Liverpool paying the penalty for giving the referee a decision to make!
Article by Cash Boyle
Still brimming with a sense of injustice after Sunday, I decided to put that angst to good use and dig out the stats re Liverpool and penalties. Notwithstanding the contentiousness of both penalties against Spurs, the fact is that we have now conceded the joint most penalties in the Premier League this season. The five spot kicks conceded by Liverpool equal that of West Ham, Watford, Newcastle, Huddersfield and Burnley. Esteemed company? Not really. All but one of those teams occupy the bottom half of the Premier League table, so naturally I had to evaluate the footage to ascertain where the fault lies.
It made for surprising viewing. Of the five penalties awarded, only one is what you could define as a ‘stonewall penalty’. That was the penalty conceded against Leicester in September for a foul by Simon Mignolet. The others all contain an element of controversy. For the avoidance of doubt, the other penalties conceded were against Brighton, Everton and Spurs (2).
The high concession of penalties implies indiscipline; the Reds have a solitary red card this season. So what is the issue? Without having the tactical nous of Jürgen Klopp & co, I would assess that Liverpool are putting themselves in situations where penalties could be awarded, and that the marginal calls are going against us.
There is evidence to substantiate this claim. Let’s look at each penalty in turn.
The first penalty given was that against Leicester, which I have already described as the clearest cut. A cutting ball by Andy King is pounced upon by Jamie Vardy, who Mignolet fouls in trying to disrupt his path to goal. Despite the protests at the time, that award was fair.
Next up is the penalty conceded against Brighton in December. It’s testament to how minimal the infraction was that I had to re-watch the clip three times to see who was liable. It transpired that it was for a push by Jordan Henderson on Shane Duffy. This is the first instance where we see a marginal call hurt the Reds. By the letter of the law, it is a foul – ‘A penalty kick is awarded if a player commits a direct free kick offence inside their penalty area’. A push is a direct free kick offence. However, I would suggest that common sense needs to be applied. To quote the oft-cited cliché, if you award that penalty you award ten per game. That said, just don’t apply hands in the box.
Then we head towards the ‘don’t put yourself in that situation’ territory. The Derby day penalty rendered most fans incensed, incredulous at the stupidity of much-maligned Dejan Lovren. There is so much that needs to happen in that sequence before Everton can score, but by conceding the penalty those obstacles are largely removed. Frustration aside, Lovren puts himself in the situation where Dominic Calvert-Lewin anticipates the contact and falls over. That’s entirely avoidable insofar as the initial ball could’ve been cleared.
The final stop on the penalty tour is the two conceded against Spurs. Not only is this the most recent in time, it’s also the most significant due to Spurs being a direct rival. Should they finish one point above us in 4th, this will become as significant a moment in retrospect as it felt at the time. Two penalties, two potential offsides and two points dropped. A copious amount of analysis has dissected whether they were rightly or wrongly awarded, so I will choose to instead look at the role of the Liverpool players in each. After all, I’m looking at how Liverpool put themselves in the situation where a penalty can be conceded.
First penalty – Gini Wijnaldum should close down Dele Alli (one two occasions), before he slides through the killer ball which Lovren fails to deal with. Wijnaldum isn’t fatigued, having just come on, and should be aware of Alli’s virtues. That ball should never allowed to be played, let alone missed by Lovren.
Second penalty – Virgil Van Dijk just shouldn’t let the ball bounce. Such a simple error gives Erik Lamela ample time to put his body in front of the ball. That’s it. Whether right or wrong decisions, there are protective measures the players can take to eliminate the need for decisions to be made.
The good news is that none of these awards have resulted in Liverpool losing the game. Two draws and two wins have emerged from the four games in which the Reds have conceded a penalty this season. 40% of the penalties awarded were saved. That statistic makes for particularly pleasant reading, mainly because of the small sample size.
That said, we’re still four points down which could be crucial come the end of the season. Losing out on the Champions League by 4 points would be the real penalty.