27 May 2013

Visualized: Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern Munich

Maybe it's the early signs of football withdrawal, but thought I'd do my usual Liverpool match infographic for the Champions League Final.

All stats from either Stats Zone or UEFA Match Centre.

I won't insult your intelligence by trying to analyze this match like I do Liverpool's; I simply don't know the teams well enough to state what was and wasn't out of the ordinary.

However, a few things that stood out to me:

• Neither the pass accuracy nor possession was wholly out of line with the two league meetings, which both ended 1-1. In the December match in Munich, Bayern out-possessed Dortmund 60-40%, and attempted 519 passes, completing 418, for 81% accuracy. Dortmund attempted 347 and completed 255, for 73% accuracy. In the match in Dortmund three weeks ago, Bayern out-possessed Dortmund 53-47%, attempting 468 and completing 377 passes for 81% accuracy, while Dortmund attempted 400 and completed 302 for 76% accuracy. Incidentally, both Bayern and Dortmund scored first in their respective home fixtures, with the away side equalizing within 12 minutes.

• Dortmund clearly started the better side, and paid dearly for not taking their chances when in the ascendancy, mainly due to Manuel Neuer's outstanding performance. Dortmund took half of their shots before 22 minutes were off the clock, and before Bayern had attempted one. Four of those six were on target. And when Dortmund inevitably tired after a blistering, high-pressing opening half, Bayern put them to the sword. Such are the hazards of high-intensity football.

• Dortmund's drop-off was evident in the passing chalkboards from both sides. Compare the two halves:

Bayern attempted fewer passes, but the majority of their first half passes were in their own half, trying to calm the tempo after Dortmund's frenetic start and find a way through Dortmund's determined high-line defense. Conversely, Dortmund completed similar totals in both halves, but were much more restricted to their end of the pitch after the interval.

• That said, I expected more of Dortmund's tackles and interceptions to take place higher up the pitch. Only three of 20 interceptions and three of 20 successful tackles came in Bayern's half, compared to five of Bayern's 15 interceptions and four of Bayern's 16 successful tackles.

24 May 2013

Liverpool Chances Created 2012-13

A quick graph via a request from the comments section in this post, and compared to the total chances created in 2011-12 to further illustrate Liverpool's progress in attack.

Premier League only, as that's all I can find stats for. All totals via Who Scored.

A few notes:

• Liverpool created 66 more chances this season, and that's after having to replace the players who created the third-, fourth-, and fifth-, and seventh-most chances last season.

• Four teams created more chances than Liverpool in 2011-12: City, Tottenham, United, and Arsenal. No team created more than Liverpool this season; Tottenham was second with 510.

• Chances created per goal in 2011-12: 10.26. Chances created per goal in 2012-13: 7.72.

• Six of Liverpool's top-seven chances creators this season were English.

• Gerrard created 64 more chances this season than last season, the same amount Suarez created through all of last season. Suarez created 26 more, Johnson created 25 more, Downing created 10 more. Enrique created 10 fewer.

• Henderson created one more chance this season compared to last, despite vastly fewer minutes. He started 31 matches in 2011-12 and appeared in six as a substitute. He started 16 this season, and came on as a sub in 14.

Top 10 LFC Goals 2012-13

Another yearly tradition, although it's not as if there aren't a plethora of outstanding video editors – which there weren't when I started this tradition. None the less, you can't argue with tradition. And it was a good year for goals, in contrast to, say, 2011-12 or 2010-11.

10) Bale OG 1-2 Spurs: This will never not be funny. It might well be my favorite goal on the list. Pow. Right in the kisser.
9) Sterling 1-0 Sunderland: The next three goals make this list more for the assists than the strikes, not to take anything away from the strikes. But Suarez's assist is even more impressive than Sterling's finish, taken without even looking up, knowing where the defenders are and where Sterling's run is going. But Sterling's strike is worth the price of admission as well, clever enough to wait for the keeper to commit then perfectly lobbed over his head.
8) Sturridge 3-1 Fulham: Similar to the previous goal in both pass and finish, but with each of even higher quality. Coutinho can create through balls with the outside of his foot better than most players can with their instep; watching them will never get old. And Mark Schwarzer made Sturridge's attempt much more difficult than Mignolet did for Sterling. Also a reminder that Daniel Sturridge's right foot is supposedly his weaker foot.
7) Suarez 3-0 Sunderland: Usually, "Hollywood pass" is a disparaging term. Not here. That ball from Gerrard is 1000% Hollywood and 1000% perfect, directly in line for Suarez's run, then well-controlled into the back of the net. And let's give some credit to Downing's run, which wholly removed Cuellar from the play.
6) Şahin 2-1 West Brom: Count the passes. There are 11 of them, including the throw-in, in less than 25 seconds, almost all one- or two-touch except for Suso's mazy dribble. Liverpool went forward, sideways, backward, and forward again to carve West Brom open for the late winner, and it's not as if Albion players stood off, pressing each player in possession. Honestly, I expected a lot more of these goals when Rodgers was named manager.
5) Johnson 3-0 Gomel: Woof. Chest control, one hop, then an unstoppable volley with his weaker foot.
4) Enrique 3-0 Swansea: Liquid football, tearing through Swansea's defense. I'm still not sure how Sturridge, Enrique, Coutinho, and Suarez found space in the compressed left channel. Also, even more surprisingly, Enrique has a right foot! Sometimes.
3) Suarez 2-1 City (h) / Suarez 2-3 Udinese (tied): Suarez scored five direct free kicks this season, which is a mind-boggling total. The three against Wigan and Zenit were slightly fortunate, but these were absolutely unbelievable.
2) Gerrard 2-1 City (a): He's still got it. All of it.
1) Suarez 1-1 Newcastle: Magic.

Incidentally, the kind of goal are one from a corner, two free kicks, two team-wide passing moves, two shots from distance, and four "direct" goals. I guess that not only are Liverpool more potent when direct, they also score "better" goals.

