Sunday 6th April 2014
West Ham United vs Liverpool
I used to know a lot, but now I only really know one Liverpool fan. I saw him on Wednesday night, and, for some reason unbeknownst to me, he is really worried about this game, and genuinely thinks West Ham are going to win.
I don't know of many West Ham fans who share that viewpoint, but if we are to get something out of Sunday afternoon's game, there are few things we need to take into consideration.
Liverpool have been so good recently, that I could easily have picked Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling or Daniel Sturridge to talk about here. So many of their players have been in excellent form, that they have won their last eight league games on the trot, and haven't lost in the league in 2014.
But they do have one undoubted star player.
Despite all the biting, spitting and swearing, despite all the theatrics and suspensions, despite the racist comments, Luis Suarez is just about as good as it gets in football at the moment, certainly in the Premier League.
Since the start of last season, the Uruguayan has scored a quite remarkable 52 goals in 60 league appearances for Liverpool. After scoring 23 in 33 last season, it seemed that Suarez was as good as it got. But, somehow, he's gotten better.
Last year, he scored at a rate of one goal every 1.4 games. This year, 0.9. Last year, he managed 5 assists. This year, 11. That's about as unstoppable as it gets.
The images below show, firstly, the assists and chances created by Suarez this season (75 chances created in 27 games), and then the goals scored by the striker. If West Ham want anything from the game, we need to do what almost everyone has failed to do, and keep Suarez quiet.
How do you stop them?
The easy answer to this question is that you don't, really.
8 wins out of 8. 11 wins out of 13. Undefeated in 13. The only teams outside of the top 4 to have beaten Liverpool this season were Hull and Southampton, but both happened months ago.
For me, the best example to play against this Liverpool side, in this form, is the approach taken by West Bromwich Albion back at the start of February - the last time Liverpool failed to win in the league.
The key to Liverpool's game under Brendan Rodgers, is the ability to keep possession. When they have possession, they have players with the ability to either beat their marker (Suarez, Sterling, Sturridge) or to play a killer pass (Gerrard, Coutinho).
West Brom managed to combat this by refusing to give the Liverpool players any time on the ball. In total, the Baggies put in 50 attempted tackles, all over the park (see first image below). The majority were unsuccessful, but the constant pressure on the ball meant Liverpool were unable to hurt them as they have hurt other teams this season. On top of this, West Brom committed 13 fouls, again, all over the park - particularly in the midfield (second image below).
But West Brom didn't just sit back and defend. They also got forward with regularity, taking 12 attempts on goal (9 of which were from outside of the box - so you don't have to carve the Liverpool defence open to show intent).
Their attacking endeavours are best displayed by fullbacks Liam Ridgewell and Billy Jones' heat maps from the game. As you can see below, both fullbacks were very busy in the opposition half, venturing forward often, and both taking touches in and around the opposition penalty box.
By pressing the fullback high up the pitch and offering an attacking outlet. Liverpool's fullbacks were not able to push as high as they often like to. When teams sit back and defend deep against Liverpool, Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan get forward and join the midfield and fowards in attack. By giving them something to think about defensively, they are automatically less able to hurt you.
For all their excellence this year, Liverpool have one obvious Achilles Heel: their defence.
The Liverpool backline have shipped goals regularly this season, and always give the opposition a chance to score. But worse than this, almost the whole side have been guilty of concentration lapses gifting the opposition goals and chances.
Of the 20 regular players to feature for the Reds this campaign, only Philippe Coutinho, Iago Aspas, Aly Cissokho, Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling have yet to concede an error leading to an attempt on goal.
No player in the division has made more errors leading directly to a goal than Simon Mignolet this season (equal with John Ruddy, on 4), and between Liverpool's centre back collection of Kolo Touré, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho, there have been a combined 11 errors, three of which have led to goals being conceded.
There you have it. The key to beating Liverpool is to somehow keep their brilliant strikeforce under wraps, whilst also being adventurous enough to create chances and force mistakes.
It's that simple.
