16 May 2011

Chalkboards – No Attack, No Party

Let's start with some statistics. Last month's 3-0 win over Manchester City seems a good comparison: both matches were at Anfield, against top-six opposition, and had Carroll in the starting line-up.

Time of Possession
v Tottenham: 54-46%
v City: 53-47%

Good start. Almost exactly similar, and with little correlation to last month's essay about Liverpool getting better results when having less possession.

Total Passes - Completed Passes - Completion Percentage
v Tottenham: 531 - 389 - 73%
v City: 588 - 454 - 77%

Fewer passes with fewer completed, but not a vast difference. In the five matches between beating City and prior to yesterday's loss, Liverpool averaged 75% passing success rate per match. Only the 1-1 match against Arsenal had substantially fewer passes. Nonetheless, we're getting closer.

Shots (on target)
v Tottenham: 15(3)
v City: 21(5)

Aye, there's the rub.

So why did Liverpool have fewer shots, fewer on target, and more speculative efforts from distance?

We can't overlook how well Dawson and King played, but the short version is that Kuyt and Suarez simply failed to perform to the levels we've come to expect.

Against Spurs, Suarez' completion percentage plummets from 78% to 50%, with most of the additional unsuccessful passes in the final third. Kuyt attempted 18 fewer passes against Tottenham, a success rate of 56% compared to 76% against City. Again, most of the red arrows are on attempts into the box, with seven unsuccessful crosses and zero successful. Those two players have had a hand in nearly all of the 13 goals in the previous three games.

Carroll's passing chalkboard, on the other hand, is actually better than that against City.

Granted, Carroll rarely looked like contributing two goals as against the Mancunians, but the massive Geordie suffered from a lack of service all Sunday long. Which is why the result can't be pinned on his return to the squad.

Incidentally, while the main focus in on Liverpool's flaws in the final third, I also can't help but mention Spurs' midfield, specifically Luka Modric.

Damn. The diminutive Croatian completed almost as many passes as Liverpool's starting central midfielders combined. Lucas completed fewer passes than usual, Spearing attempted fewer than usual. That Spearing went off in the 64th minute exacerbates the discrepancy, but that doesn't diminish Modric's excellence. Nonetheless, both Lucas and Spearing found outlets more often than not. It's what those outlets did with the ball. Which, sadly, wasn't nearly enough.

FYI: If you haven't voted in the Young Player of the Year poll in the post below. Do so. Then do so tomorrow, when you come back for the next end-of-season poll.

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