Thursday, 10 November 2011

Exclusive Interview with Lucas Leiva

Here is the exclusive English version of Lucas Leiva's recent interview with LFC Brasil.
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Going straight to the questions, how was it for you when you knew Liverpool were interested in signing you? What were your expectations?
A: I found out about Liverpool’s interest in me in March 2007 when I was playing in the Libertadores Cup [like a Champions League of South America]. Rafael Benitez contacted my business manager and my father saying that he was interested in signing me. I was happy because my expectation was to go to a big club in Europe.
2) Much is said about how difficult it is for Brazilians to adapt to life in England, and it is well known that you had a difficult start both on and off the pitch. Did it help having Fabio Aurelio around?
A: It is always very difficult to switch countries, especially at such a young age (20 years). England is a country completely different from Brazil, from the language to the climate and the style of football. I had a very difficult start here in Liverpool, but I set my mind to the task of changing my style of play in order to succeed. Fabio helped me on my arrival, particularly within the club, but you end up with many things to learn by yourself. I had the awareness to change my style of football to improve and it paid off.
3) You were on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from fans, especially in your first season. How did this affect you?
A: As I said earlier, I had a very tough start in the club where I ended up getting a lot of criticism. I felt that there was a lot of mistrust, but I tried to stay focused so that I could become an important player for Liverpool. Gradually, through hard work and dedication, I’m getting there.
4) Throughout your difficult early career at Liverpool, Rafa Benitez always believed in you and your football. How was your relationship with him?
A: Rafa Benitez was very important for me because he always recognised my work. He saw that I had always been devoted to improving as a player, so he was confident even when I received a lot of criticism. I do not know if any other coach would have the patience he had with me. I will always be grateful.
 5)  The same fans who were so fierce in their criticism of you now worship you, even rating you as the most important player in the Liverpool team.  How did it feel to be voted Player of the Season by our fans?
A: The award I received last year just shows how much I have improved as a player and the fans recognised that. Fans are fuelled with passion. When you win you are a hero, when you lose they call for your head. I tried to understand this and tried to improve, to reach a level high enough to receive their acceptance. Thank God it happened. It has been a huge accomplishment for me.
6) We are all fans of your personality and how you have progressed in your career so far at Liverpool. In the game against Glasgow Rangers you captained the team from the beginning of the match. Do you dream of being the Liverpool captain one day?
A: I had been appointed captain in a Europe League game when Hodgson was in charge but the game against Rangers was remarkable for me, and Kenny Dalglish has always given me great confidence since the beginning of his work here. Being captain of Liverpool is a great responsibility. I hope to have other opportunities, it gives me huge pride.
7) Liverpool had a hard time last season on and off the field until the new owners took over. How did it impact the team?
A: The new owners are doing everything to give us the resources to win titles. The club have signed many new players. It is normal for a new team to take time to gel, but I see our team much stronger than last year, despite acknowledging that the results have not been as good as we would like.
8) Do you think your role on the team has evolved with the arrival of Kenny Dalglish? How is having King Kenny as coach?
A: Kenny Dalglish is considered the greatest player in the history of Liverpool. He won all possible titles as a player and as coach has been very successful. Kenny always gives me confidence. I've grown a lot since his arrival. He was a player so he understands what it means to be a part of a team. This helps in his relationship with the group.
9) Lucas, you were formed at Grêmio’s Academy, and the classic Gre-Nal (Grêmio vs Internacional) is considered as the greatest rivalry in Brazil, do you feel the same pressure in the Merseyside Derby?
A: At first I did not feel the same pressure as I did not understand the history of The Derby when I first arrived, but after a few years I started to understand what The Derby means for Liverpool fans. I now feel the same way before The Derby as I did before the Gre-Nals
 10) One last funny question that many wanted to know, will you ever let your hair grow again? With that mullet? (laughs)
A: My days with long hair are gone. I enjoyed that period a lot. I liked my long hair, but it is gone. My life is in a different place now. Honestly, I do not see myself ever having long hair again.
One more time thank you for your participation here. Not only the Liverpool fans, but all Brazilians are rooting for you to be a big success for both the club and the national team. And for sure, with the way you're going, you  already have our vote for the best Liverpool player this season. Thank you, Lucas!
Follow LFC Brasil on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LFCBrasil

You can see the Portuguese version at

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Luis Suarez Statement: Full Transcript in Spanish & English

If you read the national Newspapers today you will notice that they all translate the Suarez statement slightly differently. To clear things up, Argentinian Scouser Ale Natalia has got hold of the full transcript and translated it. Follow her on Twitter for great insights into Liverpool. https://twitter.com/#!/AleNatalia89 

Ok, here is the Spanish:

"Son cosas que pasan en el fútbol, cosas del momento, que a uno lo dejan mal. Ahora hay que esperar que se decida el tema y luego, tanto el jugador del Manchester como yo, vamos a tener que dejar las cosas claras. Y según para el lado que salga el fallo tendremos que pedir perdón. La Federación inglesa lo va a tener que aclarar con él, porque no hay pruebas de que yo le haya dicho algo racista. Y no se lo dije. Hubo dos partes de la discusión, una en español y otra en inglés. No lo insulté, solo fue una forma de expresarme. Lo llamé de una forma que sus propios compañeros del Manchester le dicen. Es más, ellos mismos se sorprendieron."

There might be some slight idiomatic differences from my Spanish (Rioplatense Spanish, not even 'normal' Argentine Spanish haha) to Uruguayan Spanish, but here we go in English:

"There are things that happen in football, things in [the heat of] the moment, that leaves someone feeling bad. Now we've got to wait to see this issue judged and then, as much for the Manchester player as me, we'll have to clear things up. And depending on where the judgement lies, one of us will have to say sorry. The English federation will have to clear it up with him, because there is no proof that I said anything racist. I didn't say it. There were two parts to the argument. One in Spanish and one in English. I didn't insult him, it was just my way of expressing myself. I called him something that his own team-mates at Manchester say to him. Moreover, [even] they were surprised".

