Liverpool – Opta Stats Season Review 11/12 | Part One -Defence


I’m stumbling around an eerily darkened room at 2 o’clock in the morning. The musty aroma of burned eraser fills my nostrils. Skin-inflamed fingertips pulsate with throbbing bolts of pain. I grasp for the calculator that litters my tea-stained desk. Frazzled and frizzled amongst a clutter of paper & pencil, it can only mean one thing. I’ve been on the statistics again.

Euro 2012 aside, it’s the end of the footballing year, as we know it, and what better time to crunch the numbers and see how our beloved Reds players have done. Just to get context on some of the statistics I will be comparing them to other Premier League players. Also, I’ll mostly only be looking at players who have started 10 games or more during the 11/12 Premier League season. So let’s dive right in and take a look at some interesting goalkeeper statistics.


It’s a given that Pepe Reina hasn’t had his best season at Liverpool, however, inside we all know there is a quality goalkeeper bursting to get out. He’s made 79 saves this season, his lowest in four seasons.

And yes that might be because the defence has been so good he hasn’t had to save as much, but when you think someone like Joe Hart made 97 saves for City, then on balance I believe Pepe should have really saved as much, if not more. In fact, of the 18 goalkeepers to have started 29 games or more, he has the lowest amount of saves of them all.

All though Pepe has only made one error, which has led to a shot this season, he has made 4 errors, which have led to a goal. Compare that to the earlier three seasons when he only made 1 error, which led to a goal, then we can safely assume someone at Melwood’s been smearing butter on his gloves. Having said that, his passing accuracy has improved, but notably he has made a significantly less amount of passes into the final third than previous seasons. Perhaps a return to a shorter passing game and a lack of pace from our forwards to chase balls over the top meant he didn’t attempt as many long balls.


When it comes to our defence we had a decent season, conceding 40 goals, only City and Untied conceded less than us. Compared to last years 44 goals conceded it is still an improvement. So how did our defenders do compared to each other and the rest of the Premier League? First let’s take a look at percentages of tackles, ground and aerial duels won. Keep in mind that I am filtering out any players to have started less than 10 games.

Defensive Win Percentages

When it comes to aerial duels, Martin Skrtel comes out tops winning 80% of all his, in fact no other Liverpool player can better that for the season. Of the 59 Premier League players to have won 40 or more aerial duels this season no other player has won a higher percentage. And applying that criteria to the two previous seasons then still no player can better it. So to win 78/97 aerial duels in a season is pretty impressive from Martin Skrtel.

Jaime Carragher won a bigger percentage of his ground duels than all of his Liverpool team-mates, not just the defenders, winning 73% of them. Impressive again as of the 293 players to have won 45 or more ground duels this season only one player, Phil Jagielka, has won a higher percentage of them. Again if you apply that same criteria over the last 3 seasons then Rio Ferdinand (76% – 10/11) and Joseph Yobo (78% – 09/10) are the only other players who can better that statistic.

Lastly in this category are the percentages of tackles won by our defenders. In this respect Enrique is the clear leader winning 81% of all his tackles attempted. A fairly respectable number, considering of the 87 players to win 40 tackles or more this season just 15 players had a better win percentage. Jordan Henderson is the only other outfield Liverpool player who can better Enrique with 84% of all his tackles won.

‘Minutes Per’

We could look at the total figure of tackles/aerial & ground duels won etc from each player but obviously that wouldn’t give us a fair reflection, considering some players played more games than others. ‘Minutes Per’ gives us a better understanding of how often a player won a challenge comparative to the amount of time they were on the pitch.

Mintues Per Aerial Duel & Interceptions Won

Not surprisingly, Martin Skrtel wins an aerial duel more often than his defensive team-mates, winning one every 38.38 minutes. The only other LFC player that can better that this season is Andy Carroll, incredibly winning an aerial duel every 13.59 minutes. We don’t expect full backs to win many aerial duels, however, Enrique’s stat of only winning an aerial duel every 332.44 minutes (nearly every 4 games) is by far the worst amongst our defenders. In fact, the only other outfield player with a worse stat than that is Luis Suarez, winning one every 426.17 minutes.

When it comes to interceptions you’d expect a defender who is quick in mind and feet to make more interceptions than his counterparts, and that proves to be the case here. Agger made an interception every 36.29 minutes he was on the pitch, with Johnson not too far behind making one every 45.40 minutes. However, neither can beat our top interceptor who is Lucas Leiva who was able to intercept every 31.67 minutes. Of the 330 players to start 10 games or more this season in the Premier League only 21 one of those 330 completed an interception more often than Lucas during the 11/12 season.

That leads nicely onto our final statistical chart below. Let’s take a look at our minutes per ground duels won for the 11/12 season. Glen Johnson leads the way winning a ground duel every 16.68 minutes, not really a stand out statistic if we are being honest, as 81 Premier League players that have started 10+ games can better that. Surprisingly Carragher comes out as the Liverpool FC defender who wins a ground duel least often, only every 36.7 minutes. Only 12 outfield (out of 308) players who have started 10+ games this season won a ground duel less often. One could counter that with, well maybe it’s not Carragher’s game to get involved in ground duels, well here is his record over 4 years: 08/09 – 20.87 | 09/10 – 25.22 | 10/11 – 32.32 | 11/12 – 36.7 | As you can see, on a sliding scale per season he is winning less ground duels per minute as the years go by.

Minutes Per Defensive Stats

When it comes to winning possession back in the defensive third then Enrique comes out better than his defensive team-mates winning possession back in that zone every 16.26 minutes. To put into context how good a stat that is, again when we look at the 330 players to have started 10+ games this season only one player wins possession back more often in the defensive third, that is Andre Dos Santos for Arsenal, who won back possession every 16.06  minutes in that zone. So pretty impressive from Enrique. An honourable mention must also go to Glen Johnson in this statistic as only 6 players in the Premier League won back possession more often than him in the defensive third.

Looking at minutes per challenge won then you can only separate both Martin Kelly (every 10.26) and Skrtel (10.81) with a hair’s breadth. Neither stat is that impressive in context with the rest of the Premier League, as you can point to 59 players last season who won more challenges per minute than Martin Kelly. Carragher’s stat is particularly disappointing here, only winning a challenge every 22.12 minutes. Only 20 outfield players during the 11/12 Premier League had a worse record.

Last but not least comes the minutes per tackle statistic. And Martin Kelly won a tackle more frequently than his fellow defenders winning a tackle every 32.13 minutes. In context with the rest of the Premier League only 10 other players won a tackle more often than Kelly. For a young player only starting 12 games then that is a brilliant statistic. The least frequent at winning a tackle is Daniel Agger only winning a tackle every 101.9 minutes, of course, tackling is not quite Agger’s game, however it’s his least frequent since the 08/09 season where he won at tackle every 71.89 minutes.

Statistically that is a review of the 2011/2012 Premier League season for Liverpool’s goalkeeper and defenders. I included some Premier League comparison’s just to get some context into the statistics. Next up I’ll be looking at midfielders and forwards, which probably won’t be easy reading for us Liverpool supporters. Stay tuned for part two soon.

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All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.


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