Honorable Mention:
• Johnson 1-0 West Ham
• Sturridge 3-0 Newcastle (Coutinho assist)
• Coutinho 1-0 QPR
• Downing 1-0 Anzhi
• Sturridge 1-1 Fulham

23 May 2013

Liverpool Results Comparison [Infographic]

First, the usual way of looking at this (see also: the 2011-12, 2010-11, and 2009-10 versions):

versus club:
• City (1st --> 2nd) = +1
• United (2nd --> 1st) = -2
• Arsenal (3rd --> 4th) = -2
• Tottenham (4th --> 5th) = +2
• Newcastle (5th --> 16th) = +1
• Chelsea (6th --> 3rd) = -4
• Everton (7th --> 6th) = -4
• Fulham (9th --> 12th) = +6
• West Brom (10th --> 8th) = -3
• Swansea (11th --> 9th) = +3
• Norwich (12th --> 11th) = +2
• Sunderland (13th --> 17th) = +3
• Stoke (14th --> 13th) = 0
• Wigan (15th --> 18th) = +5
• Villa (16th --> 15th) = -1
• QPR (17th --> 20th) = +3
• Relegated/Promoted 1 (Bolton 18th --> Reading 19th) = +1
• Relegated/Promoted 2 (Blackburn 19th --> Southampton 14th) = -2
• Relegated/Promoted 3 (Wolves 20th --> West Ham 10th) = -2

Notably better against Fulham, Wigan, Swansea, Sunderland, and QPR. Marginally better against Spurs, Norwich, and City. Liverpool's improvement mostly came against middle-of-the-pack or bottom-of-the-table teams, as well as two sides that Liverpool hope to challenge next season (Spurs and City).

However, Liverpool were notably worse against Chelsea, Everton, West Brom, United, and Arsenal. Four teams who finished above Liverpool and one who finished directly below. Oh, and despite Liverpool's good record against sides below them, Liverpool took three fewer points from this season's promoted sides than last season's relegated sides. That's less good.

versus league place:
• vs 1st = 1 to 0 = -1
• vs 2nd = 1 to 2 = +1
• vs 3rd = 3 to 2 = -1
• vs 4th = 1 to 1 = 0
• vs 5th = 3 to 3 = 0
• vs 6th = 6 to 2 = -4
• vs 7th = 6 to n/a = -6 (combined with 8th)
• vs 8th = n/a to 0 = -6 (combined with 7th)
• vs 9th = 0 to 4 = +4
• vs 10th = 3 to 4 = +1
• vs 11th = 1 to 6 = +5
• vs 12th = 4 to 6 = +2
• vs 13th = 1 to 1 = 0
• vs 14th = 1 to 3 = +2
• vs 15th = 1 to 3 = +2
• vs 16th = 4 to 4 = 0
• vs 17th = 3 to 4 = +1
• vs 18th = 3 to 6 = +3
• vs 19th = 4 to 4 = 0
• vs 20th = 6 to 6 = 0

Again, remarkably worse against the sides directly above and below them in the table. But Liverpool either bettered or equalled their points total against 9th through 20th place. More confirmation that Brendan Rodgers' side really were flat-track bullies.

For a different look, here's the chronological version comparing the last two campaigns:

Those first five games. Ugh. That led to a five-point gap on last season's total, a gap this season's Liverpool didn't close until the start of the new year, not passing the 2011-12 points mark until early March.

In Liverpool's defense, only QPR had a harder first five games. The average final place of Liverpool's first five opponents was 6.4, facing the 8th, 2nd, 4th, 17th, and 1st-placed sides. It was 6.0 for QPR, who played the 9th, 11th, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th-placed sides. Every other club faced an average of 8th place or worse.

Last season, Liverpool played the 13th, 3rd, 18th, 14th, and 4th placed sides in the first five games, an average of 10.4. Which is almost exactly this season's mean. And took seven points compared to this season's two. Not that it helped much in last season's final points tally.

Incidentally, the teams with the easiest starts? Chelsea, who played the 18th, 19th, 16th, 20th, and 13th-placed sides, and Tottenham, who played the 16th, 8th, 11th, 19th, and 20th-placed sides. Here's the full order, from toughest to easiest, if you're curious.

Liverpool's tough start was made worse by being the first five matches for Liverpool's new manager, implementing a new system. That doesn't excuse the disappointments that followed, nor explain why Liverpool finished 12 points behind the Champions League places. Yes, Liverpool probably would have struggled in those matches regardless of opponent. And yes, the schedule obviously evens out over the course of the season. But had Liverpool had an easier start, or had Liverpool managed to win its two draws in the first five matches, it could have built momentum that Liverpool weren't able to build until later in the season. Who knows what earlier momentum could have done for the side's progress. Confidence begets confidence, good results beget more good results.

At least, unlike last year's side, Liverpool ended the season in excellent form. Only Arsenal and Chelsea took more points than Liverpool over the last 10 matches of the season. And that's why we're optimistic – probably too optimistic, knowing precedent – about Liverpool's chances for next season.

21 May 2013

Liverpool Goals Scored and Conceded 2012-13

Compare these totals to those from last season.

The headline stat is a simple one. Liverpool scored 24 more goals in the Premier League this season, and conceded just three more. In all competitions, Liverpool averaged 1.81 goals per game and a goal every 49.6 minutes. It was 1.55 goals per game and a goal every 58.1 minutes last season.

Liverpool scored more goals away from Anfield, which rarely happens, but also conceded many, many more goals away from Anfield. Only one side conceded fewer league goals at home than Liverpool: Manchester City. Seven sides conceded fewer league goals away from home.

Liverpool also were notably worse from set plays this season, both in scoring and conceding goals. Last year, 21.5% of Liverpool's goals scored and 24.1% of Liverpool's goals conceded came from free kicks and corners. This season, 19.4% of Liverpool's goals scored and 28.1% of Liverpool's goals conceded came from set plays (corners, free kicks, as well as one conceded from direct throw-in against – who else – Stoke).

That's worrisome. Liverpool conceded a negligibly smaller proportion of headed goals this season (21.9% compared to 22.2% last season), but also scored far fewer headed goals as well (14.3% compared to 18.9% last season). We've long been aware that Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool isn't exceptionally strong in the air (*TRANSFER WINDOW KLAXON*).

In the past, I've posted the next image along with the results comparison infographic – which is coming later in the week – but it seems more fitting here. The following is Liverpool's league results ordered by goals scored.

Liverpool kept clean sheets in 16 of the 38 league matches, but conceded one goal in just five, drawing three and winning two. They conceded two goals in 13 matches, and three goals in four.

Compare that to last season (scroll down), where Liverpool conceded once in 17 league matches, and conceded twice in just five. But kept only 12 clean sheets. Liverpool's regression in goals conceded this season has come from conceding a second, and sometimes a third, in far too many games. Especially in the five 2-2 draws, against City (twice), Arsenal, Everton, and Chelsea. Liverpool conceded the final goal, the goal that led to two points dropped, in four of those five games. Those eight points alone would have gone a long way in making up the gap between 5th-place Tottenham.

The increase in green also shows where Liverpool have improved. Liverpool won just one match by a 1-0 scoreline last season; they won three this season. Last season, this chart only went up to four goals. This season, Liverpool scored four in two league matches, five in three matches, and six in one match.