Monday, 7 November 2011

Will Poor Chance Conversion Cost Liverpool a Top 4 Finish?

The biggest problem with Liverpool so far this season can be summed up by comparing the three statistics in the following table:

 Minutes Per Shot% Of Shots on Target% Shots Converted Into Goals
Man City646%22%
Man Utd854%22%
Chelsea749%17%
Tottenham752%15%
Arsenal847%19%
Liverpool739%9%



The first column shows how many minutes there are between each shot on goal. Manchester City have the most prolific attack, averaging a shot every 6 minutes. They are the only team in the league who shoot at goal more often than Liverpool. There is, therefore, nothing wrong with Liverpool's ability to create chances.

The second column shows how often each team hits the target. Manchester United are the most accurate in this area, hitting the target more times than they miss. Liverpool are the least accurate by a comfortable distance. 

The third column shows  how many shots are converted into goals. It is this stat more than any other which demonstrates our biggest weakness. The top two teams in the league convert 22% of their shots into goals, whilst Liverpool manage just 9%.

To put this into context, if Liverpool would have matched this 22% chance conversion, we would have scored a remarkable 33 goals so far this season. This equates to an extra 1.7 goals per game. The points those goals would have generated would have meant that, instead of fighting for fourth place, we would be in a title race.

Looking into the issue in more detail, here is how our four attacking players who have found their way onto the score sheet compare with each other:

Minutes Per Shot% Of Shots on Target% Shots Converted into Goals
Bellamy3240%20%
Hendo6560%10%
Suarez2047%9%
Carroll2640%8%


Suarez and Carroll are clearly the main contributors to both our goals tally and our low shot conversion ratio. There have been calls for Craig Bellamy to be given an opportunity in attack, and the above stats would appear to endorse this view. Bellamy has been generally used as a substitute so far this season, and has been coming off the bench to play in wide positions. Taking this into account, the fact that he manages to have a shot on goal almost as often as Carroll is impressive. He also has the highest shot conversion ratio in the team. Many would argue that, given how poor we have been in this department, Bellamy would be unlikely to do any worse.

To put the player stats into context, Van Persie has a 30% conversion, Van Der Vaart has 25% and Torres has 15%. All higher than our front two.

Hitting the woodwork 10 times obviously does not help, but we have to start converting chances. Put simply, our poor chance conversion will cost us a place in the Champions League if it does not improve considerably. I will update these stats later in the season.




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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Liverpool's Defensive Line - With and Without Carragher

There has been an ongoing debate for some time now about the impact Jamie Carragher's lack of pace has on the Liverpool defensive line. There is a theory that Carragher holds the line deep to prevent younger, quicker attackers stealing a march on him on the break.

Carragher's calf injury has inadvertently helped us find out whether this is true. By looking at the Liverpool defensive line with Carragher (against Norwich) and without him (against West Brom) we can test whether the theory has any basis in reality.

Here are the central defensive Chalkboards from both games. For clarity, these are passing chalkboards which show each defender's position on the pitch when in possession of the ball:


On the left hand side of the screen are the Norwich heat maps for Carragher (top image) and Skrtel (bottom image). On the right hand side of the screen are the West Brom heat maps for Skrtel (top image) and Agger (bottom image).

 We clearly spent more time near our own penalty area during the Norwich City game than we did against West Brom. The table below shows the difference:

Central Defence Heatmaps
Penalty AreaMid DefenceCentre CircleTotal Time in Own Half
NorwichCarragher17%39%30%86%
Skrtel19%45%19%83%
Total18%42%25%85%
West BromSkrtel4%67%24%95%
Agger4%59%24%87%
Total4%63%24%91%


With Carragher on the pitch, Liverpool's defenders spent 18% of their time near their own penalty area. With Carragher out of the team, the central defenders spent just 4% in this area. It is a fact, therefore, that Liverpool's defensive line was higher against West Brom than it was against Norwich. Let's have a look at the result of this in both games:

Liverpool v Norwich Match Stats


West Brom v Liverpool Match Stats


The key stats to pull out of the two tables above are "Shots on Target" and "Shots inside the box". Lying deep against Norwich enabled them to encroach into our penalty area more, and they managed 7 shots on target. Against West Brom, we restricted them to shooting from distance and they only managed one shot on target. With 28 unsuccessful shots, we can bemoan a lack of composure in front of goal against Norwich. However, it was the 5 shots we allowed them to have in our penalty area that cost us two points.

The other difference in the two starting line ups is that Danny Agger played against West Brom. A positive way of looking at the differences in the defensive line is that Agger's pace enables us to play a higher line. Here are four heat maps from games where Carragher and Agger played together in central defence this season to test this:



In all four games, Carragher is playing higher up the pitch than he did against Norwich. He obviously feels more confident getting forward when accompanied by the pacey Agger. However, in all but the game against Sunderland, Carragher's defensive line was deeper than that held by Agger and Skrtel against West Brom. We do, therefore, play deeper with Carragher in defence. The theory holds true. 

Agger and Carragher are well suited partners in central defence, whilst Skrtel and Carragher are less so.

Liverpool have been very strong at the back in the first 10 games of the season. Only Newcastle and Manchester City have conceded less, so we must be doing something right. However, with Carragher turning 34 in January, he is not going to get any faster. The Liverpool defensive line whilst Carragher is in the team is definitely something to keep an eye on. 






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