Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is again dreaming of a top four finish in the coming season to earn Liverpool a place in the Champion’s League. Investments have been made early with a number of new signings during the current transfer window adding to the excellent buys in January. In this article we can look at Rodgers’ first season at Anfield and how it compares with his last full season at Swansea. Is his Tiki-Taka style imprinted on the squad? Where is the improvement required? We take a look at the roles in the system and where the new signings fit in.
Liverpool 2012/13 V Swansea 2011/12
In the table below I have selected some stats from both seasons. The stats are taken from full Premier League seasons (38 games). They show that substitute appearances are similar considering the amount of games played. However, there is marked difference in goals conceded. Rodgers’ Liverpool of 2012/13 conceded 8 fewer goals than that of Rodgers’ 2011/12 Swansea side.
The minutes per defensive error was totally different with Liverpool making a defensive error every 1.11 games. Swansea made a defensive every 5.71 games – maybe a case of players trying to come to terms with a new system? A defensive error is defined by a pass gone wrong so it certainly points to that. Swansea played an average of 30 more passes per game than Liverpool. This leads us to the interesting fact that the pass completion % stats for the sides are nearly identical in the defensive, midfield and final 3rd zones. Perhaps not so surprising is that Swansea’s crossing accuracy % is better than Liverpool’s.
Total chances created differs by 191 chances that’s an average of 5.02 chances a game. We can see a very similar clear-cut chance conversion %, however Liverpool created double the chances Swansea did, 38 more. Over the full season Liverpool scored 27 more goals explaining the points and place difference in the table. The two standout stats are defensive errors, conversion % of clear cut chances and the crossing accuracy %.
Overall it is fair to say Rodgers has put his stamp all over this side, now he needs the quality and depth of squad to compete. Furthermore this is encouraging for Liverpool fans, their focus is now a dramatic change from the manager’s performance to the players. This is a positive step for Liverpool after an unsettled period.
As we all have seen from Barcelona, the tiki-taka system is a possession based short passing game. This is complimented with intelligent & hard working pressing all over the pitch. This system requires very high technical ability and Liverpool have adopted this style under Brendan Rodgers to continue their proud tradition of pass and move football.
Take a look below at the diagrams of how this modern style is used by Liverpool. One important thing for Rodgers is keeping the principle of possession football with a purpose, avoiding possession for possession’s sake. This calls for quality attacking players. The ball is on the ground a lot in attacking areas with incisive passing and creative movement a must. In the diagram the positions are goalkeeper, right back, left back, left centre back & right centre back. Rodgers likes to rotate the midfield unit, sometimes playing with two holding players and one attacking midfielder. Diagram 1 shows two holding players and one attacking midfield player. Diagram 2 shows one holding player and two attacking midfield players.
Using the example of Newcastle v Liverpool last season where Liverpool ran out 6-0 winners in this game, it does show us some great play and some play that could be better. On the day Liverpool played with a 4-2-3-1 version of the tiki-taka. They used Henderson on the left of the attacking three playing behind the striker. Coutinho in the centre and Downing left.
The issue for Rodgers going forward is the wide play. He needs out and out wingers that can stretch the back line of the opposition. Downing is that type of player but does need competition. The reason for this type of player is that all Liverpool wide players like to drop in and play short balls inside. Coutinho for example has been a sensation since arriving. I will show him as an example of how good he can play centre and how he can be snuffed out by better opposition in wide areas.
Now take a look at Coutinho on the left against Chelsea under Benitez. In this one clip you can see Coutinho getting the pass from left back. In the 1v1 situation with Ivanovic, Coutinho cuts inside instead of beating him with pace down the outside and crossing as he’s not that type of player so variety is needed. Sterling offered this in the early part of the season but Liverpool rightly decided to give him a break.
The area circled are the areas where Liverpool are very effective in attack at the moment. Even Downing cuts back inside creating space for the full back is coming from deep. Daniel Sturridge has shown everywhere he has played that he can finish well from crosses.
It may not always be possible to break down teams and a Plan B can be the difference between winning games and drawing a match. Liverpool have been guilty of being too narrow at times. In the next diagram you can see what the attacking principles of width can suffer when the full backs cant push on. The ball is with Coutinho and Downing’s runs are narrow, this means Johnson needs to provide the width. If the ball has gone forward too fast in a counter attack then Downing’s run or any of the wingers runs need to be wide to open the play as Johnson is behind the play. This is something Liverpool have lacked in tight games.
Liverpool have invested well in Simon Mignolet. This creates very good competition for the no.1 spot with no European games this season. Kolo Toure is a Premier League winner and with only ten starts last term the centre back will not be looking to sit on the bench. Iago Aspas can play in a few positions so could play in a variety of roles, especially with Suarez banned early on and Sturridge in a race to be fit for the start of the season. Luis Alberto has come in from Barcelona B; he is probably the most exciting of the new singings. Alberto is very comfortable with both feet and can play down the left or right and played as a no.9 in centre for Barcelona B.
The areas Liverpool will now be able to effect are behind full back’s when needed. Tiki-taka football is not exempt from the attacking principles of width and depth. The new signings will certainly help with this. One thing for sure is Liverpool fans are being treated to a fantastic style of play from Rodgers. Will this season be his and Liverpool’s?
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