04 April 2012
2011-12 Turning Points
• 1.77 points per game before, 1.05 after [-0.62 PPG]
• 1.31 goals per game before, 1.05 after [-0.26 GPG]
• 0.92 goals conceded per game before, 1.11 after [+0.19 GCPG]
• 1.72 points per game before, 1.40 during [-0.32 PPG]
• 1.17 goals per game before, 1.40 during [+0.23 GPG]
• 0.78 goals conceded per game before, 1.40 during [+0.62 GCPG]
Carling Cup Final and Agger Injury
• 1.56 points per game before, 0.50 after [-1.06 PPG]
• 1.16 goals per game before, 1.17 after [+0.01 GPG]
• 0.92 goals conceded per game before, 1.67 after [+0.75 GCPG]
All three are terrifying, but the effects of the Carling Cup final hangover and, more importantly, Agger's injury are by far the scariest. Liverpool have only played six league matches since, but are averaging a point less per game and conceding 0.75 more goals per game. Having Johnson and Kelly absent for most of those certainly hasn't helped, but Agger is the the biggest miss. Skrtel may have been Liverpool's player of the season – at least before this recent stretch – but Daniel Agger is by far Liverpool's most important defender. As Bass Tuned to Red wrote earlier this week, Liverpool have conceded a league goal every 129.7 minutes with Agger on the pitch, and a league goal every 58.9 minutes when he has been absent. Yikes.
Lucas' injury is almost as significant. Liverpool's record in the 13 games prior to his injury: 6W-5D-2L. Liverpool's record in the subsequent 18: 5W-4D-9L. Fewer goals scored per game and more goals conceded, although it's slightly surprising to see a bigger difference in goals scored rather than conceded. But Lucas' as the metronomic base for Liverpool's attacks is just as important, if not more so, than Lucas as the tough tackling defensive midfielder.
Finally, Suarez's suspension. Five matches, from Newcastle at home through Wolves away, returning as a substitute against Tottenham. Liverpool actually scored more goals per game during the matches Suarez missed. Carroll started as a lone striker in three: the two matches where Liverpool scored three – wins against Newcastle and Wolves – as well as the 0-3 loss at City. Carroll and Bellamy partnered in the loss at Bolton, linking up for the lone goal, while Kuyt started up front in the 3-4-2-1 scoreless draw against Stoke. However, Liverpool's goals conceded tally rose dramatically during that span, mostly thanks to conceding three against City and Bolton, both featuring Liverpool's first choice back four of Johnson-Skrtel-Agger-Enrique. It's hard to credit that to Suarez's absence, but I suspect (without proof) that opponents are more hesitant to send multiple attackers forward with the ever-dangerous Uruguayan lurking off the shoulder of the last defender.
Missing key players for long to extra-long stretches isn't a good enough excuse for this season's horrors. Liverpool still scored too few goals, conceded frustratingly in aberrant draws, and found new and inventive ways to drop points before any of these three turning points. However, all three absences, as well as the post-Carling Cup letdown, do help explain the increasingly diminishing returns during this horror campaign.