Liverpool, I think it is fair to say, are a team in transition. This season has seen a new manager take the helm and a squad overhaul of sorts has taken place, with the Reds shedding some waste from the wage bill and the graduation of several young and exciting prospects. Throw the new manager, a younger squad and some new signings into the mix and it can only be expected that inconsistent form would present itself.
Liverpool have suffered through farcical results (Villa, Stoke) to very promising performances, mostly big home wins and,more recently, the very encouraging first hour against Arsenal. But what of Liverpool's away form and can it tell us anything about what quality of opposition Man City may face today?
Liverpool's Away Form In 2012/13
Strength Of Schedule
The idea is simple: Take the opponents league placing at the time of fixture for every Liverpool away game. Weight those fixtures (a game against the 20th placed team will be given an easy 1 difficulty rating) with 20 being the toughest game and 1 the easiest game. We then turn that weighted schedule into a moving average.
Liverpool's away schedule is the 2nd hardest in the division, trailing only Stoke's very difficult schedule.
Liverpool's record of W 3 D 5 L 4 for 14 points isn't going to strike terror into the hearts of their opponents, but it helps to examine their schedule difficulty and remind ourselves that Liverpool have already played Everton, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United and Arsenal away from home. This Quality of Opposition is one of the causes of their tough schedule.
14 points isn't a great away return. Too many draws have handicapped the team to rise any further than 8th place in the away table.
20 goals for, 20 goals against
Goals by game state
Not much to see here. liverpool are neither out-scoring the opposition nor being out-scored. But are Liverpool a team who has the ability to outshoot the opposition away from home, especially at the crucial game states?
Shots On Target by game state
Not much to see at most game states, but Liverpool's ability to outshoot the opposition away from home when the game is tied is mightily impressive. Logic would lead us to think that if a team consistently outshoots the opposition when the game is tied that it would also outscore the opposition, but that just hasn't been the case for Liverpool as we have seen above.
Shots On Target Ratio
Here we see Liverpool's shots on target ratio for their away games. It's a good number, if slightly trending downwards, and it is especially good considering league average away SoTR is 44.72. Liverpool's number is someway clear of the league average.
But are Liverpool converting that shots on target ratio in tangibe results--basically, are they converting their shots into goals at a good rate, and preventing the opposition from doing likewise?
Away Overall PDO
The answer to the above question is no.
Liverpool, despite being a pretty good shots team away from home have spent the majority of the season well below the league average line for PDO. We can see that Liverpool are getting better, though. A slow climb upwards has seen Liverpool just about hit the league average, helped no doubt by a bump in the last 3 games.
We hear a lot about Liverpool being a good possession team, after all that was Rodgers' calling card at Swansea. Liverpool, away from home, are a fine possession team and are 7 percentage points higher than the league average. But, it's what you do with that possession that counts.
Game Result With SoT +/-
The first thing I notice in the graph above is that Liverpool's pretty good shots on target total has been powered by two outstanding shots games, neither of which were won, curiously enough. Liverpool have outshot the opposition on just 4 occasions, and this, for a team with European ambitions, may not be good enough.
We see some nice things about Liverpool's away from: A strong possession number and a nice ability to outshoot the opposition when the game is tied, and all this despite having the 2nd toughest away schedule.
The poor aspects of Liverpool's away form are a failure to outscore the opposition at any of the important game states, and this is underpinned by a PDO that has been below average for most of the year, but is now just about recovering. But the biggest red flag against Liverpool's away form is their SoT +/- number in each game. This shows us that Liverpool rarely outshoot the opposition (4 occasions) and when Liverpool themselves are outshot their record is lost 4 drawn 2.
The big issue about Liverpool and their record when the opposition outshoots them is Man City, at home, have outshot every opponent by a wide margin. The one exception being the Everton game which was a SoT draw and an actual draw.
Liverpool will be a tough opponent for Man City, but if the blues can hold their own in the possession battle and win the shots on target battle, as they have done for nearly every game, then this seasons data tells us Liverpool may struggle to gain a positive result at the Etihad.
Thanks for reading