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Liverpool vs Stoke

Rory Fitzgerald

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Liverpool get ready to play Stoke at their game




General Form


Stoke had a season of 2 halves last season which was split perfectly between 2012 (good) and 2013 (awful). In 2013, they were the worst team in the Premier League and this ultimately cost Tony Pulis his job. Stoke picked up just 13pts from 18 games, even Reading picked up more. They won just 3 matches and scored only 13 goals also leaving them with the worst goal difference.





Last year, the low/high of the possession spectrum was Reading's 40.7% in 20th and Arsenal top with 58.2%. Stoke were 17th with 43.3% average possession over the season. Whilst it is well known that Stoke played an agricultural brand of football, the pass success rate bears this out as they were worst in the Premiership with a pass success rate of 70.2% (3rd worst in Europe's top 5 leagues).



Part of the reason for Stoke's poor possession stats is that they play percentage football. Whilst the 'aerial duels won' indicator includes both offensive and defensive battles, its indicative of their strenght. Stoke topped this stat by some margin winning 28.9 aerials duels per game which is some distance ahead Sam Allardyce's 2nd placed West Ham that won 21.1 per game. Liverpool were 2nd lowest in this stat winning 12.9 per game.



Here are the long balls hit by Stoke at Anfield last season. Alot were directed towards their right with Jon Walters stationed out there. Almost all the balls were direct and deep into our half with 9 making it into our box.








As a consequence of their poor possession, Stoke averaged the lowest number shots on goal with just 10.2 per game and therefore its unsurprising that they had the lowest number of shots on target with just 3. This boiled down to Stoke scoring the 2nd lowest amount of goals in the league last season with just 34.



Liverpool on the other hand averaged 19.4 shots per game which is the highest across Europe's Top 5 Leagues. However, as for shots on target, we were 2nd in the Premier League with 6.1 per game and 9th across the Top 5 Leagues (accuracy rate of 31% against a rate of approx 40% by the 8 continental teams ahead of us).



Those stats over the course of the last season were captured perfectly in the match at Anfield last season when Stoke had 6 shots and Liverpool with 18.







Set pieces & Crosses


Stoke ranked joint 3rd in the league when it came to goals scored from set-pieces (includes penalties) with 18 (3 were pens). They were the only team in the league that scored more goals from set-pieces (18) than they did from open play (16). Their stats when it comes to crosses is about average as they rank 11th with 23 per game (lowest is 18 per game and highest is 27). They do however rank very high when you look at the percentage of passes that are long balls (over 25 yards). As shown above, those long balls are not cross field passes, rather direct football and their main tactic in most games.



Stoke played alot of football down their right with an average of 41% of their play going down the right last season. Think of how often Everton go down their left as a point of reference. Last season on average, 43% of Everton's play was down their left. As such, with 41% of their play going down their right, it was seen as a strenght within the team last season. Looking at the high-ball graphic above, alot were directed at Jon Walters on the right. Given that Etherington & Kightly played on the left last season and are 2 of the smallest players in their squad, high ball switches to the left are not on as much.





Whilst Stoke may be frugal infront of goal, they are equally miserly in their own 18 yard box conceding just 45 goals last season (7th best). Away from home, Stoke conceded 2 or more goals in only 5 games which is 2nd best behind Arsenal (4). For reference, Liverpool conceded 2 or more in 10 away games. Away from home, Stoke had the joint-3rd best defensive record conceding 23 goals, the same as Everton & Chelsea and behind City (19) and Arsenal (14). Overall, games involving Stoke had the least amount of goals last season.






Stoke were the most physical team in the Premiership last season picking up 78 yellow cards and 4 red cards. They also committed the most fouls per game at 12.8. Last season at Anfield, it was felt that Stoke were 'clever' in the way that they fouled. Firstly, they spread the fouls around such that they only started picking up consistent bookings from the 70th min onwards when 4 players were booked. But, secondly, the graphic below shows where they committed the fouls. Only 3 fouls were near their box and even then, they were out wide. It looks like a cynical strategy of committing fouls in the oppositions half to stop counter attacks. However, once the play proceeds to their own 3rd of the pitch, discipline kicked in and only 3 fouls were committed.






