Why Liverpool has struggled in EPL

Can Liverpool convert on its chances and win the FA Cup?

Originally Published: May 4, 2012
By Albert Larcada | ESPN Insider
Andy CarrollAP Photo/Tom HeveziAndy Carroll, center, needs to play a solid game if Liverpool is going to win the FA Cup.

There is a common theme across team sports when it comes to offense: The closer you can get the ball to where you need to go, the more successful you will be. In basketball it means getting shots near the hoop. In football it means starting your possessions in good field position. In hockey it means getting the puck close to the net. And so on.

In soccer, it's no different. The teams that set themselves up with the most opportunities close to their opponent's goal will almost always be more successful than those that don't. This seems simple in theory, but in practice it's quite difficult. Obviously opponents will not just allow a team to set up shop inside their penalty area and hope for the best. It wouldn't be much of a game if they did.

It requires a certain amount of teamwork to penetrate a defense, but more importantly, it necessitates quality athletes and decision-makers on the pitch. Once you make it to as high a level as the Premier League, it becomes less about the X's and the O's and more about the Jimmys and Joes. This is seen clearly in the correlation between spending and winning in the EPL, which is higher than in any of the major American sports leagues.

Then, of course, there are always teams that buck the trend.

Liverpool entered the season having spent most of the $80 million it received from Chelsea via the Fernando Torres transfer on a potpourri of new players. In came Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam, joining Andrew Carroll and Luis Suarez, who were signed less than a year ago. Off the field, the Reds were doing everything necessary to win.

But in an unpredictable manner, Liverpool has endured arguably its most forgettable season on the field as a member of the Premier League.

Albert Larcada is an Analytics Specialist in ESPN's Stats & Information group. Among other analytics projects, he maintains, advances and writes about ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) algorithm.