Bus Depot Part Two: Liverpool’s Away Struggles With High Possession

Bus Depot Part Two: Liverpool’s Away Struggles With High Possession
February 21, 2017 Andrew Beasley
In Part Free, Statistical Analysis

By Andrew Beasley (TTT Subscriber ‘Beez’).

Liverpool have played twenty-eight away games under Jürgen Klopp in the Premier League and when you split the games into two groups based on how much possession the Reds have had, you see a stark difference in results.

When Liverpool have had under 60% possession, they have averaged 2.14 points per game (with a record of nine wins, three draws and two defeats), which is twice as productive as they have been when having 60%-or-more; just four wins and three draws from fourteen games for an average return of 1.07 points. As no team has averaged 2.14 points per game away from home in a Premier League season since 2012/13, you can see how good the Reds can be when at their best.

Further to this article looking at how Liverpool have fared against parked buses this season, it’s clear that most of the teams who Klopp’s men have logged at least 60% of the ball against fall into this category; their average league position (either at the end of last season, or at the time of writing for those in this campaign) is 13.3, and that includes Leicester City in their title- winning campaign.

It’s clear that the Reds have tried to get around low block defences by increasing their cross count. There is a reasonably strong correlation (0.78 on Spearman’s Rank correlation, where 1 would be perfectly correlated) between how much possession Klopp’s Liverpool have and how many (non-corner) crosses they attempt away from home, as we can see when the figures are plotted in a graph:

It makes sense that there would be a link between the two, as in order to be able to attempt more crosses you have to have more of the ball. The problem is that there is no link between trying lots of crosses and winning football matches; on the fifty-eight occasions that a team has attempted at least thirty crosses (excluding corners) in the Premier League since the start of last season, that side has only won six times and the heavy crossing clubs collectively average just 0.69 points per game (and only 0.58 points per game when doing so away from home). They don’t lose because they attempt lots of crosses of course, rather they try lots of crosses as they are often losing in the first place and trying to get around a deep defence who have something to protect.

In what I consider to be Klopp’s finest away league performance (the 4-1 dismantling of Manchester City at the Etihad), Liverpool only attempted four crosses aside from corners, and none at all until they were 3-0 up. There have also only been nine-or-fewer attempted crosses by the Reds at Arsenal, Spurs and United in 2016/17, in what have been three of the best away performances of this campaign.

But then none of those opponents park the bus (not at home maybe, but United did at Anfield – Ed), and as the previously mentioned article has discussed, that tactic has been Kryptonite to Klopp’s Liverpool. So where are the Reds going wrong?

Perhaps this all ultimately comes down to not taking chances and making costly errors. Of the ten away games that Liverpool have failed to win when having at least 60% of the ball, the Reds have made a defensive error and/or missed a big chance in eight of them, and clearly that will have made a huge difference as you can see in the notes here:

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