How Many League Goals Can SaS Score?

I must stress immediately that this is in no way an in-depth or robust statistical analysis. However, I ran some numbers on how many goals Suarez and Sturridge might score in the league this season based on their form so far, and as the findings made my mouth water, I figured they were worth sharing.

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Better With The Ball? It’s Just A Shot Away

The original version of this article appeared in These Turbulent Times, and the stats (sourced from EPLIndex) were correct up to 29 March 2013. I’ve now updated it to include all of last season so that it covers 1,900 matches worth of data in total, and re-written parts of the article accordingly.

I have read a couple of very interesting statistics with regards to the bearing that having more shots on target (SoT) than your opponent has upon winning football matches. On 24th February, The Guardian advised us:

Of the 181 games won in the Premier League before last weekend, the team who had the most possession only won 103 – 57% in total. The team who had more shots on target than their opponents won 128 matches – 71% of the total.

Then this article, which used a larger sample of 987 matches, chipped in with:

Winning the SoT battle in non-drawn games, results in a team winning that fixture 71.73% of the time and losing the fixture 19.35% of the time.

It seems pretty conclusive; have more shots on target than your opponent, and you’ll win around 71% of the time (when excluding drawn matches). This isn’t in itself that surprising, but it’s valuable to be able to quantify it from a performance monitoring point of view all the same.

But a thought occurred to me; you could win the SoT battle by anything from one in a close game performance-wise to potentially any number (and for the record, Liverpool’s best figure since August 2008 has been twelve on two occasions). Surely accounting for this differential might provide an even better guide than simply who had more shots on target?

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Alessandro Matri: Liverpool Bound?

I generally pay very little attention to transfer speculation, as very little of it ever comes to fruition. However, when Inside Futbol reported that “Liverpool have stepped up their search for another striker by requesting information about the availability of Alessandro Matri” I thought I’d check out his record seeing as there’s a very real chance that he’ll be leaving Juventus; as Tevez and Llorente have been brought in by the Italian champions this summer, Matri’s chances to play will surely be pretty scarce in 2013/14.

Having checked out some brief scoring stats, I’m beginning to think he should perhaps be on Brendan Rodgers’ shopping list.

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Luis Suárez: With Or Without You

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 25th June 2013.

As I sit writing this and you sit reading it, even though those two events are happening at different times, it’s a guarantee that wherever he is right now Luis Suárez will be telling anyone who cares to listen that he loves Liverpool, hates the media, and greatly admires the work of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

In fairness to him, so do I, but then the future of Liverpool FC is not dependent upon whether or not I stick with them; with Suárez, it matters a great deal.

Or does it? I’m sure by now you’ve seen the statistics for when Liverpool have had Suárez in the team in the Premier League compared to when they haven’t, but for the record:

ImageThere we are then; Liverpool are better off without Suárez, to the tune of over half a point per game. Case closed.

In reality though, thirteen games is far too small a sample to make a conclusive judgment on whether or not Liverpool will be a better team if Suárez leaves, so I have decided to dig a little deeper, and look at the key match stats that Luis affects.

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Daniel Sturridge: In Numbers

On Wednesday, Liverpool completed the signing of 23 year old England international Daniel Sturridge for £12m. I’ve been taking a look at his stats (via EPLIndex and Whoscored) to see if this is likely to be money well spent.

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Should Rodgers Join The Hunt For Huntelaar?

Rumours are today circulating that Liverpool will try to secure the signature of Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in January. The forward has been linked with a move to the red half of Merseyside in the past, but is he the type of player that Brendan Rodgers should be looking to bring in?

Clearly a striker of some description has to be the priority in the new year, following Liverpool’s dismal handling of the final day of the summer transfer window, and in view of the club’s continued failings in front of goal.

A look at Huntelaar’s statistics certainly suggests that it might be worth attempting to persuade him to join the Reds.

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Suárez vs Torres: New Kids On The Block

This piece first appeared on The Tomkins Times on June 2nd 2011.

Now that Luis Suárez has firmly cemented his place as the current darling of the Kop, I thought it would be interesting to compare his initial impact to that of our last talismanic striker, one Fernando Torres. They were similar ages (Suárez being the older by a year) and were both playing in the Premier League for the first time, so a comparison seems reasonable.

The status of the club could not have been much more different for the arrival of the two hitmen though.

Torres joined a club who had finished 3rd in the league the previous season, and had just lost a Champions League final (somewhat unluckily in many people’s eyes), with a successful manager who had bedded in well over his first three seasons.

Suárez, on the other hand, joined a team with a caretaker manager who’d been in charge for just four league games. A team that had finished 7th the previous year, had been in the relegation zone as recently as three months prior to his arrival, and were more familiar with Rabotnicki and Trabzonspor than Milan and Barcelona.

The timing of the two players’ signings is worth considering too.

Fernando Torres signed in July 2007, so had a decent pre-season with his new club. He had also had a free summer, something he hasn’t enjoyed since, so it could be strongly argued that he was fresher then than he has been at any point in the intervening four years.

Luis had played in the World Cup until the 10th July, and only joined his new club in late January, so was thrown in to the fray having barely met his new team mates.

Suárez played 1101 minutes of league football for Liverpool this season, so I looked at the stats for the same length of time from the start of Torres’ Anfield career.

So how did they get on?

The two situations certainly favour the Spaniard, but did it pan out that way? The best place to start is with a look at their goal scoring and assist tallies, as these are probably the key measures of a striker’s success.

As you’d probably expect, Torres has a clear edge on goals, having played as an out-and-out front man, whereas Suárez usually plays the role of the support striker.

