20 June 2011

With Gerrard, Without Gerrard

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Statistically insignificant. Well, for the most part.

2010-11 was the first season when Gerrard missed more than 10 of Liverpool's league games since his debut campaign. Over the last 12 years, Gerrard has been absent for 81 of Liverpool's 456 Premiership matches: just 18%. 17 of those absences came this season, almost all after Dalglish bloodlessly seized power in January.

Prior to that, 2001-02 was the last campaign where Gerrard lost significant time, fighting constant injury (mainly back problems) before missing the World Cup due to groin surgery. It's little surprise that was the campaign where Liverpool were most notably "better" without him.

The other anomalies – 2004-05, 2006-07, and 2008-09 – are also easily explainable. In Benitez's first season, Gerrard missed a crucial six weeks from late September through mid-November, as the new manager's ideas bore fruit and Liverpool's initial results unsurprisingly improved. The side won four, lost two, and drew one during that stretch, against teams who finished 19th, 18th, 15th, 13th, 12th, 11th, and 1st. With or without Gerrard, Liverpool should expect at least 13 points from the available 21 against that murderer's row.

In 2006-07, Gerrard missed so few matches that it dramatically altered the results when Liverpool lost the two he sat out. He was rested against Portsmouth and Fulham in early May with the Champions League final looming, as were many other first-teamers. Liverpool used an under-strength reserve lineup in both matches and Liverpool tepidly lost both. Otherwise, Gerrard featured in every league game.

And 2008-09 is the easiest to explain. Liverpool were really really good that season. Gerrard was really really good that season. Gerrard's partnership with Torres was really really good that season, and it made a noticeable difference when the two were actually in the side together.

Otherwise, there's little discrepancy, as you'd expect from a man who's played more than 80% of Liverpool's games since the turn of the century. Gerrard's undoubtedly important, but it's not demonstrable from the points per game average, mainly because he's played so many of Liverpool's matches. However, when Gerrard's at his best (read: used correctly) – 2008-09 most notably – he does make a massive difference.

What prompted this somewhat unnecessary stat fest were the results from last season. Specifically, how the much-discussed managerial turning point was also a key moment for Liverpool's captain.

The sample size probably ruins any possible correlation, but there was a vast discrepancy in how Gerrard influenced the team under Hodgson and Dalglish. During Hodgson's reign, Liverpool averaged 0.06 fewer points per league game – the captain missed home wins over West Ham and Aston Villa and losses at Newcastle and Tottenham. Under Dalglish, the captain missed 13 of the 18 league games due to his never-ending groin problems, but when Gerrard played, Liverpool were outstanding: winning four of the five matches. Home against Fulham, Stoke and United, and away to Chelsea, with the lone loss at West Ham. 12 points from five games – an average of 2.4 per match – compared to Liverpool's 1.83 per game during the entirely of Dalglish's run-in.

When he's used correctly...

Gerrard Apps PPG with Gerrard Overall PPG Difference
2010-11 21 1.48 1.53 -0.05
2009-10 33 1.67 1.66 +0.01
2008-09 31 2.35 2.26 +0.09
2007-08 34 1.97 2.0 -0.03
2006-07 36 1.89 1.79 +0.10
2005-06 32 2.19 2.16 +0.03
2004-05 30 1.40 1.53 -0.13
2003-04 34 1.59 1.58 +0.01
2002-03 34 1.74 1.68 +0.06
2001-02 28 1.96 2.11 -0.15
2000-01 33 1.82 1.82 0.0
1999-00 29 1.69 1.76 -0.07

1 comment :

Grubb said...

Maybe it just goes to show that football is a team sport, and while Gerrard is undoubtedly a great player, one man doth not a team make.

Noticeably the PPG is much higher in the years we had good squads...

Great piece as usual, namesake.