We can chalk that up with something not associated with a squad that scored 101 goals last season, along with something else that’s stuck in the back of the mainstream football brain – defense.
Before we get into how the Reds win the ball back, losing someone who is statistically connected to 43 goals had to be addressed. There were many finishes that Luis Suarez was involved with in the build up play that he could take credit for as well. He scampered around the pitch, skipped over tackles, but brought an inimitable determination to each game, which spread to his teammates.
If you watch Suarez run with the ball in possession, he looks bound to trip over himself, with the weight of his torso laid over the ball. He always sought out opportunities to push higher and higher up the pitch to spur Liverpool’s attack.
One of the peaks for Liverpool’s counter-attacking game came in last season’s 5-1 thumping of Arsenal.
The Reds came roaring out of the starting blocks to the shock of Michael Owen, who was beside himself in the commentary box. But watch some of the goals. Of the five they scored that day, all Suarez contributed, which we record in a box score, is a simple assist for Raheem Sterling’s first of the match.
Suarez’s play that day featured one of the most memorable misses of the season, and it’s not like he had lofted a sitter over the bar, but that he had struck the post after controlling the ball in the air and spinning to unleash a lethal strike. As the ball cannoned off the frame, it was a moment when Reds supporters looked at each other to laugh, as if nobody could believe their team was playing in such a way. It’s if that shot was almost half a goal, giving the team confidence that a third was coming.
That miss drove the attack forward. Liverpool was pressing all over the pitch. Brendan Rodgers’ squad won the ball 17 times in the first half and 18 in the second. It was the height of the counter-attacking football the team had brought to England.
The forward play and dizzying counters seems like it is in the distant pass and in a way it is, because the tackling and energy is not there.
Look at the team’s tackling charts from the Manchester City game from last Monday and the Arsenal game.
After you collect yourself from shock, note that the 35 tackles from the Reds’ emphatic victory are a statistical outlier – though significant nonetheless. Liverpool led the league in tackles last season with 22.3 per game, narrowly edging out Crystal Palace’s 22.2), according to WhoScored.com.
Measuring against this year’s sample size of just two games, the numbers do not match, as Liverpool sat second to last this season in that category in the build-up to their clash against Spurs.
There are other defensive statistic measures, such as interceptions, which are important and responsible for many Liverpool counters, including two of the three noted in this post, but less tackles means the Reds start less attacks. Of course, tackling does not always correspond with league success, which Michael Cox noted on his blog in January, but it is integral for counter-attacking sides.