So it was first blood to Liverpool in the Carling Cup semi final after they edged, or rather squeezed past Manchester City, at the Etihad Stadium. If you’d offered Liverpool any type of lead going back to Anfield for the second leg I think they’d have more than taken it.
We, at Anfield Index, have once again analysed the game using the Performa Sports iPad App (as we have no access to Opta stats for Cup competitions) and all of the stats collated in this article have been done so manually using this application, therefore if you notice any discrepancies please do not hesitate to comment. For a review of the Performa Sports iPad App please click here: (Performa Sports iPad App Review).
First Half: Attack
The cliche “A game of two halves”, came into play again on Wednesday night as Liverpool dominated the first forty minutes of the game. All of Liverpool’s attempts at goal occurred in the first half. Not a single shot was taken in the second half. The shooting stats for Liverpool are displayed in the table below:
[table id=11 /]
Liverpool started the stronger of the two sides and Andy Carroll should have put Liverpool ahead early after he rolled Savic and got onto the end of Stewart Downing’s pass to be in on goal against Joe Hart. Joe won the battle, as he did last week, and once again thwarted the striker. The other Carroll attempt was from a cross on the right hand side which he headed just wide of the post. Apart from that Andy Carroll was pretty much isolated for the last fifty minutes of the game. We’ll touch more on this later.
Stewart Downing’s attempt resulted form a supremely accurate corner that landed directly on Stewart’s left foot. Downing was equally impressive in powerfully striking the ball towards the goal which was once again saved by the excellent Joe Hart.
Joe Hart was a very busy man in the opening quarter of the game as Steven Gerrard also tested him with a curling shot, destined for the bottom corner, until Hart touched it behind for a corner. Liverpool were all over City and to their credit should have been more than one up at the half way stage. The goal came from Steven Gerrard’s penalty. In fact it was Gerrard’s corner that Daniel Agger chested down and then flicked over Savic who caught Agger’s knee causing the Penalty to be awarded. Gerrard found the bottom corner with his spot kick even though Hart had guessed the right way.
That was all she wrote for Liverpool’s attacking prowess over the game. Before we move onto passing and tackling and the differences between the halves lets take a look at the crossing from the game. The majority of these crosses occurred in the first half with only Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson (remember his 60 odd yard run on the break to cross to the solitary Liverpool player in the box?) attempting a cross in the second half.
[table id=13 /]
Both of Gerrard’s successful crosses were from corners with one resulting in a penalty for the Reds and the other corner brought a good save from Hart. Steven was all over the first half and that’s when you need your big game players, Steven certainly delivered that night.
10 vs 11 for forty minutes?
No one has mentioned this or asked the question yet but was Liverpool’s dominance because they played against ten men for the first forty minutes? You have to say Ballotelli was a liability for City in that period of the game and he really didn’t offer them anything. So I ask again “Was Liverpool’s dominance part due to City having one less out ball in attack?”
On watching the match you’d think it was because Liverpool had got their away goal and that they were going to try to hold onto it. I do still believe that was the case however the statistics also show the trend that this started to happen once Samir Nasri was introduced whilst Mario was taken off. The stats show an *approximate 39% reduction in passes after Nasri’s introduction. Had Liverpool wanted to hold onto the lead why didn’t they “park” the proverbial bus after ten minutes when they took the lead? An interesting question, no? (Had to get the Rafa part in).
What I’m trying to say is that there is a direct correlation with the change that City made and maybe that is the reason why Liverpool had to revert to a more defensive plan for the remaining fifty minutes of the game. It was a mistake by Mancini not to play Nasri from the start and how thankful we are that he did!
Park the bus?
All of us watched the match, all of us saw the difference in the first half and the second half, ignoring the Nasri effect (he wasn’t really that effective apart from keeping the ball besides the worst sub in the match was Kolarov; that boy had a stinker!), let’s have a look at what the stats say with regards to the differences between the first and second half in terms of passes and tackling.
