The injuries at the back have obviously caused problems for Liverpool with their central defensive partnership changing from game to game.
One thing to note from the recent team selections is that due to these injuries, they’re a substantially smaller side than last season. If you take Sunday’s game against Manchester United with Henderson and Fabinho playing at centre-half, you’re effectively swapping Van Dijk (193cm) and Gomez (188 cm)/ Matip (195cm) for Thiago (174cm) and Shaqiri (169cm) from their regular starting side from last season. This causes problems on set-pieces at both ends of the pitch.
Liverpool currently have scored 6 goals from set-pieces, the 8th best in the league. Liverpool’s goals per game from set-pieces is 0.33 this season compared with 0.45 goals per game from last season. Also, if you check the defensive side of things, it’s possibly a worse situation. Liverpool conceded 7 goals from set-pieces last year or
0.18 goals per game. This season, the figure is 6 in 18 games or 0.33 goals per game. While the changes are not massive, combined the difference is 0.27, which over 18 games amounts to approximately 5 goals (4.86). It seems set pieces could suggest some of the reason why Liverpool are no longer top of the league.
Liverpool have a league-leading 121 corners this season, at 6.7 per game. Last season they won 257 corners in 38 games which amazingly is also 6.7 corners per game, so the difference doesn’t seem to be in the numbers of corners earned, just in their ability to score from them!
While Liverpool’s goalscoring problems are not solely down to set pieces, it is obvious that teams are happy enough to sit deep and even give away set-pieces with little fear of conceding from them. Losing the aerial ability of Van Dijk would impact any team and it seems to be a contributing factor to Liverpool’s recent glut of draws. This alters the dynamic when trying to play against the low block and gives smaller teams a better chance of earning points against the champions. We can only hope that Matip can stay fit or else Liverpool are active in the transfer window to alter this dynamic.
Thanks Morgan Quinn for this guest post!