But Liverpool often needed that increase in goals, winning just four matches when scoring two or fewer goals, and just once away from home. It's now been 27 months since Liverpool won an away league match by a 1-0 scoreline, since beating Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in February 2011.

Over the course of the season, Liverpool have proven they can consistently score goals. Now, they need to consistently stop conceding goals, and constantly win narrow games, especially against the sides ahead of them in the table.

20 May 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 1-0 QPR

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (h), Norwich (a), Stoke (h), Reading (h), Everton (a), Newcastle (h), Chelsea (a), Wigan (h), Swansea (a), Tottenham (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Aston Villa (h), Fulham (h), Stoke (a), QPR (a), Sunderland (h), Manchester United (a), Norwich (h), Arsenal (a), Manchester City (a), West Brom (h), Swansea (h), Wigan (a), Tottenham (h), Southampton (a), Aston Villa (a), West Ham (h), Reading (a), Chelsea (h), Newcastle (a), Everton (h), Fulham (a)

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

It's dangerous to take too much away from the last match of the campaign, with little to play for and against already relegated opposition. However, pretty much every section of the above infographic confirms Liverpool's dominance. Not that that's stopped them from throwing away points earlier in the season, mind.

Still, 536 completed passes (and 607 attempted) were the most since the 5-0 win against Norwich 16 matches ago. 66.4% possession was the most since that Norwich match as well, only topped by the two fixtures against Norwich and equalling the possession totals at QPR and against Sunderland. 28 shots were the most since hitting that mark at Reading six matches ago, and was the third-highest total of the season (behind 35 against Swansea and 29 against Villa). Liverpool completed more than twice as many passes as QPR, took almost three times as many shots, monopolized the ball, and really should have won by more than a single goal.

That Liverpool won by just a single goal really was yesterday's only disappointment. Well, that and Carragher's shot cannoning off the post in the 62nd minute. But Liverpool were wasteful, Liverpool were too content to shoot from distance, and too many of Liverpool's shots were blocked by QPR defenders. Which, although it hasn't happened much over the last few months, have been recurring problems this season.

Liverpool's 14 blocked shots were a high for the season; only the two matches against Aston Villa saw Liverpool's opponents block more than 10. Redknapp's sole desire yesterday was to prevent the type of humiliation his side endured in the reverse fixture at Loftus Road, where Liverpool scored three in opening half an hour against QPR's wide-open defense. Anything QPR managed to create in Liverpool's half was a bonus, and the utter paucity of Liverpool tackles and interceptions demonstrates just how small a priority attacking was for QPR. And on the whole, Redknapp succeeded, evident in the number of blocked shots, the number of shots Liverpool took from outside the box, and the copious tackles and interceptions just outside QPR's box. Unfortunately for Redknapp and QPR, they had already been humiliated by the events over the course of the season.

Coutinho took Liverpool's first four shots, more a finisher rather than creator yesterday, while Sturridge didn't take one until the 45th minute. Compare where Sturridge received the ball yesterday to his passes received at Fulham; operating much deeper and often with his back to goal. Against Fulham, Liverpool players created four chances for Sturridge inside the penalty box, but all three of the chances created for Sturridge yesterday came from outside the box, which led to two shots off-target and one shot blocked. Yesterday, against a packed defense, was the sort of match that Suarez often thrives in, although, admittedly, we saw similar attacking struggles against West Ham and Reading before his suspension. Without him for six more fixtures, Liverpool will need to improve against these sorts of parked bus back lines. Not everyone's as bad as QPR.

At least we can't credit Liverpool's lack of goals to an offensively-lacking center midfield. The worry about the Henderson/Lucas pairing was that they'd be functional and diligent, but unable to create enough against determined defending. Henderson and Lucas did wholly monopolize the ball as expected, jointly completing 168 of 183 passes (91.8%), but they also created five chances and completed 50 of 58 passes in the attacking third (86.2%). Which are excellent signs for the pairing in the future, even if there's still the caveat that yesterday's opponents posed next to no challenge.

19 May 2013

Liverpool 1-0 QPR

Coutinho 23'

Acta est fabula, plaudite!

No, that wasn't Jamie Carragher's testimonial. That happened a few years ago. Although, for all of QPR's threat, it might as well have been. He leaves with yet another clean sheet, and his 398th win in 737 appearances for Liverpool. And had his 62nd minute shot been two inches to the right, a goal that would have imploded Anfield.

It was only Liverpool's third 1-0 win in the league, following home victories against Reading and Southampton in October and December. But it never felt like a 1-0 win, with QPR offering next to no threat and Liverpool comfortable throughout. The margin of victory probably should have been more, which is a phrase I haven't written in a while.

There was less experimentation than with last week's XI, but Liverpool still found a place for Jordon Ibe, the seventh Academy player to make his debut this season, starting ahead of Shelvey and Borini on the left. And from the opening whistle, Ibe demonstrated the same strong running and intent he's shown for the u21s this season. Liverpool should have taken the lead within two minutes, from a corner no less, when QPR cleared Coutinho's header from about a foot behind the goal line, unseen by both referee and linesman. But goal line technology would ruin the game, right Sepp?

At least Liverpool didn't make us wait too much longer for the opening goal, unsurprisingly scored by the same player, who was the hub of everything good. The Brazilian received the ball from Ibe 25 yards out and whistled an unstoppable low shot past the despairing Rob Green, just rewards for the way Liverpool started the match.

But despite continued dominance, Liverpool couldn't find the second. Coutinho pulled the strings while Johnson and Enrique rampaged forward at will, but Sturridge couldn't make the same impact he had against Fulham, mostly well marshaled by Hill and Onouha. After halftime, Enrique, Ibe, Downing, and that aforementioned Carragher blast nearly extended the lead, Borini and Suso replaced Ibe and Coutinho, and Green saved shots from Suso and Enrique. Otherwise, the highlight was Carragher's substitution with five minutes to play, going off for a deserved standing ovation, followed by a tear-inducing low, slow version of You'll Never Walk Alone.

And thus ends Liverpool's season, and Jamie Carragher's 23-year affiliation with the club.

61 points is Liverpool's highest total since Rafa Benitez's final season four campaigns ago. It's nine points more and one place higher more than last season. Liverpool scored 29 more league goals this season, and conceded just three more. A lot of credit for that last stat goes to Jamie Carragher; Liverpool let in just 12 goals in the 15 league games he played since Norwich on January 19, keeping eight clean sheets.

There is obviously still much work to be done, not least in replacing a Liverpool legend. And I caution that we felt similar optimism at the end of the 2010-11 season, when Dalglish as caretaker seemed to put Liverpool on the right path, before Liverpool's summer transfer dealings took Liverpool off that path.

