Saturday 24 March 2018

Data which proves why Brendan Rodgers was no longer the right man for Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers' attacking plan wasn't working
Brendan Rodgers' attacking plan wasn't working

Alistair Tweedale

Liverpool’s fans had been losing patience for a while, and the board caved on Sunday when it was announced that Brendan Rodgers had been sacked as manager of the club. Results and performances of late had done little to convince that this season would go on to be any different from last.

Rodgers has spent £291 million on new players since moving to Anfield and had very limited success with the vast majority of those signings. Granted, his job has been made more difficult by losing his best player two summers running – Luis Suarez in 2014 and then Raheem Sterling this year – but the lack of direction at the club is still highly concerning.

Philosophy was a word at the heart of Rodgers’s work: he liked his team to keep the ball and progress with it on the floor, while high-intensity pressing was also paramount. These were prevalent features of Liverpool’s title challenge the season before last, but Rodgers’ team of this campaign have made a departure from their previous approach.

Their possession share is down at 52.2 per cent – by far their lowest under Rodgers – as they attempted to change to a more direct brand of football with Christian Benteke up front.

They did not have much luck playing in that way, though, only really impressing for one half at Arsenal in their opening eight matches. Then, since the Belgian got injured Rodgers has been left in a similar predicament to last season; unable to put his finger on how to get the best out of this group of players.

 This was obvious in the draw with rivals Everton on Sunday, in which Rodgers reverted to the 3-4-3 formation that provided the platform for their change in fortunes last season. He was hoping the same trick would work twice, but instead it merely cemented the view that he was out of new ideas and ultimately proved his downfall.

Shot conversion rate - Premier League 2015/16

Team Shot Conversion Rate

Watford 8.57

Liverpool 9.76

West Bromwich Albion 9.84

Tottenham Hotspur 11.96

Newcastle United 12

Arsenal 12.26

Southampton 12.26

Aston Villa 12.5

Stoke City 12.5

Swansea City 12.82

Crystal Palace 13.25

Norwich City 14.12

Chelsea 14.29

Sunderland 15.38

Bournemouth 15.63

Manchester City 16.67

Everton 18.46

Manchester United 19.35

Leicester City 19.54

West Ham United 22.67

Liverpool had 49.2 per cent of the ball and had 13 shots but their goal came from a set-piece and was rather more the result of poor defending than their own ingenuity. They barely out-witted Everton all afternoon.

Once again they failed to score more than once; the 3-2 win over Aston Villa last week - in which they rediscovered a little of their former verve - remains the only game this season in which they have found the net twice or more. At Goodison Park, Daniel Sturridge, plainly their most obvious goal threat touched the ball only twice in the opposition area, as the below touch map shows. Rarely did it look like there was an obvious game plan to get Sturridge in on goal.

Daniel Sturridge's touch map vs Everton  Photo: OPTA

Only Newcastle, Watford and West Brom have scored fewer goals this season than Liverpool's eight, scoring with just 9.8 per cent of their attempts - the second worst conversion rate in the Premier League.

In being taken to penalties by League Two side Carlisle a fortnight ago they scored only one of 47 shots on goal. It was not quite their first team out, but still there was an air of the players not knowing how to go about seeing off inferior opposition. For a manager of Rodgers’ tactical tendencies the extent to which this was apparent will have rung alarm bells in the Liverpool hierarchy.

Convincing performances were all too rare in the last 12 months and it was no longer at all clear what Rodgers was aiming for. Nor was it palpable that he had any idea how to solve the club’s continued problems on the field.

The time has come for Liverpool to try and rediscover their identity, and Rodgers was patently not the man for the job.

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