Also, I read a report towards the end of last season which links with the analysis above;




".......Stoke’s focus on defending even from the front is clear when you consider that Walters and Peter Crouch are ranked 3rd and 4th among the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s strikers for tackles attempted, with 74 and 72 respectively".




Summer business



So far, Stoke have only signed 2 players - Erik Pieters (left back) and Marc Muniesa (center back).



Erik Pieters is a 24-year-old Dutch international (17 caps) and is favourite to fill the left-back spot following his £3.1m move from PSV Eindhoven. Muniesa was signed on a free transfer from Barcelona's B Team. He was part of Spain's U-21 team that won the European Championship though Muniesa made just 1 substitute appearance.



Pieters is almost certain to start the season at left back with Muniesa likely to only make the bench as Shawcross & Huth have largely started the pre-season games with limited time for Muniesa.




Stoke's secret weapon upon promotion to the Premier League in 2008 has finally left the club, Rory Delap is now with Burton Albion. Also out go Dean Whitehead, Sidibe, Michael Owen and Matthew Upson. In May, Stephen N'zonzi handed in a transfer request 1 year after joining from Blackburn but Mark Hughes remains adamant that he will start the season at the Brittania.









Here are the line ups from last season along with the average pitch position of the players. What stands out for me is that given the amount of possession we had, the defence could play a high line yet the full backs did not push on as much as we witnessed in the latter part of the season. It also looks like Sterling and Suso (remember, it was early season and they were just in the team) were not as ambitious as perhaps they could have been given our dominance in that match.







The key position within the team for the Stoke game and perhaps a large majority of the games this season, will be the role & position of Coutinho. Just looking at Stoke, Liverpool have played two 0-0 draws against them in the last 2 seasons. Given the limited changes in personnel from Stoke and the new manager is unlikely to want or be able to make significant changes to the style, then I think we need to look at a set up that can unlock a team that are likely to be deep, compact and very hard working. For that reason, I would look to get Coutinho central.





Johnson Toure Agger Enrique


Gerrard Lucas


Aspas Coutinho Sterling







Carragher's take on Coutinho's role this season;




"I think he is going to end up starting the season wide left, thats where he was in the pre-season game I was involved in and for me I'd like to see him in the central areas to be honest, thats where he is at his best......receiving the ball in these areas and thats what you want, (analyzes clip vs Fulham) you look at him now, he has Duff on toast here in the middle of the pitch. But look at the pass with the outside of the right foot to create Sturridge's goal.



But the role that I think he will start the season is on the left. One of the reasons why I think he is going to be on the left at the moment is because I think Brendan Rodgers is looking at playing Stevie, Joe Allen and Lucas as a 3 really. I prefer to see him as a Number 10 really with just 2 of them."






Stoke were the worst team in the league in 2013 results wise. Their possession on the whole was poor resulting in them hitting the lowest number of shots on goal and consequently, scoring the 2nd least amount of goals. They are strong in the air in both defence & attack and were 3rd in no. of goals scored from set pieces. They also were 3rd best when it came to conceding away from home and, tellingly, games involving Stoke had the lowest number of goals across all the teams last season.



Will a change of manager mean we will see a different Stoke at Anfield this year ? In Mark Hughes' 4 seasons at Blackburn, they finished bottom of the disciplinary league in each season. Given that there has been no sweeping changes with the playing personnel, Stoke are likely to remain just as physical with Hughes saying as much;



“Stoke have been in the Premier League for a number of years now and have the understanding of what it takes to win Premier League games. It’s not a case of wiping away the hard work of previous seasons. I’d like to make then a little bit more offensive but we’re not going to chuck the baby out with the bathwater. It’s about steady progress.”





  • Liverpool to dominate possession,
  • Stoke to be tight and work hard,
  • Liverpool to have lots of half chances but not many clear cut chances
  • Walters to work back hard on their right which is another reason not to have Coutinho on our left,
  • Plenty of possession vs. hard working unambituous team = plenty guile required (Coutinho central)



Prediction: Liverpool 1-0 Stoke

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Stoke will be less organised defensively, much easier to break down than in previous years I think. The squad and manager are a bit of a mis-match, they will take a couple of early season hammerings, starting Saturday.

Let's hope so. We just need to get an early goal to settle us down and than probably score a few more. It's making sure we get that crucial early goal.

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