Nonetheless, over the second half of the season, we've seen Liverpool improve, in all areas and phases of the game. That improvement is a definite cause for optimism, and that optimism that will make the next three months a long, eagerly anticipated wait.

18 May 2013

Liverpool v QPR 05.19.13

11am ET, not live on the US. Live on Fox Soccer 2Go, and delayed at 6:30pm ET on FSC.

Last season, Fox televised every match on the final day other than the one on espn2. There were matches on Speed, on Fuel TV, on pretty much every cable station Fox owned. This season? Nothing extra; just the standard three televised matches. Because what the fans want isn't worth shit now that Fox lost the PL contract. Good riddance, you terrible, terrible network.

Last four head-to-head:
3-0 Liverpool (a) 12.30.12
2-3 QPR (a) 03.21.12
1-0 Liverpool (h) 12.10.11
2-1 Liverpool (a) 02.11.96

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Fulham (a); 0-0 Everton (h); 6-0 Newcastle (a)
QPR: 1-2 Newcastle (h); 0-1 Arsenal (h); 0-0 Reading (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 23; Sturridge 10; Gerrard 9; Henderson 5; Agger, Downing 3; Coutinho, Enrique, Skrtel, Sterling 2; Borini, Cole, Johnson, Şahin 1
QPR: Remy 6; Taarabt 5; Zamora 4; Cisse 3; Jenas, Mackie, Townsend 2; Bothroyd, Granero, Hoilett, Nelsen, Wright-Phillips 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Carragher Enrique
Henderson Lucas
Downing Coutinho Shelvey

All's well that ends?

As has seemingly been written around this time in each of the last four years, it's been a long season. At least, in comparison to the previous campaign, it's gotten better as the season's gone on. There has been obvious progression, especially after Sturridge and Coutinho joined the club. Is that enough to make up for the lack of trophies, last season's sole consolation?

Tomorrow's focus will rightfully be on Jamie Carragher, who'll captain the side in his 737th appearance for Liverpool, 508th in the Premier League. His final appearance for Liverpool. When Carragher hangs up his boots, he'll have played in 81.8% of the 901 Liverpool games since he made his debut against Middlesbrough in January 1997. All the tributes the club have planned for tomorrow, all the fully deserved complimentary articles featured on the official site don't come close to encapsulating what Carragher's meant to this club, what Carragher's done for this club. It's imperative he's sent off with the best possible result, and "imperative" isn't a word I use lightly.

Otherwise, the major question is whether we'll see more experimentation. Last week's 3-6-1 trial worked and didn't work; Liverpool were far better when reverting to the more familiar 4-2-3-1 but the benefit was in the experiment, as well as in playing time for the likes of Coates and Wisdom.

Even with little to play for other than pride, I expect there will be fewer changes tomorrow, both in tactics and personnel. Skrtel should return from illness, partnering Carragher in central defense. If Liverpool play three at the back again, I suspect Coates will make way, with the more versatile Wisdom as one of the outside center-backs and Skrtel as the sweeper, but I still don't think that formation's likely. I also wouldn't be opposed to Wisdom starting in place of Glen Johnson, who – more than any other player – has shown the effects of the long season.

One of Henderson, Shelvey, and Borini will probably be the odd man out in attack. Both Henderson and Shelvey can play in central midfield or on the flanks, while Borini's finding his way back to fitness. I suspect that it'll be as Liverpool started the second half against Fulham, with Henderson in a deeper role and Shelvey deployed on the left but often cutting inside. But Henderson and Shelvey's versatility could allow them to switch roles, or one could be left out so the returning Borini can receive more playing time after spending the majority of the season injured.

Otherwise, no matter any experimentation, Reina will play, Lucas will play, Coutinho will play, Sturridge will play. Both Downing and Enrique – along with Henderson, two of Rodgers' greatest man-management successes this season – should play. Even in the last match of the season, the lineup still very much writes itself, especially in certain positions.

As for QPR, we'll start with this, as it's still incredibly hilarious.

Not quite.

QPR have won four league matches under Redknapp of the 24 played, and have never been higher than 19th in the table. They'd need to win tomorrow with Reading also losing to West Ham to get out of 20th position. And they're winless in their last eight, with two draws and six losses, further evidence of the overpaid and overhyped side's inability to even pretend at staying in this league. This mercenary side deserves to finish rock bottom.

Julio Cesar, Chris Samba, and Shaun Wright-Phillips will miss tomorrow's match through injury. You'd think Loic Remy also wouldn't play after being arrested on suspicion of rape earlier in the week, but QPR have announced that he's available for selection.

Which means tomorrow's XI will most likely be Green; Boswinga, Onouha, Hill, Traore; Townsend, Jenas, Mbia, Taarabt; Remy, Zamora. But it's not as if Redknapp's wanting for options; Hoilett, Mackie, Granero, Park, and Fabio, among others, have all proven (at least in previous campaigns) that they're decent footballers. Which makes QPR's plight all the more egregious. And all the more hilarious.

I had hoped that QPR would stave off relegation until the final day. It'd have been throughly enjoyable had it been Liverpool who got to swing the sword of Damocles. Still, we'll have to make due with sending Jamie Carragher out in some style, in front of a grateful Anfield appreciative of his 23-year tenure with the club, and appreciative of the small, tentative strides that Liverpool have made over the course of the season.

13 May 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 3-1 Fulham

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (h), Norwich (a), Stoke (h), Reading (h), Everton (a), Newcastle (h), Chelsea (a), Wigan (h), Swansea (a), Tottenham (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Aston Villa (h), Fulham (h), Stoke (a), QPR (a), Sunderland (h), Manchester United (a), Norwich (h), Arsenal (a), Manchester City (a), West Brom (h), Swansea (h), Wigan (a), Tottenham (h), Southampton (a), Aston Villa (a), West Ham (h), Reading (a), Chelsea (h), Newcastle (a), Everton (h)

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

Liverpool have completed more than 475 passes just two other times since completing 627 in the 5-0 win against Norwich on January 19 (Sturridge's first league start): 480 in the 5-0 against Swansea and 491 in the 0-0 against West Ham. Yesterday also saw Liverpool's highest passing average since that match against Norwich, completing 87.7% of their passes at Fulham.

In the 22 matches before Sturridge's first league start, Liverpool averaged 527 attempted passes and 449 completed passes per match, for an 85.2% success rate. In the 15 matches since, that average has dropped to 506 attempted passes, 416 completed, and a success rate of 82.2%. And in the 11 matches since Coutinho's first league start, it's an average of 499 attempted passes, 406 completed passes, and an 81.4% success rate. Liverpool have become a more direct side as the season's gone on, pushed further along that path by the two massively influential January signings.

