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

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

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.

Liverpool Are In The (Right) Zone

I noticed an interesting statistic regarding ‘action zones’ whilst browsing on WhoScored recently; no team in the Premier League has had a higher proportion of their actions (e.g. passes/touches) in the attacking third of the pitch this season than Liverpool have (thanks to Dan Kennett for clarifying that WhoScored mean the attacking third of the pitch, rather than the ‘opposition half’ as they confusingly list it as).

What is even more impressive is that Barcelona are the only team across the top five leagues in Europe (taken in no particular order as Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France) who can out-do Liverpool at this statistic. As WhoScored hold these figures for the two seasons prior to this one, I have collated the data for the Premier League to see how Liverpool compare to their rivals, and what this might mean for the future.

Liverpool’s figure of having 32% of their action in the attacking third has only been bettered by two out of fifty-nine other teams in the last three seasons, and only by 1% at that. Similarly, only three teams have had a greater difference between the percentage of action in their attacking and defensive thirds than the Reds in this period too, and again only beating Liverpool’s figure (6%) by a single percent.

So whilst Liverpool have undoubtedly had their troubles with scoring goals this season (they currently rank joint 23rd out of sixty teams in terms of goal difference), they are at least using the ball frequently enough at the right end of the pitch, which is hugely encouraging.

I have plotted the data of ‘goal difference per match’ against ‘difference between the attacking third and defensive third’ to illustrate the general correlation between the two sets of numbers:

Whilst there is positive correlation for this data as you would expect (with a Spearman’s Rho of 0.573), this season’s Liverpool side are an outlier as their goal difference is only currently 0.12 goals per game. Whilst we can only speculate at what goal difference Liverpool could have had this season with better finishing, the graph suggests that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think they should be at around 1.00 per game based on how much more of their play has been in their attacking third rather than their defensive third.

That would obviously equate to +38 for the whole season, and surely a place in the top four as a result. Although I can’t make a claim that Liverpool have always used the right pass in the final third this season, and their finishing certainly requires some work, the above figures show that the Reds have been on the right line overall with their play this season.

If they can maintain this general dominance on the pitch, and score the amount of goals that this generally appears to bring, then 2012/13 could be a very interesting season indeed at Anfield.

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

Liverpool Need Agger Back, And Fast.

I wrote a piece about Daniel Agger at the end of last season, highlighting that he was on a personal run of not conceding a goal in his last 624 minutes in all competitions for Liverpool.

Whilst his record this season hasn’t been quite that impressive, it is true that the Reds have only conceded a league goal every 129.7 minutes whilst he has been on the pitch, but that figure drops alarmingly to once every 58.9 minutes when he has been absent. More than twice as regularly.

Factoring his appearances in the domestic cup competitions this season makes a total of 19 goals conceded in his previous 2885 minutes (which is essentially 32 full games) on the pitch, stretching back to Kenny Dalglish’s first league game of his second spell (a 2-1 defeat to Blackpool).

This impressive defensive work won’t be entirely down to the Dane of course, but the statistics certainly suggest he has been making a difference. Time for the medical staff at Melwood to make him bionic, I think.

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

Daniel Agger: Retain The Dane

Daniel Agger joined Liverpool in January 2006 for £6m, a bargain price for a top quality centre-back. Over the years since, he has been linked with moves away to clubs such as AC Milan, Juventus and Barcelona (assuming you believe what you read).

In view of his injury record, should Liverpool cash in on him this summer and bring in someone new? In my opinion, no.

Whilst his injury record is a concern, in some cases he has just been unlucky. He only made 5 league starts in 2007/08, but that was down to a metatarsal injury sustained in September of that season, and that could happen to any player.

He has played 1 more league game than Rio Ferdinand in the last 3 seasons, and whilst the England international also faces accusations of being constantly beset by injuries, you don’t hear too many people saying United should ditch him.

He also understands what it means to play for Liverpool, and at very few clubs is it so important to the fans that the players are in tune with them.

Following Fernando Torres’ move to Chelsea in January, Agger told Ekstra Bladet (a Danish newspaper):

“It is unacceptable to play for one of Liverpool’s arch rivals. For a Dane, it’s about having respect for the club you play at. I am proud to be able to pull on my Liverpool jersey and will never go to another club in England. I would never go to Manchester United or Everton, for example. It’s about a form of respect for the club”.

On a personal level, Daniel Agger is on a spectacular run of form. Check out his last nine appearances (LFC score listed first):

West Bromwich Albion (A) 1-2 (Subbed off injured after 24 mins)

Sunderland (A) 2-0 (played 90 mins)

Sparta Prague (H) 1-0 (subbed off after 84 mins)

Chelsea (A) 1-0 (played 90 mins)

Stoke City (H) 2-0 (played 90 mins)

Fulham (H) 1-0 (played 90 mins)

Wolverhampton Wanderers (A) 3-0 (played 90 mins)

Everton (H) 2-2 (subbed off at half time)

Blackpool (A) 1-2 (played 90 mins)

The second goal in the Blackpool game was after 69 minutes, both Everton goals were in the second half, and West Brom’s first goal was in the 62nd minute.

Therefore, Daniel Agger is on a personal run of 624 minutes without conceding a goal in all competitions. This won’t have been all down to him of course, but it’s an impressive run, no question.

I think he makes a very good pairing with Jamie Carragher. It’s an obvious analogy, but it really does seem like he is the Scandinavian ice to Carragher’s Scouse fire. In that respect at least, he has taken on Sami Hyypia’s role.

The Dane could also prove invaluable from a tactical point of view. Dalglish showed a willingness to play with three central defenders at times last season, and this formation is ideal for Agger, as the one ball playing centre back that Liverpool currently possess.

It’s also a benefit to have his type of player for home games with lesser opposition, where the visitors defend deeply to deny Liverpool space. By stepping up into the midfield, he pushes the whole team forward, and can thread a good pass to the forward thinking players whilst he’s there for good measure.

Ultimately, his injury record does warrant discussion about whether he should be retained by Liverpool or not. But ask yourself this – with a threadbare squad already in need of a large overhaul, how much would it cost to replace a defender of Daniel Agger’s stature and quality?

A darn sight more than £6m.


This piece from 1st April 2012 has updated Agger stats. 

Please check out my other articles, a list of which can be found here.You can follow me on Twitter here.