Jamie Carragher – 700 (and counting) Not Out

This piece originally appeared on The Tomkins Times on 3rd August 2012. Researched via LFCHistory.net.

On the 8th of January 1997, Liverpool went out of the League Cup with a whimper, losing 2-1 away at Middlesbrough. Three weeks before his 19th birthday, Jamie Carragher made his Liverpool debut as a substitute that night, ensuring that a forgettable match has subsequently been added a sheen of importance in the history of Liverpool FC.

Fifteen-and-a-half years, plus another 699 appearances against 114 different teams, and the boy from Bootle is now second in the all-time appearance list for England’s most successful football club, and top of the club’s European appearance list with an amazing 140 run-outs. I’m sure no-one at the Riverside on that chilly winter evening would have predicted that.

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Lucas Leiva: Top Tackler

I saw an interesting tweet from WhoScored in relation to Joe Allen of Swansea City, who is a transfer target of Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool:

Joe Allen: Only Yohan Cabaye (117) and Moussa Dembele (112) made more tackles in the Premier League this season than Allen (110)

That’s certainly impressive, not least for a young player from the previous season’s play-off winners. But the above numbers got me wondering about how Lucas Leiva compares, in his role as the defensive lynchpin of the Reds midfield.

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Michael Owen: The Red Devil

This pice first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 14th July 2012.

Michael Owen occupied a unique place in the recent Tomkins Times poll; in a list of twenty legendary Liverpool players, Owen was the only one who is no longer thought of fondly by the Kop faithful. Thanks mainly to two dreadful words (‘Manchester’ and ‘United’), the goal scoring machine of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s is now abused and reviled by Reds fans who used to adore him.

Or did they?

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Swansea Stats: Brendan’s Bravery Shines Through

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 11th July 2012. Statistics are for Premier League games only, and were sourced from EPLIndex and WhoScored.

Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea City earned numerous plaudits for their style of play in 2011/12, and the manager has subsequently been rewarded with his first big football management role. But what exactly was it about his management of a smaller team like Swansea that convinced John W Henry and co. that the Ulsterman was the right man for the enormous job at Anfield? I have taken a look at the Swans’ statistics to try to find out.

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Rodgers’ Rocky Road?

In an interview published on the club’s official website yesterday, new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said:

“The first game I look for is the first game, and I won’t look much further than that, to be honest”.

With the release of the fixture list today for the 2012/13 season, it appears that Rodgers may need to look beyond the first fixture sooner rather than later after all. 

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Luis Suárez: A Creator, Not A Goalscorer

It’s safe to say that Luis Suárez certainly had an ‘interesting’ 2011/12. After starting it by becoming a Copa America champion, as the domestic season unfolded he saw controversy follow him around, as it has continued to since his goal-line handball in the quarter-final of the World Cup in 2010.

As well as the heavily debated ‘Evragate’ and subsequent ban, he also received a further one game ban for giving the Fulham fans at Craven Cottage an unsuitable hand gesture (to put it as politely as I can).

One thing he didn’t do though, and that he was expected to, was score a bagful of goals. Continue reading

Liverpool’s Wasted Wages

I learned today from a fellow statto Red Dan Kennett that Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Alberto Aquilani, Joe Cole, Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt account for a whopping 25% of Liverpool’s total wage bill.

That’s a hell of a large investment considering the following facts about the season just ended: Continue reading

Put Your Hands Up For Dirk Kuyt

The first major transfer story of Brendan Rodger’s Anfield reign is the departure of Dirk Kuyt, who has left Liverpool to join Fenerbahçe in Turkey. Not that the new manager will have had any say in the matter, but as the popular Dutchman departs, it adds to the feeling that this is the dawning of a new era at Liverpool. Continue reading

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

It’s A Rich Man’s World: Liverpool vs Man City

I update this article each season when Liverpool face Manchester City, as it really emphasises the spending gulf between the two clubs. For the latest figures, scroll to the bottom of the article.

A common stick to beat Kenny Dalglish with was the fact that he spent somewhere north of £100m on players, yet finished a massive thirty-seven points behind the champions, Manchester City.

When comparing the net-spend of the two clubs since Manchester City were first bought by Thaksin Shinawatra in the summer of 2006/07, it is pretty clear why there has been a gulf between the two teams recently. It also makes for an interesting comparison as the 2007/08 season was the first full season where the Reds were under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Continue reading

Stewart Drowning In Expectation

Anfield. Tuesday night, at about ten to nine. The last home game of a topsy-turvy season for Liverpool.

