In the 2007-2008 season Liverpool finished 4th but way off the pace, 11 points behind the champions of that season, Man Utd. Nevertheless, there was huge optimism about being able to compete with United after Fernando Torres had an excellent season and bagged 24 goals in the Premiership.
In 2008-2009, Liverpool purchased Philipp Degen, Andrea Dossena, Robbie Keane, and David N’Gog to bolster an already impressive squad of players.
They opened the season with a 4-4-2 formation but quickly reverted to a 4-2-3-1 for most of the rest of the season. The team had a Spanish flavour, with Torres, Pepe Reina, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso and Albert Riera all regular starters. Only Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher represented home grown talent in the regular starting XI.
Sadly OPTA did not include final-third passing and final-third passing completion data for the season but below I have calculated some ratios that we can compare with other seasons.
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The highlight of the season was Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez’s first win over Man Utd. We can see that Liverpool had a very impressive season in many ways. They won 90% of games in which they scored first and only lost 8% of games in which they conceded first, so their “fight back” ability was amazing. We can also see that they never lost a game in which they scored the first goal.
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They suffered only one away defeat when conceding first, and this was courtesy of an own goal conceded on 31′. They were 1-0 down at half time and you can see how this ties in with ‘HT leverage’, the historical tendency, general to all teams, to fail to comeback when 1-0 down away at half time. We can see that Liverpool won all their games when they scored first, and the time of the first goal is a crucial element in predicting the outcome of a game.
Comparing the data from 2008-2009 to this season implies no change in formation, as in both seasons Liverpool employed a 4-2-3-1 set-up. Effectively, though, we are comparing the team of 2008-2009 who, some argue, should have won the league, with a team today under Brendan Rodgers that is in a period of transition.
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Looking at GLS (goals)/SOT (shots on target) shows 0.34 vs 0.32, so very little difference in accuracy between the 2008-9 and current seasons.
Possession clocked in at 59.99% average in 2008-2009; this season Liverpool’s average possession is 56.73%. Again, no significant difference here.
Liverpool’s shot average in 2008-2009 was 19.36 and this season it is 18.16
In 2008-2009 Liverpool had a shot to % of possession ratio of 3.09, and this season it is 3.12, so another close one.
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Liverpool are effectively being carried by Suarez who has scored 10 goals from 20 SOT, boasting an excellent 0.5 ratio. I think it is time for Gerrard to step aside as he has only contributed 6 SOT and 1 goal thus far this season. For his legs, I am afraid that the 2008-2009 season is a distant memory.
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If we look at Liverpool this season the encouraging sign is that although they have not won this season when conceding first, they managed to draw at Chelsea, at home to Newcastle, and away at Sunderland, all while conceding first, so there is a sign of recent “fight back” ability. The only game they have lost this season when scoring first is the home defeat to Man Utd (and even that when down to ten men).
The average age of the Liverpool team against Man City was just under 25 years and I understand this was the youngest first team that Liverpool have put out in a league game since 2003.
The future is certainly bright for Liverpool and I think Rodgers will be the right man to lead them into their Tiki-Taka adventure in the coming years. I would think Gerrard would step down from the first team at the end of the season and join Rodgers in installing the “fight back” spirit that they showed under Benitez.