These have been tough months for Liverpool’s grand old city, the men in red first lost a Premier League title and then the waterfront was stripped of its UNESCO World Heritage status.
The cause of this latest bitter blow could be boiled down to a rush to regeneration. The cultural blazers of the United Nations ultimately stood at odds with city leaders for the merit of completing an elegant Victorian window to the world with gleaming towers, sharp-angled business premises, and apartment buildings. There is also an arena and, perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back, a sparkling new stadium for Everton.
Goodison is on his way, and perhaps UNESCO is privately shocked to see another of Archibald Leitch’s greatest hits biting the dust.
What went wrong at Liverpool Football Club is far from easily decipherable, and if we were to ignore the wild journey that led to where they are today, perhaps there would be no cause for concern in the first place.
Third in the Premier League last season means the Champions League awaits the Reds in 2021-22. And third place after first in 2020-21 doesn’t seem like the worst of results, a pretty solid follow-up season, if just a little deflating. The owners of the Fenway Sports Group will know that another shipment of UEFA coins is on its way to the bank’s vaults, and Jurgen Klopp has been able to make a couple of changes to his squad, with more certainly on the way.
Yet with four weeks of last season remaining, Klopp’s team was struggling in sixth place, the manager showing signs of pressure as his team scrambled for form that would hide the imperfections of the previous eight months.
Ahead of the new campaign, Stats Perform examines how Liverpool, with a long-awaited league long out of their system, could evolve as they attempt to bridge the gap with giants Manchester, United and City.
DANGER RED OR RED HERRING?
With a little hindsight, could the drama surrounding Liverpool last season have been overstated? Anyone can lose 7-2 at Aston Villa, right?
And six consecutive home losses … well, the best teams happen every now and then, right? Were three of those Anfield raiders – Brighton and Hove Albion, Burnley and Fulham – better sides than our memories remember?
Wasn’t Everton supposed to win on the other side of Stanley Park?
And above all, didn’t Klopp seem to have essentially had the situation under control?
Sorry to run into all 2 Unlimited, but no, no, no-no, no-no.
Liverpool are coming out of a season they saved too easily when their four closest rivals said goodbye. Wins over Southampton, Manchester United, West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace in May covered some pretty substantial cracks.
“In the most difficult moments you can show more and we have really stood together all the time,” said Klopp.
WHAT MADE THE ALMOST INVINCIBLE SO FALLIBLE?
Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip’s injuries are an obvious but credible answer here. Klopp was criticized for not having first-class support for his reserve defenders, and when captain Jordan Henderson sustained a groin injury in Everton’s February defeat, his season was also over.
A strong spine turned, if not jelly, into something suddenly highly penetrable.
Opta data shows Liverpool gained 19 points from a losing position last season, just as they did when they secured their first Premier League title in the 2019-20 campaign.
It seems admirable, and only Manchester United (31 points) and Leicester City (20) have recovered as many from the deficit, but Liverpool also lost 15 points from a winning position, when in the year of the title they slipped away. only five in such a circumstance.
In the Premier League, Liverpool players were involved in 3,736 duels in 2019-20 and almost identical 3,729 in 2020-21. (Opta defines a duel as a 50-50 contest for the ball.)
But significantly, Liverpool’s success rate in such duels dropped from 50.55 percent in the winning campaign to 47.78 percent.
And if that sounds like a small drop, consider that only two teams in the past two Premier League seasons have won a lower percentage of duels in one season: Bournemouth in 2019-20 with a rate of 47.69% and Sheffield United with 46. , 55 in 2020-21. Both sides were demoted.
It is significant and Klopp will want the pendulum to return above 50% in the new campaign. The marginal gains in this industry can have a huge impact.
Mid-table Everton (52.92 percent) and Aston Villa (52.58) led the way last season, and both had moments when they threatened to snatch a spot in the top six, while the Manchester City champions were third, followed by Leicester and Manchester United.
Of the defenders, only Leeds United’s Luke Ayling (279) recovered more than Andy Robertson (229) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (258).
Here, that’s a good thing.
Less well: among the defenders who have played at least five games, Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold (25.49 times), Neco Williams (23.59) and Robertson (20.39) finished first, second and fourth on the list of Premier League players who have lost the ball most often for 90 minutes.
Rhys Williams, who like the namesake Neco had more opportunities in the top flight than he could have anticipated, achieved the highest Premier League duel success rate of all defenders (76% of nine appearances; 38 out of 50 duels).
