Liverpool never seem to make it easy for their fans. It certainly doesn’t need me to remind anyone of the times hearts have been in mouths, followed by expletives, followed by delighted cheers. West Ham cup final, Olympiakos, penalty shootouts to win cups whether European or domestic. But all the ones I’ve mentioned have a happy ending. Where we are now is an entirely different place.
Liverpool, fans must’ve been expecting a post Bolton defeat type backlash to come from the men in Red. The post match interview on 21st January when we had suffered the humiliation of being beaten 3 -1 by Bolton Wanderers was what we all wanted to hear. A Manager who feels the same outrage the fans feel, someone who knows what it means to wear a red shirt with pride and knows what is good enough,,,and above all what is not.
“If that’s the level they expect this football club to play at, they won’t be here long. The most disappointing thing for me was I don’t think they were ready to play the game.”
Kenny Dalglish following 3-1 away defeat to Bolton
Following this we turned in battling, winning performances, securing a 2 all draw to knock Manchester City out of one cup and Dirk Kuyt putting the final nail in a 2-1 defeat of Manchester United, to knock them out of another.
But after the Newcastle defeat, Kenny’s comments, if anything, seemed to suggest that the frustration that is getting to the Liverpool fans is now acknowledged as being translated to the pitch
“The boys have shown a wee bit of frustration and disappointment because of results,”
“It’s all very well and good having frustration and disappointment, but we have to manage that and make sure we channel it in a proper way.”
Kenny Dalglish following 2-0 away defeat to Newcastle
The frustration being mentioned was clear on the pitch. Andy Carroll storming off down the tunnel. Pepe rising to the niggling bait of Perch tripping him, only to have the Newcastle player go down like the hidden gunman in the crowd had taken him out. Embarrassing. At least Pepe’s reaction was honest. But also other frustrations showed themselves. The YouTube video of Jonjo Shelvey cajoling the flatfooted Carroll into the box having been forced try an effort himself having broken into the box, showed the right kinds of frustration. I think Shelvey earned his place in the starting line up against Villa, showing maturity and penetration whilst keeping the slightly cocky edge he had prior to his loan spell at Blackpool. And his goal return at Blackpool of 6 goals in 10 games could do with the chance of translating into premier league games. He is not shy of shooting and provides a physical presence in midfield. He won his only aerial possession duel in the air and won 83% of those on the ground. That compares to our most combative midfielder Jay Spearing who completed a higher percentage of passes at an impressive 86% but a lesser ground duel win at 77.8%.
So Anfield hosts Aston Villa next. Villa themselves have had a fair few ups and downs. Whilst Liverpool endured the rank mismanagement, deception and soul-destroying tenure of Hicks and Gillette, it was with a degree of envy that we looked towards Villa Park and how it might have been. Randy Lerner came in and seemed to be steering the ship in very much the right direction. Whilst I would have still taken Rafa Benitez over Martin O Neill, Lerner seemed to have taken the helm in the right way, providing funds and very much allowing the manager to manage. But as things have changed for the better at Liverpool with new Americans taking the helm and ousting the cuckoos kicking and lawsuiting out of their Anfield nest, so Lerner’s outlook has changed. O’Neill left 5 days before the start of the 2010/11 season reportedly angry about being forced to lose Gareth Barry and James Milner to wealthy Manchester city in very quick succession. In came Gerard Houllier.
An Anfield Legend but I suspect an appointment that Villa would rather forget. Liverpool fans smiled at his greeting the Kop and touching the “This is Anfield sign” as they arrived to suffer a 3 nil defeat. An apology was called for following the Frenchman stating if he was going to lose 3 nil he would rather it be to the reds. Heart problems drew Gerard’s reign to a close at Villa Park. His management was not missed by many Villans. Then again better the devil you know may have been the cry soon enough. Ashley Young’s departure was followed by that of our own Stewart Downing 12 months later. In the meantime Villa had to further suffer the ignominy of an ex Birmingham City Manager taking over at Villa Park. Imagine how the Anfield faithful might greet a certain Mr Moyes and you might appreciate the sense of injustice felt. Current league form sees Villa 7 places and 9 points behind the reds in the league. However over the last 10 games Liverpool have managed just 7 points to Villas 10.
Next Page: More Liverpool and Aston Villa comparisons, including league form & performance stats.
Although Liverpool’s previously stalwart defence has shown signs of crumbling in recent times (take for example Martin Skrtel’s poor position relative to Papiss Cisse for the Newcastle opener), defensively we still have the edge over Villa. Villa Concede a goal every 67 minutes whereas Liverpool let one in every 89. That’s still on average 1 a game and a cause for concern. Clean sheet wise, Reina and Liverpool’s defence have done a more consistent job than Aston Villa with us having 11 shut outs to their 7. However this will be the league début of Alexander Doni, deputizing for the suspended Reina whereas Villa have the solid and dependable Shay Given between the sticks. One thing that could assist is the rumoured return of Daniel Agger. While it seems unlikely he’d be rushed back, as this was a rib injury and given the Reds recent frailty at the back, Dalglish may risk giving him a run out at some point.
Despite disparate league position Villa and Liverpool have many similarities stats wise at this point of the season. Liverpool, have won 53% of ground 50 50s compared to Villas 52%. Villa slightly exceed Liverpool in tackle success with 75.1% tackle success compared to Liverpool’s 73.8%. The loss of Martin Kelly, Glen Johnson and above Daniel Agger has not helped Liverpool on this score whereas Carlos Cuellar for Villa is rumoured to be out. Cuellar has a 62% tackle success but Agger has a 70%. Whilst 63% of Agger’s passes are forwards, only 48% of Cuellar’s are. It seems defensively Liverpool would benefit the most from the return of their defender.
But shooting accuracy is where we need to improve and chance conversion if we are going to arrest the slide in league form. There are countless posts and articles, my own included bemoaning Liverpool’s profligacy in front of goal. But still languishing on a 9% conversion rate as a team is testament to finding the woodwork almost as often as the back of the net. Unlike Dalglish I believe that Carroll did go down easy when clear through on the Newcastle goal. 2 or 3 glances at the advancing Krul combined with the fact that his shooting opportunity would fall to his weaker right foot tells me the big Geordie gambled on colliding meaningfully with Krul…and lost. Tactics against Newcastle seemed designed to play to Carroll’s strengths at the expense of Luis Suarez. His awareness and ingenuity on the edge of and just in side the opposition penalty box has to be exploited. In combination with Kuyt or Maxi he creates more problems for an opposition defence.
However his own personal conversion rate of 8% for the season has to improve. But we need to give him the means to do that. Downing, Shelvey and Gerrard need to put the Uruguayan in dangerous areas which will lead to space opening up or draw a foul. Agbonlahor has double the conversion rate of Suarez. But Heskey and Nzogbia are below Suarez in conversion rate with Albrighton at 14% conversion rate showing one of their other biggest threats other than Agbonlahor. Largely untested striker Andreas Weimann, having only one premier league start is also an injury doubt, but with 25% conversion rate he may also be someone keeping the Liverpool defence occupied if he features.
On paper Liverpool face a team lacking in confidence that they should overcome, on the back of 4-2 defeat to Chelsea and a 3 nil loss to Arsenal. However Wigan, Newcastle, Sunderland and QPR are all opponents the Reds should’ve overcome. We have the players certainly to beat Villa on paper. Kenny Dalglish and Steve Clarke need to make those players believe it when they go on the Anfield pitch. YNWA.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.