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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Liverpool vs Fulham: Chance Quality Preview

After a match up between two of the Premier League’s best teams for chance quality at the Emirates Stadium last weekend, this week sees teams at opposite ends of the spectrum meet at Anfield, when Fulham visit Liverpool on Saturday afternoon.

Although the Cottagers have been clinical in a couple of areas of the pitch, by and large their chance creation this season (both for and against) has been something of a horror show. The Reds will surely have enough in their armoury to win the match, and the below explains why.

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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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Premier League Chance Quality: Week Nine

I don’t post these round ups every week as there’s not always much of note worth sharing, but as I spotted a few interesting firsts and other bits and bobs this week, I thought it was worth posting them here.

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Second Half Slump? Controlling The Result

Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield. The problems that have dogged the Reds this season were evident though, as they delivered a below par performance in the second half of the match as usual.

In their seven league matches in 2013/14, Liverpool have yet to trail at the half time break, leading in six and drawing the other. In view of this, it’s not surprising that they’ve been on the back foot in the second period as they have had something to protect rather than a game to chase.

Viewed through this reality, I’m going to show that they’ve had better control of their second halves than you might think.

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PLCQ: The First Three Weeks

In my last blog post, I introduced the concept of ‘chance quality’, which is a system I have devised for assessing which players and teams create the best goal scoring opportunities (read more here).

I have made the most of the two-week international break (as there was little for me, as an England fan, to enjoy on the pitch), and compiled the chance quality stats for the whole of the 2013/14 Premier League so far. Hence the name; PLCQ = Premier League Chance Quality!

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Sinclair vs Sterling

With Stewart Downing having packed his Anfield bags and joined Liverpool Mk II with Joe Cole and Andy Carroll at West Ham, attention turns to who Liverpool might bring in to replace him.

Whilst fans may be dreaming about the likes of Willian joining as the Reds potentially profit from Anzhi’s financial crisis, the far more likely option is Scott Sinclair signing from Manchester City. The bookmakers have drastically cut their odds with regards to this transfer happening, and of course he worked with Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers in his former life at Swansea City.

I personally hope that the Reds are NOT in the market for Sinclair, and here’s why.

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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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The Good Side Of Luis Suárez

Now that Luis Suárez’ season is almost certainly over, and the world and his wife are lining up to denounce him from all angles, I thought I’d take a look at how he has improved statistically this season.

The headline statistic is twenty-three league goals scored instead of eleven, and thirty goals in all competitions, to become only the second Liverpool player (after Fernando Torres in his debut season) to reach the mark since Robbie Fowler did so in 1995/96.

But how exactly has Suárez doubled his goalscoring productivity in the league in only a few extra games?

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Brendan Rodgers: The Right Appointment?

As Liverpool’s season appears to be petering out, there is lots of talk online that perhaps FSG hired the wrong man last summer, or indeed that they shouldn’t have fired Kenny Dalglish in the first place.

I’m going to look at if Liverpool have improved on last season, and also at the form of the other names that were in the frame to be appointed as manager at Anfield last summer, to try to see if Rodgers really is the right man to lead Liverpool forward.
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The Creative Impact Of Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge has made a flying start to his career at Anfield, and has already bagged five goals and an assist in all competitions from just 507 minutes spent on the pitch. He has scored every 91 minutes in the league, which only Javier Hernandez (with a goal per 78 minutes played) can beat in the top flight this season.

Whilst these numbers make for fantastic headlines, I thought I’d dig a little deeper and see how the acquisition of the England international has affected Liverpool’s ability to create clear-cut chances (CCCs); the golden opportunities that strikers dream of, in other words.

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Liverpool’s Problems Are Clear-Cut

Although Liverpool are struggling to score goals and win league games at the moment, on the face of it things aren’t so bad as at least they are creating plenty of chances. At the time of writing they have set up 136 goal-scoring opportunities in the 2012/13 Premier League, and only Everton (155) and Tottenham Hotspur (143) can currently better that tally.

However, whilst a regular chance is relatively easy to engineer (as for instance a player passing to a player who then hits a no-hope shot from 30 yards is said to have created a chance), for a team to be really successful they need to set up (and then obviously score) plenty of clear-cut chances (CCCs).