Incidentally, Liverpool's goals per game average over the first 22 matches was 1.59, averaging 1.41 points per game. In the last 15, it's 2.33 goals per game and 1.8 points per game. Liverpool are often a better side when they're a more direct side. It's probably not coincidence that none of Liverpool's three goals yesterday featured more than two passes. Both of Liverpool's assists came from long passes inside its own half, from Wisdom and Coutinho, while the second goal started with a Johnson long ball from Liverpool's half which Coutinho picked up after Hangeland won the aerial duel.

Liverpool attempted and completed a similar number of passes in the first and second halves, but the type and position of the attacking third passes helps demonstrate the difference in style brought about by the change from 3-6-1 to the more familiar 4-2-3-1. Liverpool weren't restricted to the flanks like they were in the first half, completing more passes in the middle of the pitch and penalty box, creating five chances in the first half and nine in the second. The difference in the quality of those chances is also evident from where the shots took place; not only did Liverpool take more than twice as many shots, but they took them closer to goal, where there's often a better chance of scoring.

The change in formation also brought Sturridge into the match. Despite his excellently taken opening goal, he struggled to get on the ball in the first half, but was much more influential in the second, evident in both passes attempted and passes received.

Of course, it shouldn't be surprising that Liverpool, as well as individual players, played better and looked more comfortable in the more familiar system.

12 May 2013

Liverpool 3-1 Fulham

Berbatov 33'
Sturridge 36' 62' 85'

An unfamiliar formation, lined up in a 3-6-1, and an end-of-season tempo led to Liverpool passing and possession without reward for the first half an hour, an unwelcome reminder of the toothlessness which was all too frequent at the start of the season.

That ended up leading to a Fulham goal against the run of play, another all-too-common occurrence which Liverpool's done well to avoid in recent months. Liverpool still struggle with crosses at the best of times, and when an arguably offside overlapping Sascha Riether was left open by Downing and Henderson, he placed a perfect ball in for Berbatov to nod home, finding space between Wisdom and Carragher with the latter waving for an offside flag that didn't come.

Déjà vu all over again. But déjà vu which didn't last long thanks to Daniel Sturridge. Fulham fans were still celebrating Berbatov's strike when Sturridge deftly controlled Wisdom's ball over the top, danced around Aaron Hughes, and rammed a shot over Schwarzer into the roof of the net. It was more proof that Liverpool's frequently more potent when Liverpool are more direct rather than ponderously trying to pass throw the defense. Which, to Rodgers' credit, is a lesson he's learned over the last few months. Fulham's opener was its first lead in 573 minutes of football. And it lasted all of three minutes.

The rest of the half saw similar to the opening half an hour, highlighted by another Fulham chance from another Riether cross, this time well defended by Wisdom, with Berbatov unable to get a shot on goal after getting in front of the young center-back.

Also to Rodgers' credit, he made a halftime change which markedly improved the side. Enrique replaced Wisdom – who hadn't done poorly – switching back to the default 4-2-3-1 formation with Downing returning to the right wing and Henderson alongside Lucas. And it nearly paid dividends immediately, as Enrique charged down the flank and crossed for Sturridge, who out-jumped Emanuelson but could only sky his free header straight up.

The tactical change completely changed the game, and Liverpool were well on top. The away side were finally able to get multiple players into the box; Coutinho was much more influential, combining well with Sturridge. The striker set up Brazilian's blast in the box, blocked by Hughes, with Shelvey heading the rebound narrowly wide, followed swiftly by a buccaneering run by Johnson around three defenders before a fourth luckily cut out the full-back's cutback. It seemed a matter of time before Liverpool got the go-ahead goal.

Of course, because it's still Liverpool's, they didn't make it easy on themselves. And then we saw the fine margins which separate victory from defeat, and the kind of decisions which make those margins. Fulham could have easily won a penalty on the hour when Ruiz crossed off Lucas' arm from a yard out after Liverpool couldn't clear a corner, waved away by Halsey for ball to hand. It was one of those "seem 'em given," especially when it's Liverpool. A minute later, Fulham should have won a free kick just outside the box when Coates apparently fouled Ruiz on the break, again waved off.

And then, just like that, Liverpool were ahead. A slalom counter down the pitch, Coutinho's slipping shot deflected straight into the path of a just-onside Sturridge, perfectly placed around Schwarzer from eight yards out. It's better to be lucky than good, and it's even better to be lucky and good.

Because, no matter that fortune, Liverpool again refused to make things easy for themselves, as the away side seemed determined to wasted multiple chances by inches. Liverpool could have scored the third goal five times over in the 20 minutes after taking the lead. Sturridge almost immediately got his hat-trick, squandering what looked his easiest chance after robbing Hangeland but then selfishly shooting straight at Fulham's keeper. Five minutes later, thinking only of that possible hat-trick, he again has an effort saved by Schwarzer with both Shelvey and Coutinho open for a tap-in. Shelvey slipped when shooting after controlling Downing's fierce early cross, deflected just wide of the near post with the rest of the goal gaping. Borini soon replaced Shelvey, but in the space of a minute, cannoned a shot off the woodwork after cutting inside from the left, then saw Schwarzer make another excellent save after Sturridge's back heel put him through on goal.

Last season, Fulham would have punished Liverpool's profligacy as so many other sides did. And they almost did today if not for Reina's heroics. Fine margins, and all. First, Reina parried Berbatov's shot after Henderson unbelievably passed the ball straight to him in Liverpool's half. His save from the resulting corner was even better – yes, Liverpool nearly conceded from a corner – somehow tipping Hughes' header around the post. And in the 84th minute, Riise, on as a substitute, was allowed a free kick from 25 yards out, rocketing a shot under the wall that Reina coolly smothered.

But a minute after that, Liverpool finally got that third, and Sturridge got his hat-trick: another incredible throughball from Coutinho, this one chipped with the outside of his foot, with Sturridge beating Schwarzer to the ball and chipping over the on-rushing keeper to nestle into the net. Game over, and with all the last season déjà vu exorcised.

Today saw the peaks and valleys that Daniel Sturridge provides. All three of his goals were outstanding, taken with both his left and right feet. He took seven shots and put five of them on target. He's the fastest to 10 Premiership goals in Liverpool history, needing just 13 games to reach the mark; it took both Torres and Fowler 18. He also cleverly set up outstanding openings for Borini and Downing thanks to smart back-heels when Liverpool were pushing for the needed third.

