Liverpool’s Broken Attack: An Analysis

With just one goal to show for their efforts across their last five league and European games (and it was a heavily deflected goal at that, as we can see below), it’s clear that Liverpool’s attack isn’t working as it should right now.

An unusual stat which may in part illustrate why this is caught my eye after the Reds’ defeats to both Newcastle and Chelsea, so I thought I’d investigate it further.

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Rodgers’ Reds: Goal Bonanza

Many people were surprised in the summer of 2013 when Brendan Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo:

“I’m looking to bring 20 more goals into the team…when I look at the reality of it we scored 47 goals the season before I arrived and this time got 71, and we hope to add to that amount.”

Considering that the Reds had just scored the second most league goals the club had managed in a Premier League season, it sounded like a slightly outlandish claim, not least as many thought the defence was the end of the team requiring more attention.

Yet with nine games to go, Liverpool are now just one strike shy of the record seventy-seven they amassed in 2008/09, and so are very likely to amass more than twenty more than they did last season. How has the goal scoring forecast varied across the season, and how has this impacted the defence?

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Shooting Pains

For the past couple of years, Liverpool have generally displayed an alarming profligacy in front of goal.

By only scoring one goal from a whopping twenty-five shots against Stoke City on Saturday, the debate about the Reds’ poor shot conversion looks likely to continue for a while yet.

Using the WhoScored data, I’ve compiled the figures for all Liverpool players who have scored at least one goal in the last four seasons.

Obviously there’s a whole variety of shot sample sizes here, but I’ve included every player in order to illustrate the following point.

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Shots Alone Are Not Enough

Prior to last weekend’s fixtures, I saw a tweet from WhoScored, which stated:

Liverpool: Have had more shots (611) than any other team in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season, ahead of Real Madrid (582) & Juventus (577)

Sounds impressive, no? Over one hundred retweets at the time of writing certainly suggests so. But as the Reds laboured to a 0-0 draw away at Reading, the Premier League’s current worst club, it became clear that shots alone are not enough.

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Shots On Target Difference

Last April, I wrote an article looking at how ‘shot difference’ (shots for minus shots against) and ‘goal efficiency’ (conversion percentage of goals scored minus conversion percentage of goals conceded) can give a good indication of how well a team is controlling their games (and you can read it here).

I later read this post by James Grayson, which demonstrated what chance a team has of being either in the top four or relegated, based on their ‘total shot ratio’, which I also covered in the above mentioned piece. It’s interesting to note that the figures show that Liverpool have an 80% chance of qualifying for the Champions League this season; unfortunately they are clearly in the other 20%!

Now, thanks to an article on the Sky Sports website, I have the shots on target figures for the Premier League this season, so I can revisit my above article. The conclusions should be more robust, as ‘shots on target’ has a stronger correlation with success than ‘all shots’ does.

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