Liverpool's 3-1 win over Bolton wasn't much better than last year's 2-1 win over Bolton. What? You thought otherwise?
Liverpool had more possession, took more shots, and created more chances in last season's meeting. Bolton's pass completion rate was far higher on Saturday than in January. Liverpool attempted a similar amount of passes with a slightly better completion rate (561 to 581; 441 to 431 successful), had the same number of successful crosses, and had a similar amount of unsuccessful crosses (16 to 19) in each meeting. Liverpool actually won eight fewer interceptions in Saturday's match.
There was one noticeable difference evident in the chalkboards – aside from the score line at the top, naturally: where Liverpool won the ball back, which I discussed when criticizing the second half against Sunderland.
Liverpool attempted eight more ground tackles compared to last year's meeting – seven more successful – and nearly every one in a "better" area of the pitch. Liverpool's higher back line has been one of the best attributes Dalglish and Clarke installed in the side; no more retreating as the team are inevitably under the gun. As you'll notice, most of those tackles came in Lucas' area of the pitch. Compare his tackling performance yesterday to that on New Years' Day last season.
But this isn't (yet another) paean at the altar of Lucas Leiva. His growth and importance has been scrutinized to nanometer-level. There were few compilation videos of Lucas' sterling performances a year ago; now we seem to get one every match. Not that I'm complaining.
Lucas' improvement assuredly matters. How high the defensive line plays assuredly matters. The team's far higher confidence assuredly matters. The new signings assuredly matter, and having the apocalypse that is Luis Suarez assuredly assuredly matters. But you can't always quantify it.
I love statistics. I will continue to use them as a crutch and write about them often. But as many of the chattering classes are quick to remind, they are not the end all, be all of football analysis. Sometimes, you just have to believe your lying eyes.
My lying eyes told me Liverpool were approximately 1500% better than in last year's meeting against Bolton. Approximately.