24 January 2011

Passing Makes Perfect?

Liverpool's capstone goal against Wolves, a flowing, fascinating 31-pass move hearkened the return of the one true style of football. Pass and move, it's the Liverpool groove. Dominate possession, keep it on the floor, and poke at the back line until you find an opening akin to the one which ended with Torres slamming home from six yards out.

'Move' is the key part of that mission statement. Because we saw an awful lot more passes, including successful passes, under the last manager.

In each comparison, Liverpool made more passes and had a higher success rate under Hodgson. Yet in two of the three matches, Liverpool bettered the result under Dalglish; both managers managed to lose 1-2 against Blackpool.

The least number of passes, fewest successful passes, and lowest success rate came in Liverpool's most recent match – a three-goal romp and the only victory. Each game under Dalglish has seen fewer and fewer passes attempted.

It's not news to anyone, but simply put, it's the type of passes attempted and where they were played that matters. Evidently, there's enough time to constantly hoof and play sideways passes in a 90-minute match.

In each of the earlier contests, the center of the pitch is almost wholly blue, with furious lines in front of Liverpool's 18-yard box. The derby at Goodison is by far the most formulaic: a stripe of passes in Liverpool's half, a chasm where midfielders watched the ball fly over their heads, and a stripe of passes outside the Everton box, where Liverpool aimlessly prodded before blasting an empty shot from distance. Coincidentally, that's the match where Liverpool attempted the most passes out of the six listed. Small wonder that 81% were successful. Also, small wonder that was the one match where Liverpool failed to score.

If you've seen Liverpool this season, this is all fairly obvious. I was surprised by the vast and increasing disparity in passes, and the amusing trend of fewer passes attempted in each successive match since Dalglish took the reins, but the difference in style of play (and its chances for success) are evident on first glance.

Aside from the interesting trends, it's just a reminder that there needs to be an end which justifies the means. Making lots of passes and having a high success rate are all well and good, but – and pun heavily regretted – there has to be a goal in the process.


McrRed said...

Nice work, Nate.

Evidence, if it were ever needed, that stats alone don't mean diddly and it's the thought behind them that makes them useful.

Here's to barely any successful passes tonight against Fulham. And a good win!!!

McrRed said...

Also: interesting, if you stare long and hard enough at the last Wolves game, you can see King Kenny's profile.