But he was anonymous until his opening goal – which we can partly blame on the unfamiliar formation – only noticed for wasting an excellent chance in the 26th. And there were those squandered opportunities after scoring his first then second goals. Still, if he's scoring those goals, tallying hat-tricks, not-quite-but-still-kinda winning matches singlehandedly, then it's easy to forgive the selfishness and the misses.

Of course, Liverpool's other January addition played a starring role, again the creative hub, again providing the assists – his fifth and sixth in 10 matches. No player created more chances, no player made more successful attacking third passes, and, surprisingly, no player made more tackles. And some credit goes to Rodgers for making the needed halftime changes, especially in bringing on Enrique, who vastly improved Liverpool's defense.

Today's win is Liverpool's fourth comeback win in the league after conceding the first goal, the third in the last two months. They had just one last season: a 3-1 win over Newcastle at the end of December. And it's the first time this season that Liverpool have won a league game by two goals. Liverpool not only showed the fortitude and resiliency needed to overhaul a setback, helped by mid-game tactical changes, they won a narrow game, scoring the crucial goal to seal the victory in the final minutes rather than hanging on by fingernails.

That's not happened often enough this season. We've rightfully gloated in romps over lesser opponents, the 3-0s, 4-0s, 5-0s, 5-2s, and 6-0s. Today's three points admittedly don't mean anything to Liverpool's league position, but the way those three points were earned mean very much to Liverpool's confidence and progression going forward.

11 May 2013

Liverpool at Fulham 05.12.13

10am ET, not live on TV in the US. Delayed on FSC at 2:30pm, but otherwise, streams.

Last four head-to-head:
4-0 Liverpool (h) 12.22.12
0-1 Fulham (h) 05.01.12
0-1 Fulham (a) 12.05.11
5-2 Liverpool (a) 05.09.11

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Everton (h); 6-0 Newcastle (a); 2-2 Chelsea (h)
Fulham: 2-4 Reading (h); 0-1 Everton (a); 0-1 Arsenal (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 23; Gerrard 9; Sturridge 7; Henderson 5; Agger, Downing 3; Coutinho, Enrique, Skrtel, Sterling 2; Borini, Cole, Johnson, Şahin 1
Fulham: Berbatov 13; Ruiz 5; Sidwell 4; Duff, Kacaniklic, Rodallega 3; Baird 2; Karagounis, Richardson, Riether 1

Referee: Mark Halsey

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Carragher Enrique
Henderson Lucas
Downing Coutinho Borini

At the least, Liverpool will be replacing at least two near ever-present starters for the next two matches. By now, I assume you've read that both Gerrard and Agger have been shut down for the season, the former now the third Liverpool player to undergo shoulder surgery this season, the latter receiving "proactive back injections."

Agger will seemingly be replaced by Skrtel or Coates, and probably by the former. Skrtel's hardly featured since Carragher's return to the XI; his only starts since January were in losses at Zenit and Southampton, plus a 10-minute substitute appearance in last week's derby. But Coates hasn't been seen at all since the 2-3 loss to Oldham in the FA at the end of January. The last time Skrtel started a match that Liverpool won was on January 2, when Liverpool beat Sunderland 3-0. The last time Coates started a match that Liverpool won was the 2-1 FA Cup victory at Mansfield Town four days later. It's been a while.

There also appear to be two options for replacing Gerrard: either Henderson or Shelvey starts with Lucas in midfield. The official site hints that it'll be Shelvey, which would see Liverpool most likely keep the same front four, although Borini could possibly replace Henderson as well. The other options are Henderson in Gerrard's role, with Borini taking his left-sided berth, or with Shelvey as the central attacking midfielder and Coutinho on the left.

With two quasi-meaningless games to play, Rodgers may make more changes – Suso, Wisdom, Assaidi, maybe even Coady for Lucas – to give the young and/or out-of-favor more playing time, but I'd be surprised if Rodgers went that route. Liverpool are still building a side, building a style, and two end-of-season quasi-meaningless games will still help them accomplish that. If handled correctly. It's one thing to allow crucial players needed surgery/treatment with the season basically over, but wholesale lineup changes are quite another entirely.

Fulham are winless in their last six matches, with five losses and a draw. The two goals tallied in the last Saturday's home defeat against to Reading were the club's first goals in more than 300 minutes of football, previously held scoreless in losses to Everton, Arsenal, and Chelsea. Losses which have made them one of three teams to lose four Premier League matches in a row this season, along with Norwich in December and Reading on two separate occasions.

Karagounis and Petric are doubtful, Davies, Dejagah, and Diarra are out injured, and Sidwell is suspended. Given Fulham's problems in central midfield, Karagounis will probably start if at all possible, but if not, it seemingly will have to be Emmanuel Frimpong who partners Eyong Enoh, who's on loan from Ajax. In a pinch, Kieran Richardson can also play in central midfield, but he hasn't started in that position since… Liverpool beat Fulham 4-0 in December. Chris Baird also started in midfield in the reverse fixture, but he hasn't played since February 23, and has signed a pre-contract agreement with West Brom to join them after the season.

Which makes Fulham's most likely XI Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Enoh, Karagounis; Emanuelson, Ruiz, Kacaniklic; Berbatov. As mentioned above, Frimpong, Richardson, or possibly Baird could start in place of Karagounis if need be, while Duff could feature on the flank rather than Emanuelson or Kacaniklic, although the latter two have started more matches recently. Incidentally, two of those suspected starters are ex-Liverpool players: John Arse Riise (I wanna know…) and Alex Kacaniklic. Which always makes me nervous.

We're finally in the home stretch. There are just two matches left in this roller coaster season, where Liverpool struggled at the start and continue to struggle against the top sides, but have also shown massive improvement in both scoring goals and beating teams below them in the table. All season long, we've seen incremental progress. Too incremental in some cases, but progress all the same. No matter how unimportant the next two matches appear, Liverpool still need to finish as strongly as possible to help cement that progress going into next season. A match against as side gasping for air as the season ends, followed by a final match against the side currently in 20th place, seems a good way to do so.

06 May 2013

Visualized: Liverpool 0-0 Everton

Previous Match Infographics: Manchester City (h), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (h), Norwich (a), Stoke (h), Reading (h), Everton (a), Newcastle (h), Chelsea (a), Wigan (h), Swansea (a), Tottenham (a), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Aston Villa (h), Fulham (h), Stoke (a), QPR (a), Sunderland (h), Manchester United (a), Norwich (h), Arsenal (a), Manchester City (a), West Brom (h), Swansea (h), Wigan (a), Tottenham (h), Southampton (a), Aston Villa (a), West Ham (h), Reading (a), Chelsea (h), Newcastle (a)

As always, match data from Stats Zone and Squawka.

