little more realistic. But if you’re still here, a) thanks, and b) here’s what I mean.

If Liverpool are as bad defensively as everyone says this season, then presumably they must be allowing their opponents to have loads of shots? Actually no, they’re not. At present, only two teams (Arsenal and Southampton) have conceded fewer shots than the Reds have.

Ah, but not all shots are equal. Perhaps Liverpool are allowing lots of good quality shots?

Yes and no. When shooting at goal, there’s a massive difference in conversion rate depending on whether or not you’re in the penalty box. Thanks to @DanKennett (when writing for the StatsBomb website), we know that around one in eight shots in the box (excluding penalty kicks) results in a goal, but this drops hugely to around one in thirty-seven (excluding direct free-kicks) once you are outside the penalty area.

Are Liverpool’s opponents shooting lots in their penalty area then? As the table below shows, they’re not.

Shots In The Box againstOnly three teams in the Premier League have allowed fewer shots per game in their penalty box than Liverpool this season. On the whole, the hapless Dejan Lovren and co. have restricted their opponents from shooting close to goal far better than most rival teams in the English top flight have. It’s also interesting to note that despite the widely perceived notion that the defence is worse this season than it was last year, Liverpool are actually allowing 0.4 fewer shots per game in their box (and 2.1 overall) this term.

Clearly all is not rosy though, as I alluded to earlier; despite not allowing that many shots in Simon Mignolet’s penalty area, Liverpool’s opponents are having lots of ‘big chances’. These are defined by Opta as “a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range”, so how are teams getting these opportunities without shooting in the box too often?

Remember the high number of defensive errors? That’s how teams are able to get so many top quality shots away against the Reds. So if (and this is the biggest ‘if’ in this whole fanzine; possibly in the western world) Liverpool can cut out the stupid mistakes at the back, then their defensive record should rapidly improve, as teams aren’t shooting in the Reds’ box too much otherwise.

Of course, the issue with stats based articles is that they are out of date quicker than a ‘reduced’ shelf at the supermarket; maybe when you read this the picture has shifted and become better anyway (or more likely worse).

But rest assured, the majority of Liverpool’s basic defensive numbers are actually pretty good anyway, and so their goals against record should improve. Watch this space…

Postscript: Six weeks on and the picture is broadly the same, though perhaps the main positive is that shots in the box against Liverpool has dropped to 6.0 per game, which is the fourth fewest in the Premier League. More teams are allowing fewer shots overall than the Reds now than when the piece was written, but as the total in the box has dropped then my defence of the defence still stands!

Please check out my articles on Liverpool’s transfer targets, and follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Scroll down to see the related posts for this article. Thanks.

The Sakho Effect

If I see a particularly interesting statistic, I’m usually keen to investigate it further. This surprising one I’ve seen today is definitely worthy of a closer look.

ImageSay what? I’ve been really impressed with Sakho this season, but has he been the root cause of a lot of Liverpool’s defensive troubles? It won’t be entirely down to him (or any one player) of course, but here’s a bit of context for the above statistic.

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Is Time On Liverpool’s Side?

We keep hearing (from Jose Mourinho, mainly) that Liverpool are challenging for the title due to them not having to play in Europe (as if Champions League income doesn’t help with that particular ‘chore’, but let’s ignore that for now).

Whilst it is true that the other teams in the top four have played more games than the Reds this season, I thought it’d be interesting to break it down per player to see what the extra workload is. After all, these teams have bigger squads as they have more money to spend, so what difference do the extra games make per man?

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We Are Liverpool – Poetry In Motion

A charity single has been released today (Monday 7th April) to raise money for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. It’s a version of the ‘We Are Liverpool’ chant.

Not that this is a reason to buy it, but I play bass on the track, and it is an honour to be involved in this project. The guy organising it has got other Liverpool fans to contribute vocals so perhaps someone you know (or you yourself) is on there too?

Here is the I-tunes download link, and as I say, all profits go to the HJC.

It’s only £0.79, and the money is obviously for a very worthy cause.

Justice for the 96.

Reds March On, Records Keep Falling

After an impressive victory, I often like to try to analyse the match and maybe post some of the key stats. But Liverpool are smashing so many records with every game, and my head is spinning as the title charge continues, so after the 6-3 win at Cardiff, I’ll simply post a few facts about the records that have gone, and those that are in sight.

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The 39 Steps Part Two: Progress!

Back in February, I wrote a piece which focussed on the fact that Liverpool had amassed thirty-nine points after twenty-seven league games for the third season in a row (and you can read it here).

The 2-0 win over Hull City (which ended the club’s longest ever run without that particular scoreline) meant that the Reds reached that points target significantly quicker this season, as the below graph shows.

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2013 Review (and a Thank You!)

2013 has been a great year for both basstunedtored and, far more importantly, Liverpool, so I thought I’d end the year with a review of the last twelve months, including links to my favourite articles from this year.

After receiving approximately 100,000 hits in total across the first two years of its existence, the site has surpassed all of my expectations by getting around 180,000 views in the last twelve months alone. Thank you all for your fantastic and continued support, I really appreciate it.

Now, what’s happened since January 1st?

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Spurs v Liverpool Preview

As the teams who meet at White Hart Lane this Sunday are the Premier League’s top two for number of chances created this season (with Spurs edging it by 201 to 196), I’m going to take a closer look at those figures using my chance quality system, to see which team has really got the edge, and considering if the lack of Steven Gerrard will prove problematic for Liverpool.

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Hull City vs Liverpool: Stats Preview

I wasn’t planning to write a preview for this match, but as I found myself tweeting a barrage of pre-match stats this morning, I thought I’d collect them here to see how many of them come to pass in the match this afternoon. Here we go…

Merseyside Derby Stats Preview

I was delighted to be asked to take part in the first ever Anfield Index podcast this week (which you can listen to here), so I put some effort in and researched some stats on how Everton have swiftly evolved since Roberto Martinez took over from David Moyes in the summer, to use on the show.

Ahead of the derby on Saturday, it’s interesting to see how several of the Toffees’ numbers now read like those of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool team, whilst at the same time the Ulsterman has moved his Reds side in a slightly different direction.

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Brendan’s Bottom Half Beatings

Liverpool cemented their place in the top four with a comprehensive 4-0 win over an abject Fulham side at Anfield on Saturday. The problem with such victories is that you inevitably have naysayers suggesting that the Reds should be winning such games as a matter of course, so what does it really prove?

Having looked at Liverpool’s record against the bottom half of the Premier League since 1992, I can confidently state that sweeping aside the strugglers consistently is far more difficult than you might think.

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