Next up is Aston Villa, however, this week I would like to concentrate more on Liverpool and how our statistics and tactics have faired over the past few weeks. Clearly something has gone terribly wrong at Liverpool. Since the turn of the year, to put it bluntly, our form has been dire. It reads: LDLWDLLLWLLL – in 12 games that’s 2 wins, 2 draws, and 8 losses. Since the start of the year we are only winning 16.7% of our games compared to 47.3% before the New Year. We have now picked up 8 points from a possible 36 in 2012. We haven’t actually won an away game since 31st January when we beat Wolves 0-3. This is now April. That is 4 defeats in a row away from home and now 6 defeats out of 7. That is relegation form in any league. Depressing? Yes. So maybe we can lighten the mood a bit and try to shine some light on the subject. What exactly has gone wrong? Is it tactics? Or are the players just not trying hard enough?
First, let’s take a look at the statistics and compare how the team have performed before and after this slump. We will divide the time between pre-New Year results and post-New Year results. Our record before the turn of the year was played 19, won 9, lost 3, drawn 7. So since then, are we still putting in those tackles, winning those ground duels, aerial duels, and creating those chances etc?
The first metric we are going to measure is how we react to winning the ball back. It will give us an indication of what our attitude is to regaining possession.
As you can see from the chart there is no significant difference in our attempts to win the ball back pre-slump and post-slump. In the past 12 games we are winning possession in the defensive third of the pitch on average 28.4 times per game, compared to 27.2 times per game before the New Year. Likewise with winning possession in the midfield third, 23.1 and 22.2 respectively. There is a slight change in the final category, since the turn of the year we are now winning possession in the attacking third 4 times per game, compared to 2.9 beforehand, however, nothing major, and nothing that would indicate a change of style of play or a difference in attitude.
In fact, in a lot of our, what I like to call ‘battling’ statistics we have almost identical statistics to before and after our bad period. Aerial duels, ground duels and tackles per game etc are all almost identical from the last 12 games to the first 19 games.
Our players don’t seem to be under any more pressure when defending either, as our successful clearances per game are also similar from the two periods. One metric which is slightly different is that Pepe Reina is making less saves per game since the turn of the year. He was making 2.63 saves per game previously, and now is making 2.08 saves per game. Not really surprising considering his form has been questioned recently, and also we do seem to be giving our opposition more clear cut chances than usual.
Next Page: Liverpool FC Passing Statistics pre/post Christmas (page buttons top right/bottom right)
Next let us take a look at our passing statistics for both periods. You can see from the chart that our passing accuracy (80.35%/80.86%) is almost identical from both periods. As is the amount of passes that go backwards. However there is a significant decrease in the amount of passes which go forward in our last 12 games. Previously we were directing 54% of our passes forwards. However, since the start of the year we are now only directing 46% of our passes forward. This may be an indication that we are losing confidence in our passing, taking the easier shorter option left or right.
Furthermore, a lack of movement from our midfield and forward players has narrowed our options to pass into a more advanced zone. As a side note: we are not losing possession more frequently than before, averaging losing possession 172 times per game recently, whereas in the previous 19 games we lost possession on average 164 times per game. So again not much of a difference statistically.
Lastly, let us take a look at some of our attacking statistics and see if there have been any differences this calendar year than in the first 19 games this season. When you take a look at the attached table you can see that our goals per game ratio is hardly worth pointing out the difference is that small, all though over half a season it’s the difference of 4 goals scored. On a whole though it’s been pretty poor for most of the season anyway, and it’s neither increased nor decreased significantly since the start of this poor run of results. What has decreased in the number of shots we are attempting per game, down 3.3 shots per game on the first half of the season. Not hugely significant, but does tell us that again maybe our confidence has taken a hit and also maybe we are not getting into those more attacking positions to shoot.
We certainly have had as much of the possession in the attacking third as before but we just aren’t shooting as much. What has increased however is our shooting accuracy. So far this half of the season we are on target with 45% of our shots compared to 31% previously. So some glimmer of light through the darkness. Lastly, we can see we are now creating 2.4 less chances per game in our last 12 games compared to the earlier 19. 2.4 chances per games over a half a season amounts to 45.6 chances less created over the second half of the season. If our chance conversion rate is hovering around a poorly 9% that equates to 4 less goals. Potentially, and it’s stretching it a bit, it could be the difference between drawing 4 games and winning 4 games, which obviously could be an extra 12 points. But perhaps I’m clutching at straws here! Nevertheless, it’s not a question of having enough possession in the final third of the pitch; we are now completing 5 more extra passes per game in the final third than before. So perhaps the players are lacking confidence now to try something different and are taking the easy option.
Next Page: Conclusions…
So all-in-all – the defensive stats are telling us, that defensively, we are under no more pressure than before and we are battling as much as we were in the first half of the season as we are now. Our passing statistics are almost identical except for our passes forward, we are now passing forwards a lot less frequently than we were. And finally our possession (attacking) statistics are very similar but we aren’t creating and shooting as much as we were in the first half of the season.
I think it’s safe to say our attitude starting games has been on the whole correct, however, our games do seem to be following a familiar pattern. Start well, create and miss a host of chances, opposition score with one chance, queue capitulation. We lack a belief that we can turn a losing position into a winning one. And statistically above, we can say our attitude has been right, so that only leaves formation, team selection and tactics that can be the current problem. Not to mention individual errors which are gradually creeping into our game. For the first goal against Newcastle, see Skrtel, for all 3 goals against QPR, well take your pick from any number of players who made mistakes.
So how do we correct this slump? Well we need to find a way to start being ‘hard to beat’ again. Batten down them their hatches. If that means picking a defensive minded team and grinding out a scrappy 1-0 win then so be it. We can’t let ourselves fall into the trap of getting used to losing. If we do, we’re in real trouble. It sounds easy, but pick the right personnel, in the right formation, give them the right tactics, and this team should not be losing games as easy as they have been.
Certainly 4-3-3 did not work for us against Newcastle. We were lopsided with Gerrard and Bellamy on the right side, and with Shelvey (who had a good game) on the left side but getting dragged into the midfield battle. We need to go back to being solid. I would suggest we go back to a 4-2-3-1 system. It’s a system we are used to and a system the players have played enough times before. We must have both Spearing and Shelvey sitting in front of the back four. With Shelvey licence to roam slightly further up field. This give us a solid base, with Maxi, Gerrard and Suarez all sitting behind Carroll this gives us attacking impetus. However, the 3 players behind Carroll are the key to unlocking the opposition defences. They must be fluid. They must rotate positions, and they must pull back into a defensive zone quickly when we lose possession. All of which we haven’t been doing well enough recently. If we can get this system working again I believe it will be the key to getting us out of this mini-slump.
Here’s to 3 points and a win.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes a author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.