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Liverpool, Number One at Missing Chances, and Other Monday Notes

liverpool united 4-1 dossena

It's only Monday, but already it's almost time for another match. And for a moment it's almost as though Liverpool were back in Europe once again, the games coming thick and furious and with hardly a moment to decompress in between them. Then you remember that Liverpool's last bit of midweek football was a will-sapping friendly at Rangers, and that this week's sees a trip to Stoke to face a side renowned for its ability to sap the will of opponents and their fans alike. In which case, if it is like being back in Europe—at least for a couple of weeks—then it's much more the Europa League than it is the Champions League…

* In the wake of Manchester City's historic 6-1 hammering of United at Old Trafford on Sunday, it was easy to take joy in the misery of Liverpool's rivals: To laugh at a match that saw its final whistle blown while the stadium was half empty; to crack jokes about fairweather fans scrambling for their credit cards so they could purchase Silva shirts in sky blue; or to snicker about City's Mario Balotelli figuratively burning down a stadium sometimes dubbed a toilet days after setting fire to his own bathroom with fireworks. All of which was all in good fun. It did, however, make it easy to forget Alex Ferguson and United's past monumental defeats, from a similar slaughter at the hands of City in 1989 to Southampton dropping a half dozen on them in the nineties.

And of course, no list of United's worst moments would be complete without mentioning Liverpool's 4-1 victory at Old Trafford in 2009, a game marked by Vidic seeing red, Ferguson showing a lack of tactical nous by way of a triple substitution that left his midfield understaffed and ripe for the picking, a brilliant Fabio Aurelio free kick, Torres terrorising the United backline, and spare part Andrea Dossena capping the day with a cheeky chip over Edwin van der Sar.

Certainly it's always a better day when Liverpool win—making the only result that matters that of a rival is more the purview of Everton, after all—but seeing Liverpool's chief rivals fall to one of the worst defeats in their history is never a bad thing.

* There's been a lot of talk of missed chances lately, and over on The Tomkins Times they've whipped out the charts and graphs in an attempt to answer a few questions. Most importantly, just how bad is it? The short answer: Terrifyingly bad.

In terms of Clinicality, Liverpool are just 22% and this only ranks 16th so far this season, way behind the “big 3” who are all 40% plus. Villa are top with 58%. It’s also half Liverpool’s Clinicality in 2010/11 (44%) and way below the league average this season of 35%. It’s worth noting that the teams ranking 14th and 15th are Spurs and Arsenal, Liverpool’s main rivals for a top 4 place.

Aside from the word clinicality making my head hurt, those are some pretty scary numbers that speak to Liverpool's futility in front of goal. About the only bright spot is that Liverpool isn't that far off Spurs and Arsenal, though the thought of City, United, and Chelsea all being nearly twice as good at putting their clear cut chances away is unavoidably depressing.

From a more positive perspective, Liverpool is the third best side at creating what stats collators OPTA term clear cut chances, well positioned amongst the other so-called top six sides—who all, somewhat unsurprisingly, occupy the top six positions when it comes to chance creation. However, that Liverpool has created the third most chances while only being ahead of Stoke, QPR, Wigan, and Sunderland when it comes to converting them on a per chance basis also means that no side in the league has wasted more chances—in total—than the reds.

There's not much to hold on to by way of silver linings in all of the data, but at least Liverpool's upcoming opponents in the League Cup seem likely to both create fewer total chances and to then convert those chances at a lower rate. So there's that. Plus lots of charts and graphs.

* And ahead of that trip to the Britannia to face Stoke in the League Cup on a nippy weekday evening as the weather cools and the leaves fall, Steven Gerrard and his groin took some time to talk about the importance of that competition for a side that has seen a silverware drought in recent seasons:

Bringing those European nights back to Anfield is what we all want. Some of the best nights of my career have been in the Champions League and I want to experience a few more before I eventually hang up my boots.

At the same time it's about trophies for me and I see the FA Cup and Carling Cup as also being very important. Because we are only involved in three competitions we have to focus on all of them.

There is no European football so you can afford to focus more on the Carling cup. We haven't done well in any of the cups domestically since 2006. It's time we gave the fans a bit of excitement again. They deserve it and there would be nothing better than going to Wembley. That would be fantastic for everyone.

After a number of lean years, a trophy—any trophy—certainly wouldn't be something for the fans to turn their noses up at, and it's been quite obvious in the early stages of the League Cup that Kenny Dalglish has placed an importance on going deep in the competition that hasn't been seen in a very long time, so it's hardly a surprise to find Gerrard preaching the company line.

What would be a little bit surprising is if the captain starts on Wednesday after having just returned from a long injury layoff and looking increasingly tired as the match against Norwich entered its final third on Saturday. Regardless of that, it seems a safe bet that Liverpool's starting eleven against Stoke this week wouldn't look out of place were it a league match and not a meeting in the lesser of England's two top-flight cup competitions.

We'll be back with any breaking news later on, but in the meantime, while you're trying to remember where the goal is and that the key is hitting the back of it instead of the sides…

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