Various media sources have carried stories that consider the impact psychiatrist Dr.Steve Peters may have upon the England squad at this summer’s World Cup, focussing on his talents in light of their disastrous shoot-out record in recent major finals.
Dr.Peters who is an English sports psychiatrist and author of the best seller the chimp paradox has previously worked with Team Sky in Cycling, with Ronnie O’Sullivan in Snooker and with many British athletes. In November 2012 he was recruited by Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool F.C. for a weekly session with the players and from what media reports suggest, comes with a sterling reputation.
While some may argue that scoring a penalty is the greatest sign of psychological strength in football, from albeit limited experience and from casual observation I believe that looking at goals conceded in the final minutes is as good a proxy as any for evaluating a football teams mentality (yet not denying that it is of course more complex than just this).
The first graph below charts how many goals Liverpool have conceded in the last ten minutes in the approximately sixty Premier League matches since Dr. Peters has been involved with the club (I don’t know when he started exactly, but it was reportedly sometime during November 2012). The sixty Premier League games previous to his appointment are compared to this. Also I included how many of these goals occurred inside stoppage time.
The second graphs digs into the data a little deeper controlling for consolation goals scored against Liverpool in the last ten minutes. A goal was considered consolation if it was scored in the final ten minutes and there was already more than one goal between the teams.
While Liverpool have experienced different managers over the course of these 120 games with alternate philosophies, many of the key personal on the pitch remained the same. Since Dr.Peters arrival the amount of goals they have conceded in the final ten minutes has almost halved and they have only conceeded one stoppage time goal in the Premier League (Lukaku for West Brom last season). For the sixty games previous to his appointment Liverpool conceded fourteen goals in the last ten minutes, five of which actually came in injury time - Liverpool fans may recall a particularly painful Robin Van Persie goal at 90+8.
It is unlikely that this trend is purely down to one appointment but it may help remind us that football, like all sports after all, happens between the ears!