**Our first guest post of the summer comes from Josh Drzewicki, who's been a regular here over the past few seasons. He takes an interesting look at which squad members had the highest and lowest total of points per match started, which produces a "best eleven" that not many would have come up with otherwise. You can catch up with Josh on Twitter or at his blog.
Liverpool’s worst season since 1954 has left everyone surrounding the club bitter towards many of the players, but who has been the biggest over and underachievers on the squad? In other words, who has the highest and lowest total of points per match started? Who has the most goals for and goals against per start?
After picking my Liverpool XI for the 2011-12 season, I was surprised to see many of my favorites not on the list for the highest points per start totals. The stats will be presented by general position, defense, midfield and attack. In the end, my final season XI will be presented. The only players who got analyzed were players who made 10 or more starts.
In defense, the players to make more ten or more starts are, in order of most to fewest starts with their starts in parenthesis, Jose Enrique (33), Martin Skrtel (33), Daniel Agger (24), Glen Johnson (22), Jamie Carragher (19) and Martin Kelly (12).
At right back, Johnson and Kelly were the only two to make 10 or more starts. Johnson’s 22 starts resulted in 28 goals for Liverpool and 19 against, while earning 34 points. Liverpool would have had a 15.55 goal differential over 38 games, while also earning 58.73 points over the season.
In Kelly’s 12 starts, Liverpool had a goal difference of five while earning 17 points. Over 38 games, that would have equated to a 15.83 goal difference and 53.83 points over 38 games.
In the center of defense, three players made the cut. Skrtel had 33 starts where Liverpool scored 38 goals and let in 37 and earned 42 points. Over 38 games, Liverpool’s goal difference would have been 1.15 and Liverpool would have earned 48.36 points.
Agger started 24 games, earning 36 points. The goal difference over 38 games would have been 11.08 and Liverpool would have earned 57 points, five more than they earned otherwise.
In Carragher’s 19 starts, Liverpool scored 27 goals and let in 22 and earned 29 points. Over 38 games, that would equate to a goal difference of 10 and 52 points earned over the 38 games.
In Enrique’s 33 starts, Liverpool scored 41 goals, let in 35 and earned 45 points. This equates to 51.82 points over 38 games with a goal difference of 6.91. Liverpool would have ended the season slightly worse than 52 points. This is bad.
In the midfield, Jordan Henderson (31), Charlie Adam (27), Jay Spearing (15), Lucas (12) and Steven Gerrard (12) all made the necessary amount of appearances.
Henderson started 31 matches where Liverpool scored 39 and let in 32 goals and earned 43 points. Over the course of 38 games, Liverpool would have had an 8.58 goal differential and earned 52.71 points.
Charlie Adam had the second most starts in midfield with 27. Over the 27 games, Liverpool scored 31 goals and let in 27 earning 39 points. Over 38 games, they would have earned 54.89 points and had a goal differential of 5.63.
Jay Spearing started 15 games. Liverpool scored 17 and let in 21 for 13 points. Over 38 games, Liverpool would have an atrocious goal differential of -10.13 and earned on 32.93 points per game, leaving us only ahead of Blackburn and Wolverhampton.
In Lucas’ 12 starts, Liverpool scored 16 and let in 11 goals while earned 22 points. Over the entire season, this would equate to a goal differential of 15.83 and 69.67 points, the highest of any Liverpool player. 69 points would have left us tied with Tottenham.
Gerrard also started 12 matches. In those matches, Liverpool scored 14 and let in 15. Liverpool earned a measly 11 points. This would equate to a -3.17 goal difference and 34.83 points.
In attack, Liverpool had six players above 10 starts. Luis Suarez (29), Stewart Downing (28), Dirk Kuyt (22), Andy Carroll (21), Craig Bellamy (12), and Maxi (10) all had 10 or more starts.
Luis Suarez had 29 starts where Liverpool scored 35 goals and let in 30. In his starts, Liverpool earned 38 points. The goal difference would be 6.55 and Liverpool would have earned only 49.79 points.
In Stewart Downing’s 28 starts, Liverpool scored 38 goals and let in 28. This earned 42 points. Over the course of a season, this would see Liverpool with a 13.57 goal difference and 57 points.
Dirk Kuyt had the next most starts with 22. In those matches, Liverpool had 22 goals for and against for 25 points. Over 38 games, Liverpool would have an even goal difference and 43.18 points.
Andy Carroll started 21 matches for Liverpool. In the 21 matches, Liverpool scored 27 and let in 24 for 31 points. This would equate to a 5.43 goal difference and 56.10 points over 38 games.
In Craig Bellamy’s 12 starts, Liverpool scored 18 and let in 12 while earning 20 points. Over 38 matches, Liverpool would score 19 goals more than their opponents and earn 63.33 points.
Maxi started the least amount of games of anyone surveyed with 10. Over the 10 matches, Liverpool scored 12 and let in 11 for 14 points. Over 38 games, this would equate to a 3.8 goal differential and 53.2 points.
After reviewing all the numbers, certain players stick out above others. Lucas and Bellamy sit above the rest for estimated points over 38 games if they played every game, with 69.67 and 63.33 points respectively. The problem with these two is they only started 12 games, so their points are skewed because the sample size is small.
Johnson, Downing and Agger are probably the best choices because their sample sizes are large enough that they are affected by the whole season’s bad and good runs. Johnson’s estimate was 58.73 points over 22 matches, while Downing and Agger both had estimates of 57 points over 38 and 24 matches respectively.
Spearing and Gerrard are the overwhelming lowest with 32.93 and 34.83 points respectively. Gerrard got stuck in the matches where everyone seemed dull, while Spearing seemed to get dominated in midfield, losing 10 of his 15 starts. Gerrard won 2, lost 5 and drew 5.
Again, the most surprised to me is Downing. How did his matches end up resulting so well for Liverpool? The Carling Cup man of the match could have just been lucky in the matches he was picked for, starting more matches early and less matches later in the year. But I don’t think you can count him out as Liverpool’s most surprising player on the list, because he obviously did something on the pitch.
Picking from the highest points totals, I came up with this Liverpool XI for 2011-12:
Despite Skrtel being the player of the season for the Reds, he didn’t make it into the best XI, partly because he started so many matches, so the likelihood of his score being similar to the 52 points was much more likely than Agger and Carragher.
Ideally, if each of these players played each match, Liverpool would have ended the year with 56.88 points and a 10.35 goal differential. 56 points and a 10 goal differential would have been good enough to finish level with Everton.