This season, Liverpool have been struggling with goals, both for and against. After 26 games, the Reds have conceded 36 goals – the sixth highest in the Premier League – and host a +2 goal difference, which was hugely improved by their 6-0 smashing of rock-bottom Aston Villa. Despite the inordinate amount of goals conceded, the defence is actually holding up pretty well.
High ranking defence
Using statistics calculated by Who Scored, Liverpool rank first in the Premier League for tackles per game (23.3); they allow the second-least shots against (9.7); they’re second for defensive offside decisions won per game (2.7) and they block the second-highest number of passes per game (10.1).
In terms of possession, the Anfield residents are third in terms of average possession percentage (55.2) and they win the fourth-most aerials per game (18.8).
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In terms of putting in tackles and holding off the opposition, Liverpool’s defence has been top-notch. However, there are some areas that need improvement.
Liverpool may be able to hold possession and contain their opponent well, but when it comes to reclaiming possession they seem to struggle - the Reds rank as the third-worst team for their average interceptions per game (14.2).
Having said this, Liverpool have enforced more closing down tactics when not in possession; instead of cutting out a pass, they’ll put the man under pressure. But, they commit the joint tenth-most fouls per game (10.8). So either Liverpool need to look to intercept passes more, or try a less aggressive closing down policy.
The defence’s lack of commitment is highlighted by their slender numbers for blocked shots and crosses. Liverpool account for the third-fewest blocked shots per game (2.5) in the Prem, and the fourth-fewest blocked crosses per game (2.5).
According to Squawka, Simon Mignolet and Adam Bogdan have manned the Liverpool net for the 26 games – Bogdan with a solo appearance – and have combined for 36 saves and 36 goals conceded, which averages to them either conceding or saving 2.76 shots per game. So Liverpool’s 2.5 blocked shots per game accounts for them cutting out nearly half of the goalie’s potential workload – assuming that the shots blocked were goal bound, but of course there’s no way to really know.
Liverpool’s top defensemen
Liverpool’s Who Scored statistics show that their leading tackler, by quite some way, is defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva, who averages a whopping 4.6 tackles per game – which is the highest average of any Premier League player, and 0.4 more than N’Golo Kante of Leicester City.
However, as you will have seen when watching Liverpool, the Brazilian midfielder is not a great tackler. This is reflected by his 2.1 fouls per game – ranking him second overall, only to Manchester United’s Morgan Schneiderlin who averages 0.1 more fouls per contest.
In terms of blocks, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho – both on 17 appearances so far – lead Liverpool with an average of just 0.8 blocks per game. The pair also top the team on clearances, with the Slovakian’s 6.3 being just 0.1 more than the Frenchman.
Unfortunately, the player who averaged some of the team’s best defensive statistics was ruled out for the season early on, after sustaining an ACL injury. 18-year-old Joe Gomez's per-game averages were pretty solid: 0.6 blocks, 3.6 clearances, 2.4 interceptions and 2.4 tackles. As he only played five games, it is questionable as to whether or not the youngster would have been able to keep these numbers consistent.
Not a bad back-line
Liverpool’s defence, as a whole, hasn’t performed too badly. They need to up their commitment when it comes to blocking, but when Skrtel returns – which is at the end of this month according to Physio Room – the line will be much stronger.
The back-line has been quite suspect at times this season – such as in the 5-4 win over Norwich – but the real issue when it comes to Liverpool conceding goals is their goalkeeper. Despite his eight clean sheets this season, Mignolet averages a pitiful 1.06 saves per goal conceded; and 33 goals against in the 17 games that he did not shutout the opposition.
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