Comparing Defence and Attack – Klopp Against Rodgers

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A lot has been written over the past week or so about what Jurgen Klopp brings to Liverpool and how he compares to the recently departed, not from this Earth, Brendan Rodgers. Their styles have been looked at and analysed, lots of theories have been discussed about how the German messiah may evolve Liverpool into a gegenpressing machine and it’s been taken for granted, almost viewed as a given, that Jurgen Klopp will improve Liverpool. The man himself has acknowledged to be successful you have to build from the back.

Compare Defence and Attack - Klopp Rodgers

“You have to have a stable defence. That is the first thing, always. Our position is ok so we can start our development. If it’s possible let’s try to be the hardest team to beat in the world”

– Klopp when talking about the defence to the Daily Express.

At the end of the 2014/15 season I wrote a piece on the Liverpool defence (you can view that here), in the article I analysed Liverpool’s achilles heel and compared it to the rest of the Premier League. It was grim reading for Reds fans so the question many seem to be overlooking is Can Jurgen Klopp fix the Liverpool defence? He’s famed for his attack but it’s the defence that could be a hurdle in building a successful side. Was his BVB side defensively resilient? Did they score enough goals? How did Brendan Rodgers match up?

Jurgen Klopp’s time at Dortmund

Season Goals Scored Goals Conceded Clean Sheets
2008/09 60 37 13
2009/10 54 42 10
2010/11 67 22 13
2011/12 80 25 13
2012/13 81 42 8
2013/14 80 38 11
2014/15 47 42 6
Average 67 35 10

Brendan Rodgers’ time at Liverpool

Season Goals Scored Goals Conceded Clean Sheets
2012/13 71 43 16
2013/14 101 50 10
2014/15 52 48 14
Average 74 47 13

A few things to factor in when looking at these tables – In Germany the league season is 34 games and there is more data for Jurgen Klopp. The obvious statement to make here would be to say the 2013/14 season massively skews the goals scored average for Liverpool. Klopp’s Dortmund side averaged 1.97 goals scored per 90 so if you make the German league a 38 game season then BVB would average 74.88 goals.

Of the seven seasons at BVB, Klopp’s side only conceded more than 40 on three occasions and on two instances they didn’t concede over 30. Their average under Klopp is 35 goals conceded which works out at 1.02 goals conceded per 90. If you make the German league a 38 game season then working off this stat it means BVB would average 39 goals per season, 8 fewer then Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side despite averaging 3 less clean sheets per season.

How does this compare to those in the Premier League?

I just want to make it clear that I’m fully aware seasons in other countries aren’t transferable but if Klopp were to maintain his Dortmund average at Liverpool how would it compare to our rivals?

I looked back at previous seasons starting with 2010/11 and during this time a team with a goal difference of plus 36 (which is Klopp’s average) has always been enough for top 4 football. Of course it’s all dependant on how the goals are spread but if there isn’t an anomaly and you score 10 in a game then you’d be looking good for a top 4 finish.  

Of course it’s not that simple, the calibre of leagues differ so the quality of opposition isn’t the same so you can’t just compare stats like that, but on paper a Klopp side scores 1 more and concedes 8 less than a Brendan Rodgers side and as @Nazdagama told me the general rule of thumb is four goals less conceded is worth one league position higher. By that reckoning Klopp could potentially boost us two positions higher.

You also have to look at how different Brendan Rodgers’ 3 seasons are in terms of goals scored. It’s always one extreme to the next and there’s no base to judge it off.  You can see Klopp’s final season was a disaster in terms of goals scored but if you think of that as the outlier then he’s showed he can sustain a prolific and fluid attack as in three consecutive seasons he scored 80 or more, something Rodgers sadly never showed.

I also like to look at the resiliency of teams by removing the clean sheets from the assumptions. As stated above BVB average 10 clean sheets a season so I’d remove 10 games off of their season to make it a 24 league game season. This then means when they do concede the Germans average 1.45 goals against. I do the same for Liverpool, I make their season a 25 game season due to them averaging 13 clean sheets per season and it works out that on average they concede 1.88 goals.

