The Bib Theorists

Liverpool’s defence has been questioned by many as of late, as high profile errors have put constant pressure on the team’s attack.

In this piece, Ash Thornton-Jones takes a closer look at the goals The Reds have shipped this season.

While there has been little to worry about in an attacking sense for Liverpool this season, there is no denying that performances at the other end have been a constant cause for concern.

High-profile mistakes by Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel have been the most recent additions to a long list of costly errors for The Reds, whose defensive frailties seem to be showing no sign of changing in recent weeks.

This article aims to explore the extent of which individual errors are costing Brendan Rodgers’ side this term, by determining how many of the 35 goals conceded in the league this season are a result of individual error, and how many are a case of the other team simply being better than us.

To achieve this, each goal will be scrutinized and placed under one of the following categories:

Major Individual Error: A goal that occurred due to a major error by a Liverpool player, which left the opposition with an easy chance to score. ‘Well-you-might-aswell-have-just-kicked-the-ball-in-the-goal-yourself-esk types of errors. (EG: Conceding a penalty, massive howler by the goalkeeper, misplaced pass across back four, own goals.

Minor Individual Error: A goal that occurred due to a minor error by a Liverpool player, but one that still left the opposition with ‘work to do’. Could’ve been prevented with better defender. (EG: Poor defending vs an opposition player, lost marker, ‘the keeper should’ve done better’.

No Blame: A goal created by the opposition’s superior ability, rather than one which was forced by a defensive error, or any other goal that the defence was powerless to prevent. (EG: 40-yard screamer, deflected goals, and defensive mismatches).

To place a goal under each category is of course, a matter of opinion, but in many instances I gave the benefit of the doubt to the defending player.

I took into account which stage of the move the mistake took place, when deciding the severity of each mistake and to what extent it actually contributed to the goal occurring.

For example, for Charlie Adam’s goal at Stoke, although possession was lost due to a misplaced Jordan Henderson pass, I categorized the goal under ‘no blame’ due to the fact that strike itself wouldn’t have been defendable unless a defender surrendered his first most defensive duty, and also for the reason that the time between the mistake and goal was significant enough to allow the defence to recover and still attempt to defend any potential Stoke attack.

For other goals, I also took into account the marker/attacker combination, as the defending team can do little to prevent defensive mismatches worked by the opposition.

For example, although many would blame Kevin Mirallas’ goal at Goodison Park on Martin Skrtel, I deemed the goal as ‘no blame’ due to firstly the quality of the free-kick, and secondly the defensive mismatch that occurred as a result, enabling Romelu Lukaku to control and shield the ball from the far weaker Skrtel, who was from then on powerless to win the ball against a far stronger opponent without using illegal excessive force or help from a team mate.

However, despite these leniencies amongst my methods, the results were still painful:

Key: 1) Poor defending one-on-one. 2) Poor pass/clearance. 3) Lost marker. 4) Goalkeeping mistake. 5) Conceded penalty. 6) Own Goal.

A staggering 21 of the 35 league goals conceded this season by Liverpool were concluded to be a result of individual errors, with 8 of those being major errors that could’ve been easily avoided.

Points lost due to ’major’ errors account for three points lost, which if avoided would’ve left Liverpool just one point off leaders Chelsea, while a further 10 points have gone down the drain due to other minor errors.

But who’s to blame?

Simon Mignolet and surprisingly, Steven Gerrard lead the way with five errors each, while Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel prove good value for their calamitous reputations with three and two major errors respectively.

Interestingly, the Liverpool captain is also the player to have the most ‘different types’ of errors under his name, racking up four different types of defensive errors, whilst ‘lost markers’, ‘poor clearance/pass’ and ‘goalkeeping error’ are all tied for the most common error amongst the Reds back four.

Excluding attacking players, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Agger are the only players with more than 15 Premier League appearances to have not been individually responsible for conceding a goal this season, a statistic that suggests there is much hard work ahead to solidify any meaningful title-charge between now and May.

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