Head to Head
19% Head to Head Win % 53%
24 Won 67
35 Drawn 35
67 Lost 24
119 Goals Scored 212
212 Goals Conceded 119
W L L L W W Last 6 W W W W W W
8 Goals Scored 22
11 Goals Conceded 7
L W W W L W Home/Away Form D W L W W W
9 Goals Scored 17
7 Goals Conceded 8
Form Player (excl. GK)
(Last 6 League)
Andy Carroll - Luis Suarez
5 Appearances 6
414 Minutes Played 540
118 Sum Squawka Performance Score 290
24 Average Squawka Performance Rating 48
156 Passes Attempted 234
99 Completed 173
63% Success Rate 74%
4 Chances Created 14
1 Assists 3
13 Attempts on Goal 32
6 On Target 15
2 Goals 6
7 Take Ons Attempted 49
2 Successful Take Ons 17
29% Success Rate 35%
8 Tackles Made 10
3 Successful Tackles 6
38% Success Rate 60%
1 Interceptions 2
7 Clearances 2
1 Blocks 0
2 Defensive Actions Per Game 1
83 Aerial Duels 15
48 Won 2
58% Success Rate 13%
0 Defensive Errors 0
0 Leading to a Goal 0
07 December 2013
1-0 Guy Demel OG 42'
2-0 Mamadou Sakho 47'
2-1 Martin Skrtel OG 66'
3-1 Luis Suarez 81'
4-1 Luis Suarez 84'
4-2-3-1 Starting Formation 4-2-3-1
Jussi Jääskeläinen - Simon Mignolet
Guy Demel - Glen Johnson
James Collins - Martin Skrtel
(56') James Tomkins - Mamadou Sakho
George McCartney - Jon Flanagan (79')
Mark Noble - Steven Gerrad (56')
Mohamed Diamé - Joe Allen
Stewart Downing - Jordan Henderson
(82') Kevin Nolan - Philippe Coutinho
(84') Matt Jarvis - Raheem Sterling (72')
Modibo Maïga - Luis Suarez
Adrián - Brad Jones
(56') Joey O'Brien - Aly Cissokho
Jack Collison - Martin Kelly (79')
(84') Matthew Taylor - Luis Alberto
Alou Diarra - Victor Moses (72')
(45') Joe Cole - Lucas Leiva (56')
Carlton Cole - Iago Aspas
West Ham United: James Collins, Joey O'Bren, Marco Borriello
Liverpool: José Enrique
West Ham United: n/a
Opposition Last Time Out (League):
vs Tottenham Hotspur
Goals Scored: 4
Goals Conceded: 0
Starting Formation: 4-3-3
Glen Johnson Martin Skrtel Daniel Agger Jon Flanagan
Jordan Henderson Steven Gerrard (70') Philippe Coutinho (64')
Raheem Sterling (83') Daniel Sturridge Luis Suarez
Victor Moses (83')
Lucas Leiva (70')
Joe Allen (64')
Best Player: Martin Skrtel
Squawka Rating: 56
Worst Player: Victor Moses
Squawka Rating: 2
Top 5's (Min 5 Apps)
Kevin Nolan 7 - 29 Luis Suarez
Carlton Cole 6 - 20 Daniel Sturridge
Mohamed Diamé 4 - 11 Steven Gerrard
Joe Cole 3 - 6 Raheem Sterling
Ravel Morrison* 3 - 6 Martin Skrtel
Kevin Nolan 5 - 11 Luis Suarez
Andy Carroll 4 - 9 Steven Gerrard
Mark Noble 4 - 7 Daniel Sturridge
Matt Jarvis 3 - 7 Jordan Henderson
Stewart Downing 2 - 6 Philippe Coutinho
Mark Noble 83% - 92% Mamadou Sakho
Stewart Downing 81% - 91% Lucas Leiva
Joe Cole 79% - 91% Martin Skrtel
Kevin Nolan 79% - 88% Daniel Agger
Joey O'Brien 78% - 87% Joe Allen
Chances Created per game
Stewart Downing 1.8 - 2.8 Luis Suarez
Mark Noble 1.6 - 2 Steven Gerrard
Matt Jarvis 1 - 1.8 Philippe Coutinho
Kevin Nolan 0.9 - 1.8 Jordan Henderson
Andy Carroll 0.9 - 1.3 Raheem Sterling
Successful Dribbles per game
Mohamed Diamé 1.8 - 2.9 Luis Suarez
Stewart Downing 1.1 - 2.5 Raheem Sterling
Mark Noble 1.1 - 2 Philippe Coutinho
Guy Demel 0.9 - 1.6 Glen Johnson
Matt Jarvis 0.6 - 1.5 Daniel Sturridge
Tackles per game
Mark Noble 2.7 - 3.6 Jon Flanagan
Mohamed Diamé 2.2 - 3.6 Lucas Leiva
Kevin Nolan 2 - 2.8 Steven Gerrard
James Collins 1.8 - 2.6 Joe Allen
Matthew Taylor 1.8 - 2.5 Glen Johnson
Aerial Duels Won per game
Andy Carroll 8.2 - 3.5 Martin Skrtel
James Tomkins 4.2 - 2.5 Mamadou Sakho
James Collins 3.5 - 2.3 Daniel Agger
Carlton Cole 2.6 - 2.3 Lucas Leiva
Winston Reid 2.3 - 2.3 Kolo Touré
Sam Allardyce - Brendan Rodgers
41.8% Current Club Win % 54.9%
54 Won 50
32 Drawn 20
43 Lost 21
40.0% Managerial Career Win % 44.6%
348 Won 108
231 Drawn 62
290 Lost 72
7 Sides Managed 4
2 League Titles 0
0 Cup Wins 0
Preston North End First Managerial Role Watford
30/09/1992 Start Date 24/11/2008
21y 187d Experience 5y 132d