Resiliency and Character

Brendan Rodgers often spoke about his players having character but I do wonder if his definition of character differs to mine. If you have a team of characters then in theory you’d imagine them to be difficult to break down and not to implode when they did concede, right?

Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool

Season Conceded 2 or more Conceded 3 or more
2012/13 15 4
2013/14 16 6
2014/15 13 7
2015/16 3 2

Jurgen Klopp’s BVB

Season Conceded 2 or more Conceded 3 or more
2008/09 9 6
2009/10 8 5
2010/11 1 0
2011/12 4 1
2012/13 10 5
2013/14 11 2
2014/15 16 1

The tables above are pretty self explanatory but if you’re still unsure they show how many times in a season the teams conceded 2 or more goals in a game and how often that then lead to 3 or more goals conceded in a game.

Ideally you’d not want to be conceding 2 goals but if you do the aim should be not to then concede more, it shows resiliency if you don’t crumble like that.

As you can see in the first table, Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers shipped goals. They conceded 2 or more in 47 of the 122 League games Brendan took charge of, that’s 38% of the games. It’s the third column that’s interesting to me. The trend shows the more time Rodgers had with the team the more games they conceded 3 or more in. It’s concerning when in a quarter of the games in a season you’re conceding 3 or more goals.

The second table shows the same stats for BVB and Klopp. They too conceded 2 or more on a fair few occasions throughout his spell there. As you’ll see though in his third and fourth season the Dortmund side didn’t concede many goals. It’s quite the achievement to go an entire season and only concede 2 or more on one occasion. What impressed me most though was despite conceding 2 or more 16 times in his final season at Dortmund the opposition only scored 3 or more on one occasion. That’s some resiliency right there. With Dortmund averaging 1.97 goals per game it meant they were always capable of winning games despite conceding 2.

The main priority was to keep it to two.

Expressing yourself

Brendan Rodgers’ attack.

Season Scored 2 or more Scored 3 or more
2012/13 18 12
2013/14 28 21
2014/15 16 5
2015/16 1 1

Jurgen Klopp’s attack.

Season Scored 2 or more Scored 3 or more
2008/09 14 10
2009/10 13 8
2010/11 22 13
2011/12 21 13
2012/13 23 15
2013/14 22 15
2014/15 16 10

Once again the tables are easy to read. It’s looking at how often the teams scored 2 or more and 3 or more each season.

As you can see in Brendan Rodgers’ first two seasons as Liverpool manager he had a good rate of progressing the 2 goals into 3 or more. In his first season 60% of the time they scored 2 they went on to score more and then in his second season that percentage rose to 75%. However you have to factor in the amount of goals Liverpool conceded, this figure was 1.23 goals per 90 meaning Liverpool generally needed to score 2 to get anything from the game.

The percentage of 2 goals progressing into more dropped in the 2014/15 season to 31% and they ended up conceding 3 or more on more occasions than they did scoring 3 or more.

Compare this to the BVB side under Klopp. Once again you should consider on average his side conceded 1.02 per game meaning usually a goal was enough for a point and 2 goals would secure a win on paper.

The percentages of Dortmund scoring the 2 goals and then going on to score more are as follows: 71%, 61%, 59%, 61%, 71%, 65%, 68% and 62%. The Dortmund goals conveyor belt didn’t get jammed at 2 goals. You couldn’t guarantee a goal but there was a high chance if they scored two they’d go on to score a third.

To answer the earlier questions, yes his side was resilient, yes they scored enough and Brendan Rodgers doesn’t really match up to the new Liverpool manager. There was potential but Klopp seen his through whereas Rodgers seemed to stall after the success of 2013/14.

Confidence breeds success.

If our favourite German is capable of transferring some German efficiency and resiliency into this Liverpool side then it’s very possible that Liverpool could challenge for the top 4. Shore up the defence and then let the attack express themselves. It sounds so simple. It won’t be though and it’s up to him to install some confidence and solidity into the Liverpool defence. If you start grabbing that third goal and putting teams to the sword it’ll give Liverpool that self belief. If there’s always hope of more goals then there’s always a possibility of winning, and for the past season and 8 games Liverpool have lacked that belief and that genuine confidence to finish teams off.

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