Stewart Downing is about to attempt to bag his first Premier League goal for the Reds in much the same fashion that a goal-less Peter Crouch did against Portsmouth in November 2005; a penalty. A free shot, from twelve yards out.

Downing strikes the ball. The keeper goes the wrong way, the ball is inside the post… Continue reading

Kenny Dalglish: Best Opening To A Premier League Career By Any Liverpool Manager

Whilst idly scrolling through my favourited tweets, I stumbled across an old one from Italian football writer Gabriele Marcotti. It certainly struck a chord with me in view of this week’s events:

Dalglish: 44 league games in current stint. 74 points. More than Rafa (65), Houllier (63), Evans (68) + Souness (68) at same stage.

Dalglish must have been doing a good job then. When was that tweet posted? Continue reading

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

1-0 To Someone Else

As I have discovered how many 1-0 wins each side has had in the Premier League to date, I’ve added a postscript to this piece from last season.

As the cliché goes, a great team can win 1-0 even when they haven’t played well. “1-0 to the Arsenal” was a mantra that won championships after all. It might be a cliché, but it’s also true. Continue reading

The Root Of Liverpool’s Current Problems

When considering how Liverpool have struggled in the last two months following their last gasp defeat to Arsenal at Anfield, a look at the statistics makes one thing very clear: their opponents have been much more effective in front of goal recently.

The following graph shows how many shots per game (SPG) both Liverpool and their opponents have averaged as the season has progressed: Continue reading

Liverpool vs Chelsea: FA Cup Final Preview

Whilst I don’t normally write match previews, this is the most important Liverpool game since I started my blog last year, and I’ve read so many interesting statistics that I wanted to compile a few of them. To be honest though, I’ve thought about little other than this match since the conclusion of Fulham’s 1-0 win at Anfield on Tuesday, and for quite a lot prior to that too, so it made sense to write something on it.

Here are some interesting pre-match statistics, sourced from the official Liverpool site, The Tomkins Times, plus my own digging around on sites such as lfchistory.net:

  • Liverpool could become the first team ever to win the F.A. Cup in six successive decades.
  • A win will see Liverpool set a new record of 16 major domestic English Cup wins. So far they have 15 (7 FAC, 8 LC) which is level with Manchester United (11 FAC, 4 LC).
  • The last three times that these teams have met in this competition, the winners of the tie have gone on to win the cup. Clearly this will also happen this season! The Reds won the first and the third of these, so I certainly hope that the sequence does NOT continue!
  • On the last three occasions that Liverpool have knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup, they have gone on to win it (1965 semi-final, 1986 fourth round, and the 2006 semi-final).
  • Liverpool have won their last four games against Chelsea in all competitions; the last time they managed five in a row was 1974, the year in which they won their second FA Cup.
  • Of the 20 goals Liverpool have scored in 13 FA Cup finals, just two of them came in the first half; From Optajoe: “Nine of the last 10 Premier League goals that Chelsea have conceded have been shipped in the last 15 minutes of matches”. As long as Liverpool are still realistically in the game with a quarter of an hour to go, then I’ll believe they can win!
  • Steven Gerrard has scored one goal in 32 appearances against Chelsea, and that came in a 1-4 defeat at Anfield.
  • Didier Drogba has scored in all seven of his FA and League Cup appearances at Wembley.
  • Both teams have faced five penalties in the league this season, as they feasibly could do in a penalty shoot out in the final, and the only goalkeeper to make a save (Liverpool’s Brad Jones) is unlikely to even be on the bench.

Regarding the team that I believe that Dalglish will select:

Andy Carroll will play I think; his form has been good in recent weeks, and he’s a vital asset at defending set pieces. With the likes of Terry and Drogba playing for Chelsea, that could be crucial. With the news that David Luiz and Gary Cahill are likely to miss out through injury, Carroll’s inclusion could tell us a lot about Liverpool’s potential tactics for the match.

I’ve looked at the statistics for ‘minutes per aerial duel’, both attempted and won, on EPLIndex and Carroll’s figures are massively better than their central defenders.

Andy Carroll – aerial duel attempted every 8.45 minutes, win every 13.46 minutes.

John Terry – attempt every 37.29 minutes, win every 51.18 minutes.

Branislav Ivanovic – attempt every 40.84 minutes, win every 48.44 minutes.

This suggests to me that Chelsea’s centre-backs don’t get as involved in the air (in terms of duels at least) as much as many people, myself included, would have assumed. Not all of Carroll’s duels will have been against centre-backs, but he’s clearly far more proficient at them than those two players.

