Liverpool have made an impressive start to the Premier League this season, made all the more impressive when compared to last season where they only won two of their first 11 games. Fast forward to the same stage this year and the Reds have won seven and lost only two. Liverpool’s form improved significantly in the second half of last season and this has continued into the current campaign.
Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho have been in great form, injuries aside, and Luis Suarez is currently leading the goal scoring chart despite missing the first five league games. And, the start will have been made all the sweeter with the win over Manchester United back in August.
In this article, I will look at how well Liverpool have carried out defence, passing, creativity and attack this season and compare it to how well they did last year.
At this point last season, Liverpool had conceded 16 goals in the league. This season however, Brendan Rodgers’ side have been much better at protecting their goal and have conceded just 10 at the same stage, as well as keeping four clean sheets.
Lucas Leiva has attempted the most tackles with 50, winning 35 of them, which is also the highest of anyone in the team. When you look at the actual players involved in the back line however, Glen Johnson has been the most successful at winning tackles, with 18 out of 20 giving him a successful average of 90%. Kolo Toure has won the same amount but attempted one more, which puts him just behind Johnson at 86%. When it comes to defensive clearances however, Martin Skrtel has been the stand out player by far. He has tried to clear the ball 82 times and head it clear a further 50 times, and he had a 100% success in both areas. He has cleared the ball off the line twice, brought attackers into the offside trap six times and has made 13 blocks, being the most successful defenders in all these stats.
Looking at the overall defence though, Liverpool have been slightly worse than last season. The Reds had a successful tackle average of 78.49% and a successful aerial challenge average of 52% last season, compared to 75.89% and 47% respectively this season. The only area where they have been better so far has been ground 50-50s, where they have been successful 51% of the time this season compared to 49% last year.
It’s well known that Rodgers likes Liverpool to play good attacking football, with lots of short passing designed to tire the opposition team out before surging forward when an opening appears in their defence. It’s perhaps no surprise who Liverpool’s greatest player in this regard has been. Steven Gerrard has attempted the most passes with 753, completing 656 of them, also the most in the team. Only 35% of these passes went forward however, with an almost equal 30% going left and 24% going right. However, this is reflective of Rodgers’ style of his team passing the ball around in their own midfield before finding an opening. Of the outfield players, Kolo Toure has passed the ball forward the most: 58% of the time. Andre Wisdom is close behind him with 56% of his going forward.
Looking at the passing zones specifically, Gerrard comes out on top once again. He has completed 407 of 528 passes in the opposition half, which is the most in the team. He has also attempted the most passes in the final third with 257, completing 203 of them – again, the most in the team. Funnily enough though, Lucas has the best passing accuracy in these two areas: 90% in the opposition half and 87% in the final third.
It’s really interesting to note that the overall passing stats for the team are almost identical to last season. For instance, Liverpool have completed 85% of their open play passes this season, compared to 84% last season. Going forward, 36.4% of passes have been accurate this season compared to a more precise 36.47% last season. Even in terms of passing zones, Liverpool have completed 92% of their defensive half passes this season and it was the exact same last year, while in the attacking zone there has been an average accuracy of 75% this season compared to a marginally worse 73%.
As for Liverpool’s most creative player so far this season, guess who it is? Gerrard has had such an impact on the team creatively over the years, and it’s no different this season either. He has created 29 chances for his team mates, more than anyone else. Only 14 of these have come from open play however, the highest number of open play chances in fact comes from Jordan Henderson with 17. Gerrard has created the most chances from set pieces however with 11, and it is no surprise then that he also has the most assists from set pieces with three. While he may have only one assist from open play, this still means he has the most assists overall in the team with four. He has also created four clear-cut-chances which is the joint-most in the team along with Daniel Sturridge. Speaking of Sturridge, with two assists from open play, this puts him at the top of this particular stat table, with Jose Enrique.
Comparing it to last season, the Reds are taking slightly longer to create this time round. They created a chance every 6.56 minutes on average last season, whereas they’re doing it every 7.78 minutes this season. In terms of clear-cut-chances they created one every 47.3 minutes last season, while they’re only doing it every 52.1 minutes this season.
This is where Liverpool have really pushed on this season. The Reds have scored 21 goals in the first 11 games so far, the third highest in the league after Arsenal who have 22, and Manchester City on 28. At the same stage last season, Liverpool had only managed to score 15. Scoring hasn’t really been a problem for Liverpool so far and it’s all been down to their very own SAS: Suarez and Sturridge. The Uruguayan missed the first five games but already has eight goals. Sturridge also has eight, and this makes them the joint highest goal scorers not just at Liverpool but also in the Premier League.
Looking at Liverpool’s attack specifically though, Sturridge leads the way in the stats as well. He has attempted the most shots with 39, and had the most on target as well with 18. Of course, he also has the most off target with 17, as well as the most clear-cut chances missed with three. Suarez has attempted 36 shots on goal, which is only three behind Sturridge despite missing the start of the season. He has scored the most clear-cut chances with four but has a significantly worse shooting accuracy than Lucas with only 50%; Lucas has a 100% accuracy, but only has one shot on goal so the stats don’t tell the whole story!
Overall, the story between this season and last is very similar again. Liverpool have scored a goal every 50 minutes this season compared to every 51 minutes last season, while attempting a shot every seven minutes in both campaigns. The shooting accuracy is obviously better this year though, with 48% of the Reds’ total shots being on target compared to 44% last year.
The difference between the Liverpool of last season and this season is not as different as you might have thought. If you only look at the first 11 games, then the difference is huge. But you have to remember that Liverpool have been playing in their current form since the start of 2013, and this is why the stats don’t differ too much. The one major improvement this year has been Liverpool’s attack. Suarez and Sturridge have had an instant impact on the league and this has enabled Liverpool to take more from games than they might have last season. The main thing for the team and Brendan Rodgers will be to keep this going, and hope that a potentially difficult Christmas period doesn’t derail them.
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