Liverpool: More chances and less goals

A million chances, another wasted penalty, one more strike hitting the post and no goals has been the story of Liverpool’s season so far. Have they been unlucky? Have all the chances they have created been good ones? Statistics can never tell the whole truth, particularly on something as subjective as ‘what is a good chance’ but it is worth having a look at a few different statistics to analyse why Liverpool have been struggling to find the back of the net this season.

A comparison of Liverpool’s chance creation between the last and current season.

As the graph shows, Liverpool are creating more chances per game (11.29 last season up to nearly 13 this season) however the good news ends there. Fewer chances are being converted into shots on target and the side is scoring less goals per game at a worryingly low rate of 1.15.

Perhaps the most concerning statistic is that Liverpool have gone from converting one in every seven chances into a goal to scoring once from every eleven chances in 2011/12.

Whilst this doesn’t say whether the chances that are being created are any good, it does tell us that Liverpool’s ‘dominance’ of games is not having the impact it needs to. Better chances or more clinical finishing is required. Or both.

Stuart Downing is one player who has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism this season.

A comparison of Downing’s chance creation and assist records from open play.

Before his £20m move from Aston Villa last summer Downing created 1.5 chances per game for the Birmingham-based club and contributed 6 assists in his 38 starts last season. Even at his lower chance creation rate of 1.31 per game for Liverpool this season, it could be expected that Downing, converting an assist from every 9.82 chances last season, would have recorded 3 or 4 assists in the league for Liverpool this season.

There is no doubt that Downing has made some excellent crosses and created good chances for Liverpool’s forwards this year, however it is also painfully clear that the overall quality of the chances that the winger has created has been poor. Zero assists from twenty-five appearances is simply not good enough for a player in a team vying for the top four; especially one who was known for creating good chances from wide areas for previous clubs.

A comparison of Charlie Adam’s chance creation and assist record (from both set and open play) over the last two seasons.

Charlie Adam has also come under fire from some Liverpool fans for poor performances the statistics above show that he is performing as well as he was last season. When taking into consideration that at Blackpool Adam was central to the way the side played and their main outlet in midfield then his performances this season appear even better. On top of this he has improved his open play passing success rate from 72% to 80%. His defensive statistics are both up and down on last season, however this is not the purpose of this blog. From an attacking perspective, Adam has passed. He may not be a title-winning central midfielder, but considering his price and Liverpool’s stage of rebuilding, his contributions have been more than adequate.

There are of course other midfielders whose statistics could be analysed but for a variety or reasons it will be left at Downing and Adam (Lucas and Spearing are deployed in defensive roles, Gerrard and Maxi have played too few games and Kuyt and Henderson have been deployed in too many different roles to adequately look at).

Comparison of Liverpool’s shot accuracy and conversion.

The main issue with Liverpool appears to be shot accuracy and chance conversion. As demonstrated, Stuart Downing is one reason that fewer (and arguably poorer) chances are being created. What about the person on the end of them?

Luis Suarez is certainly an exciting player to watch and he creates and is on the end of a lot of chances throughout a game. But is he finishing them? The short answer is no.

A comparison between Torres in his final season at Liverpool and Suarez for Liverpool this season.

In comparison to Torres’ final season at Liverpool (and in only two less appearances), Suarez has this season scored less goals, shot less accurately, converted chances at a lower rate and provided half as many assists despite creating an additional fourteen chances. This is in comparison to a horribly out of form Torres playing under a manager whose tactics were more suited to Emile Heskey than the Spaniard.

Unfortunately Suarez’s statistics on chance conversion and shooting accuracy cannot be compared with his days at Ajax. However his record of 111 goals in 159 appearances suggests that the ability to convert chances is there.

He may be exciting, he may possess the ability to skip past defenders and either set up team mates or be on the end of a chance himself, however so far this season Luis Suarez has not provided the cutting edge and clinical finishing that Liverpool require. The same can obviously be said for Andy Carroll.

This blog may not have reached any conclusion on what Liverpool’s true problem is, poor chances or poor finishing, but there are some fascinating stats on some of Liverpool’s new signings and the differences between performances from last year to the current season.

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