This is where the Reds are failing at present.

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Woodwork Woes, And What-Ifs

A well-worn statistic doing the rounds at present is that Liverpool have found the frame of the goal twenty-one times in their first twenty-eight league games this season. That figure is the joint most in the top five leagues in Europe, tied with Barcelona, according to The fact that their opponents have only found their woodwork four times in the league this season further exacerbates the feeling that the Reds have been unlucky to not win a few more games

In a season when Liverpool only have 33 goals in their ‘For’ column, being inches away from a further 21 goals has made a massive difference to their points tally.

Or so you might think. Whilst it has had an impact, it’s probably not as pronounced as you would assume. I have broken down Liverpool’s woodwork stats further to try to quantify this.

For starters, eleven of the goal frame hits have occurred in matches that the Reds won anyway. Whilst the wins may have been more comfortable, and an improved goal difference is always welcome, in terms of actual league points a little over half of the woodwork strikes have had no bearing on the points tally at all. That leaves ten that might have made a difference.

Those ten are therefore spread across the seventeen league games that Liverpool have failed to win this season. In eleven of these matches, the Reds did not hit the post or bar, which appears to leave six games where striking the frame of the goal might have cost Liverpool further points.

As one of these games was a 3-1 defeat away at Bolton Wanderers though, and the frame of the goal was only struck once (meaning the Reds would still have lost even had the shot gone in) we are left with just five matches:

The stand out match from these five is the home draw with Norwich City; Liverpool put nine of their twenty-one shots on target that day, plus found the woodwork three times, yet had only the solitary goal (and point) to show for their efforts.

The matches with Sunderland and Swansea only have one goalframe strike apiece, and thinking back to those matches shows how much difference in likelihood of scoring there can be between woodwork hits; Stewart Downing hit the bar from long distance against the Mackems, and realistically would have done very well to score from where he took the shot, whereas Andy Carroll really should have found the net with a point-blank header six yards out against the Swans.

The really interesting cases are Fulham and Arsenal. At Craven Cottage, we can see there was one of the four occasions this season that the opposition have found the frame of the Liverpool goal, and that if all three woodwork strikes in that match were goals then it would have ended as a 2-2 draw.

Similarly, a narrow defeat at home to Arsenal recently might actually have been a narrow win had a couple of shots hit the post and gone in, rather than rebounding to safety from a Gunners’ perspective.

In total, in the unlikely scenario that all woodwork strikes actually went in, then Liverpool would have ten more points than they have now. That would put them in 4th position, level on points with Arsenal but ahead on goal difference.

I think this is an unrealistic assumption though, as all teams hit the woodwork every so often. Pure speculation now on my part, but from the figures above I think it’s reasonable to say that the Reds should’ve beaten Norwich, had a point from Fulham and Arsenal, and the other two draws you have to take on the chin. That would mean an extra four points, which is perhaps a little more realistic. But then I can point out here that Liverpool also missed penalties in the Sunderland and Arsenal games, so who knows what points they should really have had.

Of course, goals change games, and had Liverpool scored earlier (or indeed, at all) in the above five matches plus the Bolton defeat, then the results could very easily have swung in their favour.

But ultimately, with all the airing that the statistic regarding Liverpool’s woodwork woes gets, I was very surprised to see how few games it has really mattered in. That said, if the Reds finish within ten points of fourth spot, a big part of me will certainly now be thinking ‘what-if’ about this season.

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

Liverpool’s Defensive Issues

After another two points were dropped yesterday against Norwich City at Anfield, a lot of the focus was on the wasted chances. Twenty opportunities were created (double the amount as in the recent matches with Everton and Manchester United), but the Reds only found the back of the net once, and paid for it when substitute Grant Holt equalised for the Canaries.

I have covered the chance conversion issue previously here. Whilst it is clearly still a problem, the team is having difficulty at the defensive end of the pitch too.  After all, you can afford to miss a few chances yourself if you can be confident of registering a clean sheet, but unfortunately for Liverpool, that’s not the case at the moment.

