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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics

Things are so bleak at Liverpool right now that the vultures in the media are circling, ready to write their obituaries for the second Kenny Dalglish management era at Anfield.

The Guardian posted ‘Ten facts to put Liverpool’s dismal league campaign into context’ on Monday, and whilst the facts are not incorrect, I’m not sure that there’s enough of the context they speak of to paint a fair picture. Here are some examples:

Continue reading

Quantifying Progress, From Roy To Kenny

This piece first appeared on The Tomkins Times on March 15th 2012, and the stats included are correct up to and including the match away at Sunderland on March 10th.

After a series of poor league results, including three defeats in a row for the first time in nearly a decade, stern questions are being asked of Kenny and his team’s management of Liverpool, probably for the first time; were the most suitable players purchased in the summer, have the tactics been right, and so on.

Things have been so bad lately that Dalglish’s recent league form has matched that of his predecessor’s; Roy Hodgson recorded an average of 1.25 points-per-game at Liverpool, and the Reds have the same figure from their previous sixteen matches this season too (though as the first eleven games this term yielded 1.73 points-per-game, things haven’t reached Hodgson-esque levels overall just yet).

I wrote a brief piece for EPLIndex recently which demonstrated that only on very few occasions this season have Liverpool been bested by their opponents at various match statistics, illustrating that, even if the results haven’t always been quite what is desired, at least the performances have generally been good.

But there was no comparison to other teams in that article, so whilst the numbers were good, were they any better or worse than anyone else, or what had come before at Liverpool?

Continue reading

Myths #3: Hodgson’s Liverpool Record Compares Closely To Dalglish’s

I have recently been reading tweets that suggest that Kenny Dalglish has barely improved on Roy Hodgson’s record for Liverpool, despite having a lot more money to play with.

MoosaMUFC14 pointed out: “LFC under Dalglish (PL, FA and EL): Played 33, won 16, drawn 9, lost 8. Hodgson: Played 29, won 13, drawn 8, lost 8.”

Whilst DylanMUFC14 (I assume they must be teenage brothers) said: “Dalglish has improved #LFC’s League, FA Cup & European results by just 6.8% on the Roy Hodgson era,despite spending £91.85m more..”

Blimey, and I thought Dalglish had been doing a much better job than Hodgson. How wrong I was.

Or was I?

Continue reading

Kenny Dalglish and the Points Per Game Ratio

Points per game (ppg) is a simple but effective way of measuring the progress of a team. By looking at the points per game that teams have registered in previous seasons, we can estimate where a team might finish.

The table below shows the ppg a team has required to secure the top four positions in the Premier League, since it became a 20 team division in 1995.

To be clear, the figures quoted will not correlate to the ppg the team in that position actually got at the end of the season; rather it is calculated on the team winning one point more than the team below them, as if they’d got that amount then they’d still finish in that position. Of course, you can have the same points as the team below you and beat them on goal difference, but I have ignored that rare occurrence to keep things simple.

It’s clear from the figures above that the standard has risen overall during this period, although last season did see a significant dip at the top of the league. I would expect this to be an exception rather than the norm though, in view of how much money the top teams have invested this summer.

Based on previous seasons, 2.29 ppg will guarantee the title. In 2008/09, Liverpool’s best league season during this period, the Reds averaged 2.26 ppg; the only time in these 16 seasons that this has not been enough to win the league. Quite an achievement by Señor  Benitez.

Of course that is an unrealistic goal for Liverpool this season. Dalglish’s primary objective for this campaign will be a fourth place finish and a return to the Champions League (or it’s qualifiers at least). The highest ppg required to secure a top four placing in a 20 team Premier League season was 1.79 in 2009/10.

Obviously it’s too early this season to realistically judge Liverpool’s form in pursuit of this objective, though 2.00 points per game when your first two matches have included Arsenal away is still a decent start.

At this point in time, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish have both managed Liverpool for 20 league games in the Premier League era, so it seems as good a time as any for a comparison.

The current West Bromwich Albion manager’s tenure at Anfield was not a happy or successful one as we know, but the ppg method shows just how far from the top four his team was.

Hodgson’s 20 league games only yielded 25 points, or 1.25 ppg. Had this form continued for the whole of last season then the Reds would have earned 47.5 points. I’ll be charitable and round it up to 48; Liverpool would have finished ninth last season.

Dalglish has been much more productive, earning 37 point from his twenty matches, or 1.85 points per game. This would have guaranteed fourth place in all of the last 16 seasons.

In fact, as the table below shows, this would have been enough for even higher league finishes on 12 occasions. Remarkably, it was enough for the title itself in 1997.

So whilst we can not be sure that Liverpool’s league form under Dalglish will guarantee a top four finish this season, it’s safe to say that the Reds are on the right track at least.

Three points today against Bolton Wanderers will move Dalglish to 1.90 ppg for his 21 league games so far. In other words, enough to have finished first in the league last season. Look out Sir Alex, the King is coming for you.

