Liverpool’s Big Chance Problem

When I was recently updating my creativity combination info (which you can see here), it really hit home to me just how poor Liverpool have been in creative terms this season, and particularly so recently.

It’s hard to know what to say on here though without endlessly repeating myself. The three issues I thought might cause the Reds problems this season, which I wrote about at length here (fewer set piece goals and big chances than last season, and Balotelli being a poor finisher), have basically bogged Liverpool down from day one.

The big chance issue is frankly terrifying right now though, as it illustrates just how poorly Liverpool are doing in attacking terms at the moment.

Before we go on, a quick reminder of what constitutes a ‘big chance’: “A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range”. It’s a subjective statistic, but as Opta data collectors work to strict guidelines, we can be confident that the relevant shots are correctly assigned ‘big chance’ status.

LFC v Spurs Big Chances

It’s an extreme example to make my point about Liverpool’s struggles in 2014/15, but away at Tottenham Hotspur last season, the Reds had a whopping eight big chances, as we can see here.

It’s extreme as even the very best teams only average between three and four per game, but it certainly illustrates what the team was capable of last season; eight big chances in ninety minutes.

In the twelve games that Liverpool have played in the league and Champions League since Daniel Sturridge got injured, the Reds have had a sum total of eight big chances.

As if that’s not bad enough, half of those eight haven’t even come from Liverpool’s own good play. If you break the opportunities down, then you’ve got the following:

Liverpool’s Big Chances Since Sturridge’s Injury
Creation Combination Outcome Creation Method Outcome
Sterling to Balotelli vs Everton Missed Lallana vs QPR (Defensive error allows a shot) Missed
Henderson to Lallana vs West Brom Scored Balotelli vs QPR (Rebound from save of the above Lallana shot) Missed
Henderson to Manquillo vs Ludogorets Missed Coutinho vs Hull (Attempted clearance falls to him) Missed
Gerrard penalty vs Ludogorets Scored Markovic vs Basle (Rebound from a save falls to him) Missed

A lot of big chances will come about through errors and rebounds for all teams in fairness, but to have only directly created three big chances in twelve matches (if you exclude the penalty against Ludogorets) is panic-attack inducing!

We can also see from the above table that matches with QPR and Ludogorets featured two big chances each, which means that there have been six matches (against Aston Villa, West Ham, Newcastle, Chelsea and a pair with Real Madrid) where Liverpool haven’t had a single top quality goalscoring opportunity. That may be forgiveable against the current Premier League leaders or the European Champions, but it’s a poor show against Villa, West Ham and Newcastle.

This issue is highlighted further by a look at Liverpool’s six big chances from the three games that Daniel Sturridge featured in this season:

Liverpool’s Big Chances When Sturridge Played
Creation Combination Outcome Creation Method Outcome
Henderson to Sterling vs Southampton Scored Balotelli vs Spurs (poor clearance by Lloris) Missed
Sterling to Sturridge vs Southampton Scored    
Sturridge to Lambert vs Man City Missed    
Henderson to Sterling vs Spurs Scored    
Gerrard penalty vs Spurs Scored    

As well as the obvious increase from 0.67 per game to 2.0 when Sturridge plays, we can also see that a far greater proportion of the big chances have been directly created by the team, rather than relying on the shortcomings of their opponents. As an aside, it’s interesting to note that six out of nine of the created big chances this season have been scored (or four out of seven, without the penalties) compared to zero out of five of the ‘freebies’; I wonder if this tends to be true on a wider scale?

Before I make another point on the Reds’ struggle to create big chances, here’s a complete table of the big chance creativity combinations so far.

BC 15

Notice how not one of Liverpool’s big chances this season has been created by one of the summer recruits. Consider too that the Reds are looking to the likes of Lallana, Markovic, Balotelli, Lambert, and perhaps to a lesser extent Moreno; that’s around £80m of attacking talent there, with pedigree when it comes to creativity in a lot of cases. Yet they’ve not created a single big chance, and only Lallana from that group has converted a big chance so far too.

I guess this issue crystalises two problems with the Liverpool attack that I’ve recently written about: Balotelli doesn’t pass or shoot in the box much when played alone up front (which is most of the time), and then when he is due to receive a pass in the box, he’s often offside (particularly in the last two league games).

I’d rather avoid pinning all of our hopes on the soon-to-return Daniel Sturridge, but it’s obvious that Liverpool are crying out for his pace and movement up front at the moment. His return might just give the Reds a big chance of a top four finish.

Please check out my articles on Liverpool’s transfer targets, and follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Scroll down to see the related posts for this article. Thanks.

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