It looks promising for the future, and Nat Phillips was another substitute for the game, winning a defender’s 7.92 league duels every 90 minutes.
Phillips finished sixth on the list of the most duels played in 90 minutes even by a defender (13.05), and here is a statistic that will not have surpassed Klopp: Liverpool won 11, drew two and lost only two games when Phillips started in the Premier League.
That’s a whopping 73.3 percent win rate, and they went 9-7-7 without him (39.1 percent win rate).
The 24-year-old was Reds player of the month in March, and perhaps Klopp would do well to keep him in the first team, even with Matip, Van Dijk and Gomez returning for the new term.
A SOFT CENTER?
Thiago Alcantara’s first season with Liverpool proved largely anti-climate and Klopp will expect more from the Spaniard in the new season. Who knows, with Georginio Wijnaldum now at Paris Saint-Germain, Klopp needs to find something more in midfield, which has begun to increasingly resemble the team’s problem area.
Liverpool were hampered last season by the loss of Fabinho in a central defensive role, and it seems imperative that Klopp make an alliance between the Brazilian and Thiago in the coming months.
In the 21 games in which skipper Henderson participated, he made 8.86 ball steals for 90 minutes, which led him to fifth place overall among midfielders and first place among the stars of the team’s engine room.
Henderson, in the role of destroyer and creator, has also attempted the most through passes of any Liverpool midfielder (averaging 0.21 such passes every 90 minutes) and Klopp must wish for a true playmaker who could come close to numbers posted by players such as Kevin of City De Bruyne (0.58 every 90 minutes), Bruno Fernandes of United (0.35) or even James Rodriguez of Everton (0.41).
Liverpool did not have a midfielder in the top 20 for assists in action on action every 90 minutes among those who had played at least 15 games, with Curtis Jones having 0.15 out of 90 to sit tied for 21st place on the list. When the assists of the flying full-backs run out, as they did in the league last season, Liverpool need to do better in midfield.
Liverpool had greater chances – where a player should reasonably be expected to score – than any other Premier League team last season. Being more clinical could have made it a very different season.
However, they only scored 37.61% of those 109 opportunities. Pep Guardiola’s City blocked 44.34 percent of their 106 big chances and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United scored 45.74 percent of their 94 such chances. The Manchester giants regularly finished first and second.
Liverpool have also had more passes in the last third (2,508) than any other team, so clearly they are doing very well, but when their players see the whites of the opposing goalkeeper’s eyes, their goal wasn’t as accurate as it would be. the ideal.
Their overall shot conversion rate dropped from 14.38 to 11.18, from the league’s highest rate in 2019-20 to just 11th in the 2020-21 campaign.
Mohamed Salah has scored 22 times with a 17.46 percent shot conversion rate, and Klopp would settle for a repeat in 2021-22, but Sadio Mane’s form in front of goal left a lot to be desired in the league.
Mane’s conversion rate dropped from an impressive 23.38 percent in the title campaign to a disappointing 11.7 percent in the hangover season, with Diogo Jota adding to Liverpool’s forward ranks not showing. perhaps the spur to the existing strike force that the manager might have expected.
Roberto Firmino’s 9.09 percent goal rate was tolerable in the league year because so many others scored goals, but with those drying up in comparison in 2020-21, nine goals from a conversion rate of 10.84 was not what Dr. Klopp ordered.
BETTER CALL SAUL?
Like almost all clubs, Liverpool have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic and it remains to be seen if there is a significant transfer of Klopp, who has already invested in the promising young French defender Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig.
Atletico Madrid’s La Liga-winning midfielder Saul Niguez is a rumored goal and would be a worthwhile acquisition, but the Spaniard has also been linked to United.
If Saul were to go to Old Trafford, joining Jadon Sancho and the expected addition of Raphael Varane to Solskjaer’s ranks, then the team in red challenging City for supremacy next season would seem more likely to be the 20-fold record. champion of England, and not Liverpool.
But the numbers here tell us that Klopp’s side are perhaps not as far from City as the 17-point gap from last season might suggest.
Much like a rock star’s guitar, Klopp’s heavy metal football only really works when the tuning is right and when the whole band is in sync.
Last season, Liverpool without Van Dijk was like Black Sabbath without Ozzy, Motorhead without Lemmy. It wasn’t themselves, but they got away with it.
With the Dutch talismanic and the Henderson inspiring for their injuries, there’s just that annoying feeling that those big treasured hits might have another airing.