THE purpose of this article is – as the title indicates – to take a look at how Liverpool FC have conceded their goals this season.
The impression I and many others have after 29 league games with Brendan Rodgers in charge is that we have struggled to defend on set pieces, crosses in general and in the transition phase – and my very simplistic assumption/hypothesis is that a large part of our goals against have come from various types of set pieces and crosses.
Not exactly controversial or ground breaking, but still worth investigating.
Bear in mind, this is just me checking some of the numbers. There is no extensive analysis behind each conceded goal, which would be needed to make proper conclusions. Nor is it a breakdown of the types of chances the opposition typically create. I’m just looking to see how the stats measure up to what we see with our own eyes.
There will always be a question of definition regarding which category to file the odd goal under; this is a combination of my own definitions and Opta numbers, taken from EPL Index. I will explain my reasoning for some of it later and give you a few examples that could be considered somewhat borderline.
Goals conceded – the numbers
Games played: 29
Goals conceded: 36
|Type of goal||Number of goals||Explanation|
|Direct free kick||1|
|Indirect free kick||3||All three crossed into the box|
|Corner||5||Direct & second ball finish included|
|Type of goal||Number of goals||Explanation|
|Shot outside box||1*|
|Shot inside box||10||After cross or build-up; direct & second ball finish|
|Personal error||4||Error leading directly to goal|
*I have only included Benteke’s 1-0 goal at Anfield in the ‘Shot outside box’ section. Technically we could also include Gera’s screamer in the league opener and Agüero’s wonder goal at the Ethihad, but I have classified those as ‘Corner’ and ‘Personal error’ respectively. Feel free to argue.
Number of goals conceded from a cross (inside or outside the box) from open play: 10
I don’t know how this compares to other teams in the top half of the table, but if we add this to the amount of goals conceded from various types of set pieces (corners, throw-ins and indirect free kicks) it takes the total to 19 – meaning that 52,7% of the goals Liverpool have conceded this season have come as a result of failing to clear their lines and protect the box properly.
If we also add the goals conceded from counter attacks and personal errors leading directly to goal, the total becomes 28 – or 77,7%.
The flip side of this is of course that we rarely get outplayed and allow goals through the middle when we are in defensive balance. The way I have defined it, only three goals have been conceded this way: Cazorla at Anfield, Rafael at Anfield and Walcott at the Emirates.
To me this suggests the team generally is well organised when the opposition have the ball and is trying to break us down, and this is also the impression I have had when watching the games – especially since we got the midfield balance right back in December. Another thing I take from this is that our central defenders are comfortable when the ball is on the ground, both in front of them and also in behind. Carragher, Agger and Skrtel are all tactically good (Carragher and Agger in particular) and have a good understanding between them, and generally don’t allow much joy for opposing attackers.
Looking purely at the numbers I guess it confirms what many of us have already seen: Liverpool struggle to defend crosses, from set pieces as well as during open play, and that this has been – and still is – our main concern this season.
How do we fix it?
In my opinion: Personnel and organisation both. I don’t think we have had a dominant presence at the back since Sami Hyypä left (Kyrgiakos was more of a fringe player), and it continues to haunt us – especially now that we don’t have Carroll, who was very useful on defensive set pieces. Skrtel is probably the closest we get, but he has looked insecure and error prone this season. As good as the Carragher-Agger partnership is, both have trouble dealing with crosses. To me this has to be the main priority in the summer window; we need a commanding presence at the back.
But I don’t think players alone will do the trick. Rodgers has fixed our attacking game this season; next season he needs to focus on the defensive side of it.
Please note that this article was penned PRIOR to this afternoon’s Premier League clash versus Southampton. Some of the stats in this article have been taken from EPL Index: http://www.eplindex.com/
Find me on Twitter if you want @ChristerEikrem