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

Liverpool FC’s Squad Availability 2010/11

As I have often mentioned, and as anyone with half an eye on football would have noticed, Liverpool were far more effective in the league last season under Kenny Dalglish than they were under Roy Hodgson.

I will be taking a look at what players were available to both managers for league matches to see if this had an impact. Did the managers get to put out onto the field the players they’d have liked to?

I have discounted matches that occurred during the transfer window for the start of both manager’s reigns, as a multitude of players either left (e.g. Mascherano and Torres) or joined (Konchesky, Carroll and Suárez for example) during these periods.

In all of the below tables the players are sorted in order of the percentage of the available of minutes that they played. A match is counted as 90 minutes, no injury time is included.

To register in the ‘matches selected for’ column, a player made the bench as a minimum, but may not have actually played. This would indicate that a player was at least ‘fit’ (though perhaps not 100% match fit) to play. Of course players will miss matches through being rested, or dropped outright too.

The ‘difference’ figures shows where players have been selected for matches but not played the full 90 minutes; the higher the figure in this column, the greater percentage of their time they spent on the bench, or were subbed off early.

Let’s start with Roy’s team:

What can we learn from these figures? Here are my key observations:

  • Not even Hodgson rated Christian Poulsen once he’d actually played for the club. In the squad for all but one of the games, the Dane only played just over a quarter of the available minutes.
  • The difference was even more pronounced for recent Anfield departee Milan Jovanovic. People may say he was a flop on Merseyside, but did he really get a fair crack of the whip? It appears not.
  • Roy clearly had no faith in the youngsters. Players like Kelly, Spearing and Shelvey, who would all play more frequently (and more importantly on the whole play well) under Dalglish barely got a sniff during Hodgson’s reign.
  • Fernando Torres was misused by Hodgson. He only scored five goals in this period, despite featuring in 16 out of a possible 17 games. What Benitez wouldn’t have given for that level of turn-out from the Spaniard, especially in 2008/09.
  • Player of the season Lucas Leiva wasn’t as highly rated by Roy; the young Brazilian stayed on the bench for three games and was subbed off early twice, an unthinkable scenario under Dalglish.

Now let’s have a look at the figures for Kenny’s team, which covers a total of 14 matches, with observations below:

  • Kenny was more consistent with his squad – seven ever presents to Roy’s four, though of course that will always be easier with three fewer games. This was also likely to the Scot having to deal with more injuries to key players than his predecessor; certain players couldn’t be rested.
  • Where Roy had Torres as 3rd most utilised and Gerrard in 7th, Kenny could only field Carroll (who was Torres’ replacement, as if you need reminding) enough for 12th place and Gerrard for 14th, a distinct disadvantage. Dalglish did of course know that Carroll was injured when he signed though.
  • As I’ve mentioned here previously, Dalglish did not rate Joe Cole, but also was he not keen on David N’gog – the two players spent a combined 2249 minutes on the Liverpool bench in this period. Splinters (as OptaJoe might say).
  • The likes of Gerrard, Kelly and Agger had little difference between the number of matches available and the minutes they played. In other words, they played the whole time that they were not injured. An indicator for next season (injuries permitting) that they will be first team certainties?

Here is the overall list, so features all 38 league games:

  • Congratulations go to Pepe Reina and (more impressively) Martin Skrtel, for playing the whole season.
  • Credit goes to Maxi Rodriguez – aside from the final match of the season, he was in the squad for every single other game, yet played under 2/3 of the available time. Did anyone hear him grumble? Not that I’m aware of, clearly he’s a top pro.
  • For a reported £210k per week, Liverpool only got 1257 mins of league play out of Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic. Only 18.38% of what they could have played between them, a very poor return on the money.
  • Raul Meireles, on the other hand, did appear to be good value – he made 33 out of a possible 35 squads after he signed. An impressive figure considering it was his first season in England, and also as he could easily be accused of not having the ‘fight’ for English football if his tackling is anything to go by.
  • Although I have argued previously that Daniel Agger should be kept by Liverpool, these figures show that his injury record has to be a major concern. Three players who were only at the club for half of the season played more minutes than him for starters.

Although the figure isn’t listed above, probably the key statistic from last season in this respect is that Andy Carroll, Steven Gerrard and Luis Suárez were only on the pitch together for 15 minutes, and that was when the Reds were 3-0 up at home against Manchester United. A lovely position to be in of course, but not one that required the variety of attacking gifts that those three players possess.

If Liverpool can keep those three fit, plus with the addition of consistently fit players like Stewart Downing (who has averaged 34.4 appearances over the last five seasons, according to OptaJoe), Charlie Adam (only missed three league games in the last two years), and Jordan Henderson (only missed six in the same period), then the Reds might be able to settle on a fairly consistent line-up, which can only be a plus for the new season.

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