Stats: How Liverpool's defence dealt with West Ham's physical threat

Liverpool's defence got a big workout against West Ham United.

Liverpool’s defenders were always going to be in for a difficult afternoon at Upton Park yesterday as they faced the physical threat of West Ham United – and to emerge victorious from such a difficult away fixture in a high pressure situation could be one of their defining moments this season.

Their defence has come in for a lot of criticism this season and where it not for a poor refereeing decision, the Reds would probably have had a clean sheet to go along with their ninth consecutive away win which keeps them two points clear at the top of the Premier League.

The physical threat of Sam Allardyce’s tactics combined with Andy Carroll’s physical presence, it was always going to be a challenging afternoon.

Brendan Rodgers had his hand forced with his team selection as Daniel Agger wasn’t fit to play but the more physical Mamadou Sakho came in at the back.

Unsurprisingly, if we look at the statistics from yesterday’s game, Andy Carroll wins the most of the aerial duels out of anyone.

NameTeamPosAerial WonAppsMins
Andy Carroll West Ham FW 11 1 90
Martin Skrtel Liverpool DF 4 1 90
Glen Johnson Liverpool DF 3 1 90
Mamadou Sakho Liverpool DF 3 1 90

Of course, with Carroll being the target man is bound to contest the most aerial duels, as he also lost the most. Unsurprisingly Liverpool's centre back duo of Sakho and Skrtel have lost more than they won. It's something that Carroll does every week whilst Liverpool's defence faces very different threats depending on the opposition.

NameTeamPosAerial LostAppsMins
Andy Carroll West Ham FW 6 1 90
Mamadou Sakho Liverpool DF 5 1 90
Martin Skrtel Liverpool DF 5 1 90

Liverpool's defensive duo came up with more headed clearances as they tried to combat the route one tactics deployed by the Hammers. Watching it from the stands they seemed to relish the contest more than they have done in the past - their mentality seemed to be different from other occasions when the defence may have shied away.

NameTeamPosHead ClearanceAppsMins
Mamadou Sakho Liverpool DF 8 1 90
Martin Skrtel Liverpool DF 8 1 90
Jon Flanagan Liverpool DF 4 1 90
Kolo Touré Liverpool DF 3 1 5
Steven Gerrard Liverpool MF 2 1 90
Glen Johnson Liverpool DF 2 1 90

A total of 29 headed clearances came from the Liverpool side and they managed to limit the home side to just the one shot on target.

The interesting statistic in that table is that Kolo Toure came on for the final five minutes and was straight into the action with three headed clearances, even if there was a slightly nervy moment as the ball went back towards Simon Mignolet.

For much of the season Liverpool's defence has been criticised for not being able to deal with the more physical threat with both Romelu Lukaku of Everton and Yannick Sagbo of Hull City both having joy against the Reds earlier on in the season. 

Though Liverpool may have leaked goals this season, their defence did look tight unit that was very hard to break down. The defence was stepping out as high as possible meaning that most of the aerial challenges were coming at 30 yards from goal unless the home side had a set piece.

There is the disappointment of not taking a clean sheet away for Liverpool, but it was still a very good defensive performance against a handful of an opposition.

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