Whilst both players had a mixture of opponents in terms of difficulty, in the interests of fairness I should point out that three of Torres’ nine goals came against a Derby County side which is statistically the worst that the Premier League has ever seen, so he is perhaps fortunate to be so far ahead.

Suárez also didn’t have any cup games to find any form in; Torres scored a morale boosting hat-trick away at Reading in a league cup match during his equivalent period.

The assist tallies are similar, but as Paul Tomkins noted here, they don’t tell the full story with Suárez. For example, he also won a penalty against Newcastle, and he is only credited with one assist against Manchester United, despite being the final LFC player to touch the ball prior to each of Kuyt’s three goals that day.

Let’s take a look at a few more stats. Regarding tackles won, the Guardian chalkboards (where this info is sourced from) defines them partly as where a player retains possession when someone tries to tackle them but fails. So by retaining possession they are deemed to have ‘won’ the tackle, even though they themselves haven’t tried to tackle anyone (if that makes sense!).

There are probably not too many surprise revelations here. I was surprised that Suárez had more shots than Torres overall, though perhaps not that he didn’t get as many on target; his shooting has been somewhat wayward on more than one occasion since joining.

It’s interesting to see that Torres gave away more free-kicks than he won in this period. One key difference that struck me between his initial time at the club and more recent times was his lack of petulance in those earlier days.

The statistics here show clearly that he did not always win the challenges he went for and was most likely wrongly penalised on occasion, yet I don’t recall the constant backchat to referees which seemed a common theme of the last two seasons or so.

Clearly most of the stats show that whilst Torres was the better out-and-out striker, Suárez brings more to the team overall. The passing stats really hammer that point home – the Uruguayan attempted nearly twice as many passes and completed over twice as many more, so has clearly been far more involved in the overall play than the Spaniard.

So maybe what they both provided was what the team needed at the time; Torres was the world class striker the team had lacked for a number of years, whilst Suárez was the creative genius that a struggling team was crying out for, in order to make things happen after a period of poor football (though Dalglish had started to turn this around shortly before Suárez arrived).

Of course, what all Liverpool fans now want to see is Suárez continuing his fine form in tandem with a fit and firing Andy Carroll (see here for my analysis of his performances for Newcastle this season). That really would be something to get excited about.

As for Torres. . . since his move to Chelsea, Martin Skrtel has scored as many goals as he has, and that says it all. Liverpool definitely got a lot more for their £20m in 2007 than Chelsea got for their £50m in January.

Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.

David N’gog – Definite Potential

This article was originally published on 8th June 2011, and updated on 18th June 2011.

If Twitter transfer tittle-tattle is to believed, then David N’gog is off to the Stadium Of Light in part exchange for Jordan Henderson.

The speculation seems to suggest that he is being valued at £7m in this deal. If so, that would represent a marked increase on the £1.5m shelled out by Rafa Benitez in 2008.

Some people would think that he is over-priced at that figure, and I have heard Liverpool fans saying ‘good riddance’ and the like.

As usual, my opinion will be based on the facts. And as usual, they tend to go against perceived wisdom.

I have compared N’gog on two key statistics against the Premier League’s top proven strikers, as well as Andy Carroll and Luis Suárez, to give a point of reference for Liverpool fans.

Firstly, a look at shots to goals ratio. The figures quoted are the players’ total Premier League career, not just a specific season, so obviously some players here will have played a lot more games than others:

Now clearly N’gog is fairly lowdown this table. But look who he is very close to, or even ahead of: Golden Boot winner Dimitar Berbatov and £24m powerhouse Didier Drogba  to name but two.

The other statistic I have looked at is shots on target ratio:

The boy N’gog (who, remember, only turned 22 two months ago) certainly knows where the goal is. He is level with another Golden Boot winner (Carlos Tevez) and only a fraction behind a World Cup winner in Fernando Torres.

If you break N’gog’s stats down on a season-by-season basis, then his figures for 2008-09 (his first year in English football, don’t forget) make for very interesting reading.

His shots to goal ratio was 0.22, which would put him joint top of the above table, and his shots on target ratio was 0.67, which would put him outright first for those rankings.

This clearly demonstrates the benefit of playing in a well-oiled, title chasing team, but that’s for another debate.

Bear in mind that N’gog has only made 21 starts across his three seasons with the Reds, so if he starts nearly every game for Sunderland, then it’s not unreasonable to assume that he may well figure at the top end of the scoring charts next year.

That would make £7m seem like an absolute steal.

Update: 18th June 2011

I thought it would be interesting to add the scores on the above two tables together to give a combined ranking:

I realise this is a far from flawless or complete way of measuring the effectiveness of a striker, but personally, I think it makes for interesting reading. N’gog is ranked 6th, and his figure of 0.73 is the average of the above totals.

Something of major significance has also occurred to me since I originally posted this article: penalties.

Several of the players on the above list are regular penalty takers (Bent, van Persie, Defoe, and Tevez for example). A free shot at goal from 12 yards seems a pretty easy way to bump up your shots on target or shots to goals ratios to me.

I can’t recall N’gog taking a Premier League penalty, though I have currently not been able to obtain statistics regarding the penalty taking record of individual players, so can’t be 100% sure.

But he is certainly not a regular on penalty duty like some of the above list, and yet he is in touching distance of some of the world’s top frontmen on the above measures at least.

Perhaps my initial version of this article went a little overboard in my praise of N’gog. Yet he is a young player, playing from the bench more-often-than not, and has spent most of his time playing for a struggling Liverpool side.

Time will tell if he ever gets to the very top of the game, chances are he probably won’t. But I believe he deserves more respect than he commonly gets for what he has achieved to date, and I stand by that.

Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.