Embarrassing Analysis of Liverpool’s Latest Win Has Missed The Point Entirely

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Liverpool’s Remarkable Attacking Display

Writing in the aftermath of Liverpool’s 4-2 victory over Newcastle, it was tempting to ease into 2024 work-wise gently by simply listing all the stats, facts and trivia which the Reds’ remarkable attacking display created. Be honest, you’d love to read it, wouldn’t you?

While that would be fun for all concerned, we’d be wasting an opportunity to pick apart one of the most remarkable games of football any of us can remember. There are so many interesting topics one could draw from the match to cover here. It needs a TED Talk, not a mere article.

Standout Performances and Key Moments

Luis Díaz looked better than he has in any match since suffering a bad injury last season. Trent Alexander-Arnold almost scored a goal which would’ve given Alejandro Garnacho a run for his money in the goal of the season conversation.

Unsung heroes like Wataru Endō and Joe Gomez delivered fine performances, while Curtis Jones’ contribution to the counter press was rightly highlighted by Jürgen Klopp in his post-match press conference.

Image: IMAGO

Two substitutes made goal contributions to keep up a pattern of the season and where do you even begin with Mohamed Salah? Any or all of these subjects were ripe for post-match analysis and evaluation.

The Controversial Penalties and Media Reactions

So what has dominated the narrative since even before the match ended? The foul on Diogo Jota for the second penalty. Had that moment not happened, chances are the media would still be discussing the foul on Díaz for the first penalty.

I always assumed Alan Shearer and Ian Wright knew a bit about playing as a forward. They scored enough goals between them, after all. “What a great dive that is,” Big Al tweeted with three laughing emojis after Jota had been fouled by the Newcastle goalkeeper, Martin Dúbravka, who himself confirmed after the match that the spot kick was correctly awarded.

“Would rather go down for a penalty than put the ball in an empty net! Seen it all!” posted Wrighty, shortly afterwards. The icing on the cake was Shearer subtweeting that with “Fuxking embarrassing.”

You’d think someone with columns for the likes of the BBC and The Athletic could spell simple words like ‘fucking’, wouldn’t you?

If we want to talk about things that were embarrassing, Alan, how about Newcastle’s defensive efforts in allowing the highest Premier League xG since records began? Gary Neville spewing his pre-written narratives across commentary? Anthony Taylor awarding the Reds two penalties and yet still delivering a performance so bewildering that it raised the ire of Liverpool supporters? Where do we start?

Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of the fallout has been that strikers of the calibre of Shearer and Wright thought that Jota would rather win a penalty than roll the ball into an empty net. You want to know how much Diogo likes scoring? He has a better minutes per non-penalty goal rate (with one scored every 154) for Liverpool than Salah (156), and that’s despite going for over a year without scoring for the club. An in-form Jota has few peers in the Premier League and that’s because he puts the ball in the net at every available opportunity.

Liverpool’s Penalty Statistics and Comparisons

The win over Newcastle was the sixth match under Klopp in which the Reds have been awarded two penalties. However, it was just the second where both were given for fouls rather than one being for a handball offence, it was truly rare.

Photo: IMAGO

(The other was the 5-1 win over Arsenal almost exactly five years earlier. You remember the one, Roberto Firmino sending their entire defence for the Echo before scoring).

It means Liverpool have received six penalties in the 2023/24 Premier League, the same tally as the Gunners and one behind Chelsea. For many rival fans, these numbers allied to what they perceive to be questionable decisions last Monday mean the PGMOL is obviously trying to engineer match outcomes so the Reds become champions. Never mind that LiVARpool sit bottom of the VAR overturn table for this season, the spot kicks are evidence of a grand conspiracy apparently.

It’s fuxking embarrassing that people think that. Not least because the next time Manchester City receives a soft spot kick, the spotlight will turn towards questioning their good fortune, and so on. If you want to assess who does or doesn’t receive their fair share of penalties, you need to take a much bigger sample. You also need to look at something more scientific than whether you think Liverpool’s most potent goal scorer dived rather than bag a simple goal after being caught by a goalkeeper. Touches in the box seems a reasonable way of assessing penalty win rates, so let’s take a look at FBRef’s data.

In 2023/24, Liverpool has had 111 touches in opposition penalty areas for each penalty it has won, which is a very favourable rate as the above table illustrates. It won’t have escaped your attention that the Reds are joint-bottom across the last six-and-a-half years though.

In only one of the previous six campaigns did Klopp’s side receive penalties at an above average rate and that – in 2018/19 – was only one every 160 box touches versus one per 165. As an example of a counterpoint, for three whole seasons between the summers of 2018 and 2021, Manchester United got a spot kick for every 72 touches they had in opposition boxes. They countered well at pace under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but you’re telling me they deserved a penalty almost three times as often as peak Liverpool with Firmino, Salah and Sadio Mané up front?

I realise I started this by talking about the madness of focussing on the penalty decision, only to then post penalty decision stats. But these narratives fester if they’re not challenged and it’s embarrassing that a very-much-above-average-at-attacking Liverpool side under Klopp is only now finally starting to get penalties at something like the rate it should. Games like the match against Newcastle have been far too long in coming.

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  1. The only way is down! You ain’t winning the league! Toon beat Sheffield United 8-0, we were your Sheffield united for this season! Struggled against Manure and Burnley your bad run is due!


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