Friday, 10 February 2012

Why Liverpool's Glass is half full rather than half empty

Patience in football is a rare commodity these days. Everyone demands their team to make new signings and for these signings to pay off instantly. We then expect our teams to suddenly start challenging for honours.

But football doesn’t work like this, I wish it did. But it really doesn’t.

People often forget that when major change occurs, the team needs time to form and develop an understanding in order to become something that all teams crave for. And that is to become a team.

Liverpool have been a victim of this since Fenway Sports Group have taken over. People expect Liverpool to suddenly start challenging for the title and to dominate.

Some view Liverpool’s showings this season as under average, poor and lacklustre. In some games, this has well and truly been the case. But most of time this hasn’t been entirely the case.

If one delves deep into Liverpool’s performances, statistics and progress, one can see a different story being told.

The story being written is, Liverpool are a team still a work in progress.

Indeed, many have heavily criticised Liverpool’s transfer dealings since Fenway Sports Group took over. Often people have branded some of their signings as ‘average,’ ‘mediocre,’ and simply not good enough for a team who want to break back into the Champions League.

A few years ago, Liverpool were constantly criticised for not being able to create enough chances.
But this isn’t entirely the case anymore. Liverpool have created 319 chances, which is the 5th best in the division. In fact, Liverpool have created more chances than League Champions Man United. That put things into serious perspective doesn’t it?
The likes of Henderson, Downing and Adam have been crucial in creating chances for Liverpool. Adam was signed this summer to create from midfield and that’s exactly what he’s done. Charlie Adam has assisted 6 times for Liverpool this season. Considering Liverpool’s highest assistor last season was Dirk Kuyt with 8 assists, Adam’s assist record is rather impressive.However, fellow new signing Stewart Downing has failed to impress many. After all he hasn’t assisted at all for the reds in his short Liverpool career. Perhaps his failure to impress has stemmed from Liverpool’s lack of finesse this season.

Liverpool have scored just 28 goals this season. Bolton, have scored the same amount of goals as Liverpool. Not only this, Bolton’s fellow relegation candidates, Blackburn, have scored more than Liverpool too (34 goals).

This highlights the problem at Liverpool. They need to be more clinical. In fact the team have the lowest conversion rate in the whole league. 8.5% of their shots have been converted to goals. Indeed, it is utterly woeful and as the saying goes, if you can’t score, you can’t win.Perhaps this is an area where the Liverpool players deserve criticism. After all, the team have failed to capitalize on their dominance because of their poor finishing. There is no doubt, the likes of Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing need to buck their ideas up in front of goal.

The damaging effects of this toothlessness in front of goal is especially visible when one looks at Liverpool’s home form.

This season, Liverpool have won just 4 home games this season. The Red’s have drawn 8 of their 12 home games this season. This speaks volumes about the goal scoring saga at Liverpool. What makes things worse is that in most home games, the players have created good chances, but either fantastic saves or woeful finishing has ended up being costly for Liverpool.

While Liverpool’s home form hasn’t been fantastic, they must be doing something right at home, as Liverpool along with Man City are the only two Premier League sides who remain unbeaten at home. Not only this, in all competitions, Liverpool are the only team in the Premier League who are unbeaten at home.

This is exceptional, Anfield may not be a conventional fortress, but the fact of the matter is, teams often leave Anfield without being able to defeat the home side. It is this notion as to why, Liverpool’s glass is half full rather than half empty. As the team have the foundations in place to be a team worthy of challenging. But this is hugely dependent on Liverpool bucking up their ideas in front of goal.

On the road, Liverpool have shown signs of huge promise too. The Reds have now won 6 times on the road. Last season, the team only won 5 times on the road. This improvement from last season is a clear indicator of the sides progress and rectification of their past failures.

Another of these past failures, which were arguably a big cause to Liverpool’s downfall in Rafa Benitez final term at Liverpool and Roy Hodgson’s tenure, was that the team conceded far too many goals.

But this season, things have been far different . Liverpool have the second best defensive record in the division, with only 21 goals being conceded. Not only this, Pepe Reina has the most clean sheets in the division with 10 clean sheets. This is exceptional. Liverpool have managed to immerse a very attacking philosophy with a system which does not leak many goals. The likes of Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Jose Enrique deserve huge amounts of praise for tightening Liverpool’s backline.

What’s intriguing about Liverpool’s defensive record is the five regular starters are mostly, Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique. 4 out of the 5 have been at the club for more than three years. Perhaps this could suggest, if the players are settled and have an understanding in the squad, they have a better chance of doing their job more effectively.

If one takes a look at Liverpool’s offensive unit, most of the attackers haven’t been at the club for long. Some a few months, while others such as Suarez and Carroll have been at the club for just over a year. It’s clear as the defensive record shows, time, patience and further hard work is needed in order for Liverpool to achieve their long term aims. Liverpool’s attack need to continue to forge an understanding between themselves.

Liverpool are half way there from being a side capable of challenging for honours. Defensively the team are sound as anything. While at home, Liverpool are unconquerable. And perhaps more crucially, the team are creating the chances and are winning away from home too.

But patience is key to Liverpool’s progress. The club is still building a team. The process of building a team can takes years. Just look at Man City. Even with a bottomless pit of cash, it took Man City 4 years to build a team capable of challenging for the Premier League.

Liverpool are still in the forming stage of their building process. But the foundations are in place to give Liverpool the potential to be a side who can seriously question teams in England and across Europe. Indeed, one has to see their route to the Carling Cup final as a sign of the team's clear progression.

It’s imperative, Liverpool continue to build and carry on the positive work from this season.
After all, the glass is not half empty. The glass is half full if anything.

Statistics from EPL Index. (Stats taken on 7/02/12)

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