Liverpool lovely to watch
The world was only ever going to see one game from the Barclays Premier league last weekend but even if Liverpool-Swansea hadn’t been the sole fixture because of FA Cup ties, there is a good chance our African audience would have been treated to the 5-0 thrashing anyway.
Football fans in many of the league’s worldwide markets have the luxury of choosing from any of the games being aired each weekend but in those territories where schedulers have to pick the “best of the bunch”, evidence suggests that the Anfield outfit is almost always at the top of their wish list.
Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper analysed the 94 games (from 138 played) that had been televised in the UK up until last weekend. The paper discovered that Liverpool had been on television as many times as runaway leaders Manchester United (16) and one more time than reigning champions Manchester City.
With UK broadcasters having anticipated a title race showdown between the two Manchester clubs, they will end the season first and second in the “most-screened” table, but Liverpool will finish in third place only one broadcast behind City.
The newspaper correctly cited Liverpool’s vast fan base as being one of the key reasons for the club’s popularity with broadcasters. That is obviously just as true when it comes to international audiences. However, it is also true to say that Liverpool always make for entertaining viewing, whether you are a fan or not, whether they win or not.
The stats back me up. The Swansea win represented the seventh time this season that Liverpool won a game by three goals or more. In contrast, Manchester United have only managed that three times.
Luis Suarez’ goal, to make it 4-0 on Sunday, took Liverpool to 17 for the calendar year, a league high. They also set a record for the season when they took a 35th shot in the 82nd minute of the game. Even before the game kicked off at Anfield, Liverpool had become the first team in Europe’s top five leagues to make it to 500 shots.
Suarez moved within one goal of Robin van Persie at the top of the goal-scorers chart and Daniel Sturridge continued his impressive start to life at Merseyside. Even Philippe Coutinho got in on the act. The player, who had not scored since the opening day of Serie A’s season, promptly grabbed a goal on his first start for Liverpool.
So far, so impressive. Yet the real appeal of Liverpool lies in the blatant contradiction in their stats, results and performances.
Remember that stat about wins by more than three goals, for instance – the one in which they outdid Manchester United by seven wins to three? Well, United are still 26 points ahead of Liverpool despite their “failure” to thrash teams on a regular basis.
As for those spectacular shooting stats? Well, we must remember that before Sunday’s game Liverpool were the worst in the league for actually making the keeper work with their shots, as only 33.4 per cent of them had actually needed saving. Against West Brom, they had 25 shots but only got seven on target and lost the game 2-0. Before things improved against Swansea, Liverpool, on average, needed 11 shots to get a goal. Only QPR had a worse ratio.
The win over Swansea represented Liverpool’s first against a top ten side and while they have the league’s third best goal return (48), they only average 1.2 goals per game against teams in the top 10.
Liverpool produce as many paradoxes as they do attempts on goal. Having missed their previous four Premier League penalties, on Sunday they converted two in a match for the first time since 2009. For the first time ever in this league, two different players succeeded from the spot in the same game.
Liverpool’s erratic campaign had, prior to Sunday, seen them make 10 errors leading directly to a goal (the joint third worst record in the league) and they had made 24 errors that led to an attempt on goal (a league high).
As Brendan Rodgers seeks to develop a winning formula at Anfield he is plagued by inconsistency. For all their goal-scoring prowess, Liverpool are consistently being undone by defensive failings. Martin Skrtel has been dropped for the past five games, Dan Agger has had his problems and Jamie Carragher is playing an awful lot of football for a man in his last season.
It all makes for a disjointed campaign but one which makes for compelling viewing all the same. Just as it was in the days of Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish, the reign of Rodgers will always provide compelling viewing.
Whether one supports the club, dislikes it or simply has still-vivid memories of the days when it swept all before it, LFC’s on-going quest to rediscover that success is impossible to ignore. For as long as players like Suarez or Coutinho are drawn to the “glamour” of a team that in actuality is on a competitive par with Swansea and West Brom, then it will remain a box office draw.
Having said all that, we will not be screening a Liverpool game this weekend. After all, how could we? They have already played it and, in doing so, they provided all the entertainment we have come to expect from a staple of our football-watching entertainment.