Barring a sensational decision to declare the season “null and void,” Liverpool will likely win their first-ever Premier League title.
It has by all accounts been a tremendous campaign from the Reds, who have been by far the best side in the league this season, as their 25-point lead in the table makes perfectly clear.
As the old adage goes, defence wins championships. And it should come as no surprise to know that Liverpool have easily the best defensive record in the league.
Although, those numbers don’t quite tell the whole story when it comes to Liverpool’s defence this season. In order to get the full picture, SBOTOP is here to take a look at some of the advanced statistics and see what they have to say.
Klopp’s amazing defensive evolution
Before going deep into Liverpool’s defensive numbers, let us first discuss the brilliant job Jurgen Klopp has done transforming this team into the best defensive unit in the Premier League.
When Klopp came to England, he had established a reputation for his “gegenpressing” style, which saw his teams try to win the ball back as quickly as possible. His attackers were tasked with putting immense pressure on opposing defenders and force turnovers in dangerous areas, which would lead to better shots.
However, Klopp gradually realised that this strategy was quite taxing on his team physically. And so he decided to alter his system, which didn’t rely so much on the intense pressing with which he first made his name.
Of course, it helps to have arguably the world’s best central defender in Virgil van Dijk. The towering Dutchman was simply outstanding, both individually — no one was able to dribble past him 1-on-1 for an astounding 50 Premier League games — and in terms of organising the entire unit. He was rightly recognised for his efforts as he won the PFA and Premier League Player of the Year awards.
Goalkeeper Alisson, who also has a strong claim to being the best in the world in his position, deserves mention as well.
But aside from having two world-class players, Klopp also created a system which would help them excel. To compensate for full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson creating some Premier League 2020 highlights in attack, Klopp made his midfield one that would maintain solidity at the back.
And if they needed to, they could still turn up the pressure on opponents and defend from the front with the likes of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
All of those efforts bore fruit last season as they conceded just 22 goals in 38 games. If it weren’t for a historically great Manchester City side, Liverpool easily would’ve won the league.
For 2019-20, Klopp has continued with that slightly more conservative defensive approach, and it has paid dividends once again.
Liverpool defence not quite as great as expected
Although, it might come as a surprise to some that Liverpool’s defence isn’t quite as dominant as one might think, according to the numbers.
Expected goals (or xG) is an advanced statistic which measures the actual goals a team should have scored based on the quality of their shots. Meanwhile, expected goals allowed (or xGA) measures how many goals a team should have allowed.
So while Liverpool’s 21 goals allowed is far and away the best in the league this season, their xGA is actually 29.1, which is a mere fourth behind City, Chelsea, and Wolves. That was also the case last season when their total goals allowed was 22 but their xGA was almost 30.
That difference of eight goals is quite a significant one. It indicates that Liverpool have had some good fortune in terms of conceding fewer goals despite their opponents getting some good chances to score.
Of course, this doesn’t mean Liverpool are frauds who owe their success to luck. But it does point out that their defence this season may just be “very good” instead of “outstanding.”
Their performances in recent games may finally be showing that to be true.
They also lost 3-2 at Anfield to Atletico Madrid as they were knocked out of the Champions League. Although, it should be noted that the goals they conceded against Atleti came after extra-time and they didn’t have Alisson.
The Reds’ recent slide is understandable, though. They’d been so good for close to two years now that, whether due to fatigue (mental and physical) or simple regression to the mean, it was inevitable that their defence would drop off at some point.
However, that does not change the fact that Klopp and his side have done some remarkable work on the defensive side, which has contributed immensely toward their seemingly inevitable Premier League title.
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