Take a look at the table below:

Whilst the percentage of chances conceded that have resulted in goals is lower than it’s been in any of the previous three seasons, the interesting thing here for me is the correlation between chances conceded per game and clean sheet ratio:

It might seem obvious that the two things would correlate, but it’s still fascinating to see that this is very much the case.

It becomes clear that Benitez had his defensive tactics spot on, though having a team featuring Alonso, Mascherano and peak-era Carragher wouldn’t have harmed either of course.

The chance creation rate for the Reds, currently at 12.8 per game on average, is the highest it has been since 2008/09 (14.6 per game) when they nearly won the league, so it’s clear that some defensive solidity has been sacrificed for a more attacking style.

Which is fine in theory, but with chances going begging up front, Liverpool could really do with tightening up at the back. Only two clean sheets this season, both attained when the opposition have had a man sent off, is not good enough for a team with Champions League aspirations.

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

Wasting Chances – Liverpool 2011/12

Watching yesterday’s match with Wolverhampton Wanderers, I was struck by how many chances Liverpool wasted. They weren’t all open goal tap-ins, but nonetheless the Reds were hanging on for a 2-1 win, rather than putting the Wolves to the sword. This also wasn’t the first time I’d thought this, with the opening match against Sunderland being another prime example.

Whilst it is still early days this season with only six league games completed, here is a look at how Liverpool’s shooting accuracy this year compares to the last three seasons:

Obviously it’s not an entirely fair comparison to other seasons, as the away games so far have all been at the more difficult end of the spectrum for example, but it gives us an idea of how the team is doing. The fact that the team is almost 8% less accurate than last season must surely be a slight cause for concern though, even allowing for the small sample size.

It’s surprising to see that Liverpool’s most successful season of the period in terms of overall performance, when they had Fernando Torres (the best striker in the world at the time), featured their lowest accuracy for shooting. That said, they did have over 100 more shots than in the other two full seasons, so it stands to reason that they would miss a lot too; as the figures show, the team always puts more shots off target than they do on goal.

How about chance conversion? It’s easier to notice a chance is missed when watching a game, rather than thinking specifically about shots being on or off target. Unfortunately the data for 2008/09 isn’t available, but I still have the last two seasons to compare the current form with.

The team is performing below the rate for the previous two seasons, which were virtually identical to each other, by about 3%. As this years tally is only 78% of last years figure, then clearly Liverpool have been wasting chances in the early stages of 2011/12.

If they’d have carried on with the same conversion rate as last season, then based on the chances created they would have scored two more goals.

Impossible to say when they’d have been scored, but they might have earned an extra two points against Sunderland, or earned a point from the Stoke match; likewise, they could have been against Bolton, Wolves or Arsenal, which would have made no difference to the points tally, even if the games themselves might have been more comfortably won. All ifs, buts and maybes though of course.

How are Liverpool comparing on these metrics to their Premier League rivals this season? Firstly, shooting accuracy:

Liverpool come in twelfth, and no team below them has outscored them so far. Scary to note that Manchester United have had more shots on target than some teams have had shots in total, though of course Arsenal’s capitulation at Old Trafford helped them greatly there. Credit to Bolton; they have scored as many as the Reds, despite having 25 fewer shots.

The Reds are ranked tenth at present on the chance conversion measurement, so clearly there’s some room for improvement here too. It’s interesting to note that this doesn’t correlate that clearly with the shooting accuracy statistics; the likes of Aston Villa and Blackburn are a lot higher on the chance conversion list than they are on the shooting one. Of course, with small samples like these, any fortunate or flukey goals would skew the figures a fair bit, so it will be worth checking the figures again at the end of the season.

Although Liverpool have started the season reasonably well (1.67 points-per-game at the time of writing), they’ve definitely not been converting as many chances as they could have based on previous years. They’ll need to improve their points-per-game average to finish in the top four, so sharpening up their shooting boots is an absolute must.

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

Update: After posting this, fellow stat-head Red Dan Kennett advised me that Liverpool have so far this season converted only three of their twelve clear-cut chances (25%), whereas last season the team converted 44% (34 out of the 77 they had). Whichever way you look at it, Liverpool are not making the most of their opportunities, and with Everton and Manchester United to come next, there’s no better time to resolve this issue.