By Tyler Norton
With nine games down so far, the sample size is there to begin to look at some advanced metrics and even to draw some conclusions based on what they say. So let’s jump in.*
Liverpool’s offense is performing above their spot in the table this season. The problem is the same as it was in 2011-2012: Conversion rates. Plenty of chances created and shots, not so many goals.
This season the Reds are fourth in shots per game, 11th in shots on target per game, fourth in possession percentage, and second in successful dribbles per game. The spike in dribbles per game and completed pass percentage is clearly due to Rodgers’ new style, which is helping create a higher percentage of shots in the box, as well as more possession. Perhaps the most telling stat is that this year’s completed pass percentage is 5 percent higher than last year. Good for 85% and sixth in the league.
With higher completed pass rates and possession comes less shots conceded. At only 11.4 shots conceded per game (good for fourth in the league), Liverpool’s back line has been solid in not letting the shots get off in general.
That being said, they have yet to spring a single counter attack resulting in a goal this season. Which may be slightly deceiving considering Johnson’s involvement on offense, but still, their transition game has suffered under Rodgers in favor of a slower, possession oriented, deliberate style. This is also evident by Liverpool’s highest rated pass type being short passes (ranking fourth in league with 52 per game).
Individual Stats of Note
– Joe Allen is 5th among all players in pass success percentage at 92.5%.
– Luis Suarez is first among all players in shots per game with 6.2. Leading second place by a full shot (Jermain Defoe at 5.2SPG)
– Martin Skrtel is the only Liverpool defender in the top 25 of either blocks per game (11th at 1.2 per game) or clearances (18th at 1.2 per game).
– Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard are the only Reds in the top 50 in tackles per game (34th and 47th respectively)
– Gerrard and Suarez are fourth and eighth in key passes per game. The only two teammates in the top 10 outside of Everton’s Baines and Piennar and Spurs’ Lennon and Bale. Sterling is 14th.
– Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard are 5th and 6th among all players in passes per game, and 9th and 10th in accurate long balls per game.
What Does It All Mean?
From a statistical point of view, the defense and the defensive midfield is struggling thus far. That, coupled with the poor shot conversion rates is what is ailing Liverpool. Still, as a team they are rated higher than their current spot in the table.
The statistics are also pointing to something that should be expected: growing pains under a new manager’s style. Rodger’s points of emphasis are showing up in the advanced stat sheet. While there are still plenty of areas of improvement, the signs of change are there, and time should be given to see if the market corrects itself and the Reds can start getting results up to their performance.
*These should be taken with a grain of salt. Statistics can only show us so much. Our eyes should be added as a significant part of this. For example, Martin Skrtel seems to be the only defender who is defending right now, but we all remember him giving two points back to Manchester City earlier this year. Statistically that pass mattered as much as any other interception. Football statistics have come pretty far, but still are not near the metrics of baseball. So keep in mind these are not perfect, but they can shed some light on the general performances without putting too much emphasis on one point in time.