Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing
Liverpool’s win at Wolves on Saturday saw Jurgen Klopp’s team set a new high watermark for winning possession in the attacking third in the Premier League this season. That’s not the most earth-shattering revelation to anyone who watched the game because it was overwhelmingly a game of attack vs. defence as the momentum graphic below definitively proves. That second half was, a few counters from Adama Traore aside, Liverpool probing, probing, probing for that elusive goal. Diogo Jota’s miss in front of a goal lacking a ‘keeper had incredible “this is going to end 0-0” energy. And so it nearly proved.
There’s no right way to set up against one of the most dominant attacks in world football, but Wolves’ decision to sit deep would have been vindicated but for that late Divock Origi goal. Twenty-two high turnovers won from Liverpool is a huge number, but none of them resulted in a shot. And take a look at their location; none within 20 metres of Wolves’ goal.
Compare that to the 4-0 win against Arsenal last month. Of the 17 Liverpool produced that day, seven resulted in shots, one of them a goal. Would Arsenal fans accept a performance like Wolves’ in the knowledge it would increase their chances of getting something against Liverpool? Aesthetics and statistics: the beating heart of football.
Aston Villa and Leicester have both been English champions once since goalkeepers were stopped from being able to handle the ball up to the halfway line in 1912. That may or may not have been a topic of conversation for fans attending the game at Villa Park on Sunday, but in a game that saw a goal (correctly) ruled out for a foul on Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, the Foxes more than made up for it in the fouling stakes.
25 fouls is the most by any Premier League team in a game this season, but it wasn’t very representative of Brendan Rodgers this season. They rank 14th for fouls conceded in 2021-22, which means 18% of their entire total of 139 fouls this season came on Sunday against Villa. That proportion is an absolute outlier, with the next highest being 13.3% by Arsenal in their game with… Aston Villa. Can everyone stop being mean to Aston Villa?
Tottenham’s rebirth under Antonio Conte gathers pace, but the one broken part he has yet to reboot is Harry Kane’s Premier League scoring rate.
Even in the last few seasons when Spurs lurched from late-era Pochettino fatigue to the slow regression under Jose Mourinho, they could always count on Kane to score goals. Last season he became only the second player in Premier League history – after Andy Cole in 1993-94 – to finish as outright top scorer and outright top assister. So far this season he has just one of each.
Spurs could count on Kane for around a third of their goals each Premier League campaign, but this season that is down to just 6%. Of course, relying on a potential single point of failure in a team is not something most managers want to do, but if Conte has given Tottenham a real glimpse of fourth place, just think how much more likely Champions League qualification would be if/when Kane rediscovers his enchanted ratio.