As I said in the season three post, I’m doing very little major transfer business at this point. I’ve got most of the team in order and I’m just looking to improve or replace players.
I only had one area that I wanted to improve this summer and that was in central defence. Sakho had a bit of a time of it last year. He wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but when things went wrong, he seemed to be in the thick of it. I narrowed it down to two players, Eric Dier and Raphaël Varane. I was going to be happy with either as both had performed to a high level over the past few seasons. Varane was certainly the more attractive option, but Madrid were wanting a very unrealistic amount of money. So, I coughed up (a crazy) £40m for Dier. Seems like silly money, but his ability to play at right back as well as defensive midfield, probably saved us a few pound.
We had no other first team signings in the summer. We picked up a couple of highly rated youngsters who’ll work with the U18’s. They were chosen by my Head Of Youth Development and they fit the style of player I want for the squad. I signed Maxi Romero in January as I had no real backup for Gabigol with Sturridge being injured. I also thought that I could use Gabigol in left midfield if I required, so the extra striker would be useful.
I’m always on the look out for a great player though, as we headed towards November, I found this young chap.
He was 17 when I found him. I see him as our long term replacement for Coutinho. His passing and decision making are a delight. Along with his work rate. If I pair him up with the right tutor, most likely Coutinho, then I can see him being very exciting.
Of course, there’s always going to be a couple of players that leave. Nikola Vlasic was interesting a lot of clubs. I was keen to keep him, but the bids that were coming in were high, so I decided to accept and sell him on. I received £29m + £6.5m in clauses from Valencia. A £29m profit. Ka ching!
Jon Flanagan also wanted out and with me signing Dier, off he went. Gladbach was the destination and £4.1m was the fee.
When January came round, I had a very big decision to make. Real Madrid came calling for Zivkovic. I haggled and £55m (+£10m and 20% of any future sale) was the final offer. I had no real reason to sell him, he was in good form, although just recovering from injury. Lincoln and Firmino were on fire though. I looked for a replacement, but only found one man, but he was unwilling to join. So I made a cup of tea, accepted the offer and that was that. Off he went. Lincoln would now be my main left sided midfielder.
I don’t want to write too much about the season as I’m going to focus a bit more on statistics this time. We started off the season by picking up the Community Shield in a 3-1 victory over Manchester City. The League kicked off with a 1-0 victory, also over Manchester City. It was mid-October by the time we conceded our first goal against Crystal Palace.
We were far better defensively this year. In the games that we drew in the league, only once did we concede a late goal. Our defeats were frustrating as I felt we could have won at least one of them, but we can’t win everything. We won the league on the last day. It was very close between us an City, but they lost their final game as we won ours. In similar fashion to us last season, draws were their big downfall.
We also picked up the Capital One Cup, disposing of Birmingham, Nottingham Forest, Chelsea and Watford before beating Man Utd 1-0 in the final. A headed goal from Lewis Cook did the business.
The FA Cup was a bit of a disaster as we were knocked out by Burnley in the fourth round.
The Champions League wasn’t terrible. We came second in our group behind Paris Saint-Germain. That saw us draw Bayern in the knockout round. We won the first leg 3-1 at Anfield before two goals in the first 6minutes put them through on away goals. Bummer!
Three trophies was pretty good though. Only the Champions League evades me at this point!
I don’t usually go into statistics too much as it can be a snooze fest, but I thought this season I’d take a little look. They obviously don’t give the whole picture, but there’s some info in there that can be interesting.
As you can see from the table above, we conceded the fewest with 17 goals. That’s probably up there with my lowest in the Premier League. Delighted with that and something I was trying to focus on.
We were also the highest scoring team in the league. Not earth shattering, but efficient at least. We didn’t nail Liverpool 13/14 levels of goals, but nobody really has in the past few seasons.
In 2013/14, Liverpool were really dangerous from set pieces. I think Skrtel scored 7 or 8 that year, which is probably why people think he’s amazing. So I decided to look and see how we did. In all competitions, we managed.
- 14 goals from corner kicks
- 5 goals from direct free kicks
- 11 goals from indirect free kicks
- 2/2 penalties
I’m quite happy with those numbers. I didn’t actually look at my set piece setup that extensively, just using a setup I’ve used on other saves. 32 goals in total from set piece situations probably makes us one of those dangerous set piece teams? I’ve actually just realised that I didn’t even choose a corner taker, whoops!
Looking at that number as part of the bigger picture. We scored 110 goals in 55 games, so that means almost a third of our goals came from set pieces. I’ll now say that yes, we’re a danger from set pieces!
We only conceded a further 10 goals in those 17 games keeping another 9 clean sheets.
In the league we were completed 1409 tackles (6th) which was 74% (10th) of those attempted. We had the 309 shots on target (1st) and 44% (3rd) of them hit the target. I’m sure someone said that the Premier League average is something around 35%, but I’m not totally sure about that.
Looking at our goal and assist contribution from the team makes for interesting reading this season.
Firmino and Barbosa had their most efficient seasons in front of goal with 18 and 26. Lincoln also managed 15 in his first full season with us. The likes of Coutinho, Cook, Ibe and Sturridge also chipped in with goals. Sturridge spent 4months out with a broken foot hence his low appearances.
Assists were a bit more evenly spread this year. Coutinho provided the most as you’d expect, but the wide men also chipped in with the most assists.
Zivkovic is obviously not on the list, but before he left in January, he’d already contributed 6 goals and 10 assists in his 22 appearances.
I’ve worked out that of the players playing in wide positions on a regular basis, they contributed 54 assists. I always expect Coutinho to have the most individual assists, but overall, the wide areas should create the most chances.
Our passing percentages are around the same as last year but up slightly from the Direct Passing days. Our Key Passes are up quite a bit though with five players making over 200 key passes and another five making over 100. Neves was just one short of 100, so I suppose I can add him to the good passers list.
A great season overall from results to statistics. We improved in a lot of areas. Does it play like Liverpool 13/14? Not exactly, but it does perform well and does exactly what I expected of them. The wide men cut in and get into dangerous areas, but also cover and help out defensively. The striker comes deep and plays those wide men and onrushing central midfielders into threatening positions. The DM drops into the defensive line and plays balls into dangerous areas when he sees fit, not because he feels he should. We break quickly on the counter attack and we transition fast.
I think overall, I’ve completed what I’ve set out to do with the tactic and the team. I know, people will think “but it’s Liverpool, try it with a smaller team” but I’ve seen plenty of people struggle with big teams due to not having a plan or carrying out a plan. I was very precise about what I wanted to find in new players and stuck to that pretty well. Individually, we didn’t have the top scorer or highest assist maker. In fact, the only best player stat we had was clean sheets/goals conceded. It was a real team effort. I am quite happy with that actually as everybody really contributed.
I suspect this will be my last blog on the Liverpool save as I’m looking to do something else, perhaps with a lower rated side. The new update should be out by then and I’ll be used to any updates to the match engine.
Thanks for reading this short series. Hope you’ve enjoyed it.