At least it's mostly an improvement on the reverse fixture. Well, in everything but the result, which was depressingly similar. And goals scored, too.

From Liverpool's second-best shooting accuracy of the season last week to the fourth-worst of the season this week: three on target from 15 shots, 20%. Which is Liverpool's lowest accuracy since putting only two of 18 shots on target against Stoke in early October, another 0-0 draw, the seventh match of the campaign. So much for this theory.

Liverpool put three or fewer shots on target in six other matches this season. At West Brom, against City, against Stoke, at Everton, at Chelsea, and at United. It's probably not coincidence that it happened in both matches against Everton, to the credit of Moyes' side and its tactics.

Liverpool's second half improvement, while not enough, can be summed up by its improvement in the attacking third. From 53.7% the first half to 76.0% in the second half, completing more in the second half than Liverpool attempted in the first half. Four chances created in the first half, three outside the box, to six in the second half, with four inside the box. Of course, it still wasn't enough.

Compare Lucas and Downing's passing yesterday to that of last week. Both completed around 50% fewer passes. Downing was Liverpool's top chance creator last week, but failed to create a single opportunity yesterday. Lucas is Liverpool's metronome, the calm base of its attacks, but spent vastly less time on the ball. Downing is an underrated link in Liverpool's attack; it's no coincidence that the attack's improved as he's found form, even though the additions of Sturridge and Coutinho have been more eye-catching and arguably more important. Liverpool desperately missed what both can provide yesterday, with Lucas pressured by Fellaini and Downing bottled up by Baines.

Again, credit where due. Everton knew how to stop Liverpool, something they failed to do in all three matches last season. The away side made a lot of interceptions in the middle of the pitch and even more tackles on the flanks, blunting both attempts at a Liverpool supply line.

But Liverpool also knew how to stop Everton, easily dealing with the majority of Everton's free kick chances and cutting out crosses from both open play and corners. Both of Everton's goals in the reverse fixture came from these situations: first, a shot from distance on a corner that Liverpool failed to clear, then a tap-in from a cross after Everton diced through Liverpool's right flank. And while Fellaini won the majority of his aerial duels, Liverpool tracked the second ball well, making sure that Fellaini had few chances to pass to Anichebe or Mirallas, while most of his passes to Pienaar came well away from the penalty box.

05 May 2013

Liverpool 0-0 Everton

Well, that was feeble.

I guess it's somewhat fitting that defenses ruled the day in Carragher's last derby. Everton blocked all of Liverpool's best opportunities, whether through a couple of crucial first-half tackles from Jagielka, Howard standing tall when Coutinho put Sturridge through soon after the interval, or Distin cutting out Gerrard's shot after the captain rounded the keeper in the 74th.

Meanwhile, Liverpool dealt well with Everton's crosses and long balls – restricting Baines, averaging just over three chances created per game, to just one opportunity (none from open play) – and all but two of their set plays. In the first half, Fellaini shinned a shot narrowly wide when wrestling with Carragher. In the second half, Oliver blew for a foul just before Distin bulleted a header past Reina, somewhat karmically mirroring Suarez's non-goal at the end of the match at Goodison.

Americans fans will remember a similar situation from the USA/Slovenia World Cup match in 2010, when Koman Coulibaly chalked off Mo Edu's "winning goal." Oliver had warned Anichebe prior to the set play, and there were subsequently three soft fouls – Anichebe on Enrique and Reina, then Distin climbing on Carragher. Yes, they were soft, but we've seen softer. And we've seen refs stop for similar many, many times. Oliver was calling it back whether or not Distin even made contact with the delivery. I'm obviously biased, but I'm still far angrier at Suarez's goal negated in the reverse fixture for no good reason than Everton fans should be today.

Otherwise, dross, at least in attack. From both sides.

Combined, Liverpool and Everton took 29 shots, but put just five on target. Three from Liverpool, two from Everton. There was only one shot on target in the first half, a slow roller from Mirallas that Reina casually picked up; Liverpool didn't register its first until the 59th minute, again a tame effort, this time from Coutinho straight at Howard.

Liverpool were marginally better in that start to the second half, improving from a first half final third accuracy of 53.3% to 66.7% for the full match, leading to that Sturridge chance smothered by Howard, followed by Sturridge's shot into the side netting followed by a dangerous Enrique cross eluding Downing, capped by Coutinho's shot easily saved. But then, Everton had a couple of half-chances sail well wide before the sides settled back into comfortably numb mediocrity.

Neither team's substitutions changed matters much, whether Borini for Henderson, with Liverpool shifting to 4-4-2, or Jelavic for Mirallas. Coutinho miscued an attempted chip, Gerrard had the aforementioned pass/shot cleared from the six-yard box, and then a knock to Downing forced Rodgers into a switch to 3-5-2, bringing on Skrtel, replicating the second half formation from the previous meeting. Agger glanced a header (really, a shoulder) wide, another dangerous Enrique cross just missed Borini, but Everton ended stronger, racking up set plays which amounted to catching practice for Reina.

This is the way the Carragher ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.

It was the first 0-0 these sides have played since February 2007, the match where Everton threw a fit because Benitez had the temerity to say "When you play against the smaller teams at Anfield you know the game will be narrow" after the match.

Well, today, both sides played like small clubs. Cagey, tentative, and almost wholly lacking in quality. I'm not used to this from Merseyside derbies. Yes, both sides defended well, while Gerrard effectively sprayed Hollywood passes around the pitch, involved in almost every good move Liverpool somehow conjured, but that's about it.

It's no surprise Liverpool used all its scoring up last week. It's this season defined. Far more routs than we're used to, which is nothing to scoff at, but often followed up by disappointment, with Liverpool unable to find the needed goals in the narrow games. Liverpool have now played every team which will finish above it twice. One win, four losses, and seven draws. Seven. 10 points from the 30 available. And yet, somehow Liverpool will finish with a better points total than last season, and probably the season before that as well.

There's at least still progress in the goal difference, in the way Liverpool have handily dispatched teams which held them to draws last season. There's at least still progress in another Liverpool clean sheet, its sixth in the last 10 league games.

But it's still not enough progress to get Liverpool over the all-too-familiar mid-table mediocrity hump.

