Against West Ham on Sunday, Liverpool equalled the number of penalties to be awarded to a team in a Premier League season since the turn of the millennium. Having five games to spare in the current season, Liverpool now have the chance to cement a new statistic in the record books.
With 12 penalties to their name this term, five more than the nearest teams of Manchester City and Chelsea, Liverpool have been labelled ‘lucky’ by some. But wait, the top three teams in the Premier League table are also the top three teams on the ‘penalties for’ chart. Surely that’s not luck.
In the Ferguson era, Manchester United were renowned for their ability of winning penalties, with many fans across the country sourcing their success to favourable refereeing decisions. Yet this scapegoat theory was never looked at beyond the surface. And the same is happening with Liverpool this season. Why did United win more penalties than anyone else? Because they were the best team in the league.
United would keep possession, pressure teams and make their way into the opposition’s box. Inducing more penalties than every other team in the league was only natural, as they got into the box more than any other team. Liverpool have emulated this ethic this season, flourishing under the high-pressure, possession advocating Brendan Rodgers.
The statistics show that Liverpool cross the ball less than any other team in the league, at an average of 17 times per game. Inadvertently, this outlines the Brendan Rodgers ethos of running at the opposition and penning them into their own box instead of crossing the ball from wide, which would defy the lack of height in the side.
Coupled with this statistic is the fact that Liverpool have the second most successful dribbles per game, at 12.5, narrowly behind their Merseyside neighbours Everton (12.6). This displays Liverpool’s retention of the ball and offensive focus in a team which includes the expert dribblers of Suarez, Sterling and Coutinho, the first of which being responsible for five of the 12 penalties Liverpool have won this season. The fact that Rodgers’ side have the fifth highest percentage in the league for shots inside the box (52%) further outlines their impetus of retaining the ball in attacking areas of the pitch; inducing penalties.
To simply put it, the more touches in the opposition box, the greater chance of penalties arising. The fact that Liverpool have had five more penalties than any other side in the league is a barometer of their attacking quality and testament to their style of play. Whether they’ll engrave their name on the Premier League trophy is another matter. Urgh, don’t get me started...
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