With City keeping the majority of possession you’d think Liverpool would make a lot more challenges/tackles/duels whatever you want to call them however the stats say differently. It looks as though Liverpool were challenging City slightly less, maybe to not give away too many free kicks. The aerial duel won column is interesting as this was the only time we performed better than the first half however there is a reason for this also. Andy Carroll was the reason. He won 11 out of 12 aerial duels in the second half and the majority were in the Manchester City half flicking on into space where there were no Liverpool runners for him at all. All alone upfront the striker kept his part of the bargain and tried his best to win his duels, all he required was a willing runner. Even if there was one willing runner each time, I’m sure it would have resulted in one or two chances out of the 11 duels Carroll won in the second half.
We were expecting a lot more challenges whilst being on the back foot but it looks as though Liverpool allowed City to keep the ball and not make any unnecessary challenges. Also the majority of the aerial duels in the second half, as mentioned above, were by Andy Carroll in the opposing half therefore defensively Liverpool didn’t have much defending to do in the air. It’s what one would expect with City preferring a pass and move game rather than the long ball into the box.
For those interested in full player stats please click on the thumbnail images below and then we’ll continue with this section.
So the main statistical attribute that shows us that Liverpool FC “parked the bus” was the reduction in the number of passes in both halves. We’ve already given you a feeler as to how many passes were passed in either half with 202 attempted in the first half and only 124 attempted. Take a look at the following line chart which really shows the reduction of passes in the second half:
In some cases it was a remarkable drop. For example, after giving a phenomenal performance in the first half, Steven Gerrard’s pass attempts drop by almost 67% in the second half. That is pretty alarming. In fact on Pepe Reina attempted more passes which is rather obvious as he was involved much more in the second half. Apart from that there’s a pretty large drop for every player.
Defensive Midfielder Factor?
For me the issue lies with the lack of a defensive midfielder in the second half. The way Liverpool are set up this year the defensive midfielder role is THE pivotal role for us. You can log into EPLIndex.com’s Opta Stats Centre and you’ll find that it’s either Lucas or Jay Spearing that are bossing Liverpool FC’s passing in the games that they have played.
Whilst Jay Spearing was on the pitch he had already attempted 15 passes and completed all of them achieving 100% Pass Accuracy. He only played a quarter of the game. Imagine if he’d played the full game he’d be nearing 60 passes which would be almost double the rest of the side.
It’s more of an observation I’ve made really, for example the 0-0 draw at Anfield with Stoke City. Liverpool FC adopted a 5-4-1 or a 3-5-1-1 formation at home whereas they should be going with a far more attacking formation. The absence of a defensive midfielder throws Liverpool’s plans and they have struggled without one since Lucas and Spearing have been unavailable. Without Lucas, especially, Liverpool FC have lost their enforcer in front of the defence. Although the defence has been very strong this season Liverpool have looked quite weak in the middle of the park when there has been no defensive midfielder. Unfortunately Charlie Adam & Jordan Henderson are not defensive midfielders, they prefer to be on the front foot and are not naturally defensive readers of the game.
Check out the passing statistics in the table below.
Steven Gerrard made the most passes for Liverpool with 35 (pretty low for a full game) with an 80% success rate. Out of the players that played the full game, Daniel Agger managed a Pass Accuracy of 95.45%. That is pretty impressive from Agger. Andy Carroll had the worst pass ration with 64.71% and he also made the least passes too.
[table id=7 /]
At the end of the day all that matters is that Liverpool FC won the first leg by one goal to nil and that they have done half of the job. However we all know that taking any team lightly in a semi-final would be dangerous, especially the league leaders. Looking at the result positively Liverpool have done half of the job, we’re looking forward to the second leg and hopeful of a positive result!
Please do leave a comment if you’ve enjoyed the article as we’ve spent most of the weekend collating stats and writing the article!