04 May 2013

Liverpool v Everton 05.05.13

8:30am ET, live in the US on FSC

Last four head-to-head:
2-2 (h) 11.04.12
2-1 Liverpool (n; FA Cup) 04.14.12
3-0 Liverpool (h) 03.13.12
2-0 Liverpool (a) 10.01.11

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 6-0 Newcastle (a); 2-2 Chelsea (h); 0-0 Reading (a)
Everton: 1-0 Fulham (h); 0-1 Sunderland (a); 0-0 Arsenal (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 23; Gerrard 9; Sturridge 7; Henderson 5; Agger, Downing 3; Coutinho, Enrique, Skrtel, Sterling 2; Borini, Cole, Johnson, Şahin 1
Everton: Fellaini 11; Jelavic 7; Anichebe, Pienaar 6; Baines, Osman 5; Mirallas 4; Naismith 3; Jagielka 2; Gibson 1

Referee: Michael Oliver

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Carragher Agger Enrique
Gerrard Lucas
Downing Coutinho Henderson

So, same as last week?

Liverpool don't have a ton of options. Well, there are options, but few, if any, seem remotely likely. The back six and keeper don't change. And the front four were very good last Saturday. Borini, finally fit and back with a goal within 90 seconds of coming on against Newcastle, could return to the starting XI in place of either Henderson or Coutinho, playing on the left with the other as the attacking midfielder. But it still seems too soon, and there's something of an "if it's ain't broke…" about Liverpool after Saturday's mauling, even though Everton will be night and day different than Newcastle were.

I do worry about Coutinho as the #10 on Sunday. It's hard to forget how Nuri Şahin was wholly muscled out of the game when playing in that role in the reverse fixture. But I'm not sure Henderson would do much better, and expect that he'd be more influential on the left again, whether storming into the box to support the attack or tracking back to protect against crosses from the flank. It'll be up to Coutinho to have a similar impact as he did last Saturday, although assuredly with vastly less time and space than Tiote and Perch provided.

It's hard to take much precedent from the last Merseyside Derby. Eight of Liverpool's starting XI almost certainly won't start tomorrow. Jones, Skrtel, Wisdom, Allen, Şahin, Sterling, Suso, and Suarez will be replaced by Reina, Carragher, Johnson, Lucas, Coutinho, Downing, Henderson, and Sturridge. Except for Liverpool's suspended #7, each of those is an upgrade, massively in the case of the first four.

No slight to Reina, Lucas, or even the dearly departing Carragher, but that Glen Johnson is fit, even if he has disappointed over the last month, might be the biggest difference. Wisdom was roasted by Mirallas and Baines while Everton were ascendant in the first half, prompting the change to 3-5-2 to stop the flood in the second half. Pienaar will probably play on the left tomorrow, with Mirallas on the opposite flank, but Johnson (and Enrique) will remain just as important, as will Liverpool's wingers tracking back to support.

You know what you're going to get from Moyes' Everton. An often over-performing, hard-working side usually built to disrupt the opposition's playing style, something done to excellent effect in both meetings against Rodgers' Swansea last season and for 65 or so minutes in the reverse fixture. Reliant on crosses – something Liverpool often struggle against – featuring the league's top chance creator in Leighton Baines, aimed toward the dangerous Fellaini and Jelavic (even though neither have scored in more in than six weeks).

But despite the preconceptions, no team has had as much possession against Rodgers' Liverpool as Everton did at Goodison. Liverpool took fewer shots in just two matches, at Chelsea and against Tottenham, than the 13 in October's meeting (tallying the same total at both United and Arsenal as well). They truly outplayed Liverpool for the majority of the match, and I am still incredibly bitter about Suarez's last-minute winner being wrongly ruled out.

The only debate in Everton's line-up seems whether Moyes will start with two strikers or three central midfielders. That Darren Gibson's doubtful with a hip injury may force his hand, unless Ross Barkley starts in something of a number 10 role (as he did in the 0-0 at Arsenal). But more likely is Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Mirallas, Osman, Fellaini, Pienaar; Anichebe, Jelavic.

Since September 1999, these fixtures at Anfield have ended one of two ways: either a Liverpool win or a draw; the last Everton win came via a 4th-minute Kevin Campbell goal subsequently followed by two Liverpool sending offs. The Reds are also unbeaten in the last five Merseyside derbies. Liverpool have to continue those streaks if they've any chance of finishing above Everton – although, as Rodgers points out, while it'd be enjoyable, that certainly can't be a goal. And even more, it'd be incredibly poor form to break those streaks in Jamie Carragher's final derby.

01 May 2013

On Liverpool's Shooting 2012-13

I want to expound a little bit on the shots table included in Monday's match infographic. It seems worth more than an outbound link with next to no discussion.

Liverpool's shots per match vary fairly wildly from game to game, but have overall stayed fairly consistent through the season. Over the first ten matches, Liverpool averaged 18.6 shots per match. Over the next ten matches, 19.7 per match. And over the last ten matches, 21.2 per match, an average made more emphatic by the aberrant 35 against Swansea.

But as the season's gone on, Liverpool are putting a greater number of those shots on target. Over the first ten matches, 4.4 shots on target per match. Over the next ten matches, 6.3 per match. And over the last ten matches, 8.1 per match.

And, unsurprisingly, that's led to more goals per match. 1.3 over the first ten, 1.8 over the next ten, 2.3 in the last ten.

This week-by-week chart helps demonstrate that while both Liverpool's shots-per-game and shots-on-target-per-game are trending upwards, the shots on target average is trending upward at a greater pace.

As is Liverpool's shots-on-target percentage, even more dramatically.

Some progression would have been expected regardless of January transfer business – at least, that's what *should* happen in a manager's first season – but Liverpool's winter acquisitions were a turning point.

In the 21 matches before Sturridge's first league appearance, Liverpool averaged 19.6 shots per match, 5.6 shots on target per match, and 1.6 goals per match. In the 14 matches since his debut in the 1-2 loss to United, Liverpool have averaged 19.9 shots per match, 6.7 shots on target per match, and 2.4 goals per match. It's even more noticeable in the nine matches since Coutinho's full debut (it's hard to blame him for the last 10 minutes of that frustrating loss to West Brom): 20.8 shots per match, 8.2 shots on target per match, 2.6 goals per match, and 41.1% of shots on target.

For comparison, Liverpool averaged 17.57 shots per match last season, 5.52 on target, putting 31.4% of those shots on target. And the season-long trend lines for both shots per match and shots on target per match remained fairly static; the average number shots on target actually slightly decreased as the season went on. There was no progression. And as we all remember, Liverpool got worse as the campaign slipped away from them, although there were admittedly multiple reasons for it.

It's both obvious and simplistic (and as the match at Southampton proves, not always true), but when Liverpool put more of their shots on target, Liverpool have a much better chance of winning. And Liverpool have been putting more of their shots on target as the season's gone on.