After their recent defeat to Arsenal, most Kopites agreed that whilst Liverpool had played reasonably well (if in a slightly clueless fashion at times), it was their finishing that had stopped them from claiming all three points.
With the Reds now ten points behind the much-coveted 4th place, it is surely time to start thinking about which players should be shipped out and replaced during the summer to have a better crack at it next term.
Or is it? Whilst I definitely agree with the general assessment of the Arsenal game, the most frustrating thing is that it is far from the first time this season that this has been the case. So does that mean wholesale changes are required or not?
I’m not convinced that they are. Whilst Liverpool are, clearly, far from the finished article, it has felt when watching the majority of their games this season that they have dominated their opponents, and by looking at the match stats on EPLIndex, it becomes clear that this has been the case more often than not.
Take a look at the table below. I have gone through the statistics for each Liverpool match, and recorded how many times the Reds have been out-performed by their rivals in the key match statistics:
What we can see here is that Liverpool have dominated their opponents in most aspects of the game in around three-quarters of their matches. To have had more of the ball in twenty-two out of twenty-six league games, for example, is a promising position to start from.
The first obvious exception to the Reds’ general dominance is shooting accuracy; this won’t come as a surprise to many people reading this, as the stat that Liverpool have the worst shots-to-goals conversion ratio in the Premier League has been endlessly doing the rounds on Twitter and the forums of late (for a detailed analysis of Liverpool’s shot placement woes, check out this article which I wrote for the excellent The Tomkins Times website).
The other standout figure is in the tackling statistics. Most of that can surely be put down to the absence of one key player: Lucas Leiva. Of the eleven games where Liverpool attempted less tackles than their opponents, only two came in the twelve matches where Lucas played, meaning that in nine of the fourteen he has missed (or 64% of the time) the Reds were not as physical as the opposition.
So to make Liverpool a real force in the Premier League, is it as simple as bringing back the Brazilian maestro from injury and adding a clinical striker? Things are rarely that simple in football, but at the same time, if the Reds are dominating their opponents in the key aspects of matches for approximately 75% of the time, then I don’t think there can be too much wrong with the team and its approach.
To my mind, if Damien Comolli can find a deadly marksman and bring him on board, then suddenly this team might be able to take the league (or at least the top four) by storm next season. Over to you Damien.