This article has happened almost by accident. I wanted to look at how Sturridge’s form has fluctuated over his time with Liverpool, so visited his ESPN stats page. Some swift copying, pasting and counting revealed he has made ninety-nine appearances in the Red shirt to date, so I figured that made this a very good time to share the findings on here.
The raw stats make for very impressive reading. The former Chelsea man has scored fifty-five goals and assisted fourteen more during his time at Liverpool, meaning that he has made a direct contribution to a goal every 103 minutes he has been on the pitch. He has converted 16.4% of his shots (when 10% is Premier League average and around 20% is a greatest-of-all-time candidate like Messi), and 39% of his shots on target (which is 9% above average) so when he plays he is undoubtedly a defender’s nightmare.
The fact that he has been unavailable so often though, thanks to a total of twenty-one reported injuries (or one every 4.7 appearances) makes it all the more depressing, as a guaranteed contribution of almost a goal a game would see any team fighting it out at the top of the table. When you break the data down into chunks though, it’s clear how these injuries may have taken their toll.
Here is a comparison of the first fifty games and the subsequent forty-nine. Sturridge brought up the half century in the first game of 2014/15, so the data basically breaks down into the Suárez era and the two-and-a-bit seasons since.
Remember how I said that Messi converts a fifth of his shots? Well, Daniel Sturridge did that too during his first season-and-a-half at Anfield. I find it interesting that he has been shooting very slightly more often since August 2014, and with similar accuracy, yet his conversion rate has plummeted.
I then wondered if splitting the data into batches of twenty-five matches would reveal anything, but you can see from the table below that it essentially shows the same as the table above, namely that Sturridge hasn’t been the same since Luis Suárez set sail for Barcelona. Not that Liverpool have been either until very recently, in fairness.
It’s encouraging to see that his goal contribution form over the past twenty-four games is far closer to what we would expect from Sturridge, even if his personal shot conversion rate has not improved since his third batch of games when the Brendan Rodgers era collapsed in a heap.
Ah yes, Rodgers. It would be remiss of me to not include the breakdown of figures by manager here, if only so that conspiracy theorists across the internet can make the most of them to prove their own very specific point.
There’s not really a lot in it, is there? It would seem that Jürgen has Sturridge performing at roughly the average level that Rodgers did; neither the highs of his first eighteen months, nor the lows that then followed as he struggled hugely with fitness issues.
Is the change in form purely down to injuries though? I wrote recently why the Reds should get Sturridge in the box more often (here), and the following graph (which is league only, unlike the data from all competitions in the rest of the article) illustrates how Sturridge has been shooting from distance more and more as the seasons pass.
The changes aren’t huge from year-to-year, granted, but breaking it down as per the fifty game chunks above shows that 66% of the England international’s league shots were in the box during his first season-and-a-half with Liverpool, but only 60% have been since. To really to get to the bottom of this you would need in-depth expected goal data, but clearly there must be some link between a lower proportion of shots in the box and a decreased scoring rate.
We’ve reached the stage with both the Liverpool squad and Sturridge now whereby we can’t assume he will start or even feature in the Reds next match, even though he is currently fit and available for selection. This would have been unthinkable as recently as last season, yet the numbers illustrate that he is no longer the force of scoring nature that he once was. Whether that’s down to injuries, tactics, age or all three is not for me to say, but nothing would make me happier than seeing him break his 2016/17 league duck in his 100th Liverpool appearance against Manchester United on Monday night.