So should the Reds be targeting that apparent weakness at the heart of the Chelsea defence, with Carroll looking to make flick-ons for Suárez and/or midfield runners? The statistics certainly suggest that Liverpool’s £35m target man can dominate Terry and Ivanovic, so it might well be a sensible strategy.

It’s also unclear what formation Liverpool will use for their own defence; in their 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in February 2011, Dalglish opted for a back three for instance. However, that formation has only been used very sporadically since, so I would expect the Scot to opt for a flat back four.

Although a lot of fans appear to be concerned that Dalglish will choose Carragher in central defence (be it through sentiment, or being blind to the fact that Jamie’s best days are increasingly behind him) I believe that Skrtel and Agger will start. People seem to be quick to forget that Kenny left Carragher out of the Carling Cup final even though he was fit, so why should he not do the same now?

The starting eleven (plus substitutes) that I expect to see is:

Johnson – Skrtel – Agger – Enrique
Henderson – Spearing – Gerrard – Downing
Suárez – Carroll

Subs: Doni, Carragher, Kelly, Shelvey, Kuyt, Maxi, Bellamy.

The only changes I would personally make would be to start Kuyt in place of Henderson, and Maxi instead of Downing; no-one puts themselves about more than Dirk Kuyt, and his industrious running would go a long way to negating Ashley Cole’s influence on the game. As for Maxi, he’s the only fit outfield player who has started all three of Liverpool’s wins over Chelsea under Dalglish, and he scored in the previous two.

Whatever the chosen starting eleven, I am confident that Liverpool can win a (in all likelihood) tight game against the Champions League finalists. But then you wouldn’t expect me to say anything different, would you?

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

Hodgson and England: The Stats Don’t Bode Well

As an English Liverpool fan, I have taken a keen interest in the news that Roy Hodgson is likely to be appointed the next England manager.

Whilst I was not a fan of him during his time at Anfield, I can also appreciate the good work he has done at Fulham and West Bromwich Albion over the last few years. Of course, the expectations at the latter two clubs are significantly lower than they are on the red half of Merseyside, so it may be easier to be successful with those teams.

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Shot Placement: The Suárez Show

I have written previously for The Tomkins Times on how Liverpool’s poor shot placement is the major reason behind the poor scoring record this season. During yesterday’s 3-0 win over Norwich City at Carrow Road, we saw exactly what difference better shot placement can make.

To recap my earlier piece, Liverpool have been hitting too high a proportion of their shots to the low-centre of the goal. As the goalkeeper is usually stood in that area, shooting there makes the chances of a goal being scored so much lower than in if the ball is put in the corners. Obvious perhaps, but proven in the above piece using four seasons worth of Premier League data.

All three of Luis Suárez’ strikes against the Canaries were put into the corners of the goal:

Considering the distance that they were all from, which was far from point-blank even for the first two goals, that’s impressive. Even the Reds’ other shots-on-target, which were both by the much-maligned Stewart Downing, were placed towards the corner of the goal:

The really interesting thing about yesterday’s match for me was that, in terms of overall performance, it was no better than has been seen in many of Liverpool’s games this season; it just had the addition of massively improved finishing which made all the difference.

To prove how much difference the quality of shooting made, I compared some of the other match statistics from yesterday’s match with those in the twelve league games that the Reds have lost this season, and it makes for very interesting reading.

Liverpool’s performance against Norwich City featured:

  • A worse shots-on-target ratio than in seven of their twelve defeats;
  • Fewer shots-on-target than occurred in five losses;
  • Less ball possession than in seven of the league matches that Liverpool have lost;
  • A lower passing accuracy percentage than was posted in seven defeats; and perhaps the most important of all:
  • Liverpool created less chances against Norwich City than in nine of their twelve defeats.

Let me reiterate that: Liverpool created more chances in 75% of their league defeats than they did in their latest 3-0 win. If ever you want a simple statistic to prove how important shot placement is, that may will be it.

More of the same at Wembley next Saturday evening please Reds!

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

Kenny Dalglish Should Remain As Manager. Here’s Why…

Having not seen any of the recent defeat to West Bromwich Albion, I’m not best placed to comment on it. However, a look at the stats shows that Liverpool dominated the match, with 63% possession and thirty shots to the Baggies’ nine. On that basis, it seems to be similar to numerous matches from earlier in the campaign when Liverpool’s profligacy in front of goal cost them the points that their general play deserved.

But a defeat it was, and to Roy Hodgson of all people; such a result was guaranteed to crank up the ‘Kenny Out’ brigade, and so it has proved. Of course, some people say the match showed why Kenny should remain in charge, in view of the above match statistics and the performance generally. Fans will always be split into optimists and pessimists after all, and I currently find myself in the former of the two camps.

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