Liverpool’s passing style leaves them vulnerable at the back

Sakho Skrtel Negredo REUTERS Phil Noble
Photo by REUTERS/Phil Noble

I recently wrote an article evaluating Martin Skrtel and his mixed fortunes under Brendan Rodgers’ tenure, in which I promised a follow-up on Liverpool’s other defensive options. With Liverpool’s defence under the microscope at the minute, now seems a good time to revisit Skrtel’s form since my last article, as well as Liverpool’s defence as a whole.

Liverpool has conceded 35 goals this season; of the teams in the top half of the table, only Newcastle has conceded more. Sunday’s rollercoaster ride against Swansea was the fourth time this season Liverpool has conceded 3 goals in a game; however their undisputed attacking prowess this season means they actually won 7 points from those four games. At the time of my previous article, Liverpool had played 16 matches, conceding 18 goals (1.13 per game) and keeping 5 clean sheets, and in the time since then they have played 11 matches, conceded 17 (1.55 per game) and kept only 3 clean sheets. Liverpool’s goals conceded per game are in fact starting to creep up, which will be of a concern to Brendan Rodgers, who would have hoped to have resolved any defensive frailties by this point in the season.

Far from being resolved though, Liverpool’s woes seem to be worsening. Rodgers described some of Liverpool’s defensive decision-making this season as “uncoachable”, more than likely referring to some of the basic errors committed by his players throughout the season, which have cost the club potentially vital points. One of the conclusions of my previous article was that Rodgers is not a man who is likely to accept many errors being made, after Skrtel’s error prone season in 12/13 caused him to be dropped from the team despite impressive defensive statistics, so the table below will not make for happy reading for the Liverpool boss:

Premier League Team Errors

Error Leading To Goal
Error Leading To Shot
Total Errors
Norwich City91423
Stoke City91221
Manchester City91120
Swansea City61218
Tottenham Hotspur10717

It is interesting to note the two most error prone teams are Liverpool and Arsenal. This suggests that the style favoured by Wenger and Rodgers, i.e. playing the short, passing game with fewer long balls out of defence, trying to build attacks from the back, comes with its own inherent risks. This theory is backed up by the fact that, after Norwich and Stoke, Manchester City are next in line, suggesting that they, along with Liverpool and Arsenal, suffer errors as a result of their adventurous play, actually conceding more goals (9) than Liverpool (8) directly as a result of an error.

As for individual errors, it comes as no surprise that the top 5 players in the “Errors Leading to Goal” category are all goalkeepers, with Liverpool’s Mignolet sharing the lead with Norwich’s Ruddy with 4 errors each leading directly to goals. Kolo Toure, after his moments of madness in back to back away games, now has 2 errors leading to goals, the 2nd highest of any outfield player in the Premier League, while Skrtel and Henderson have each been guilty of one error leading to a goal. Liverpool though should probably feel quite relieved to have conceded only 8 through their carelessness, after conceding a further 25 shots from errors, more than twice as many as anyone else with the exceptions of Arsenal and Norwich. Players like Gerrard (4), Agger (3) and a host of others with 2 errors leading to shots may count themselves somewhat lucky not to have given away any goals.

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