After an injury ravaged disaster of a season — that Liverpool still managed to finish third in the league — pundits and player avatar twitter questioned if Jurgen Klopp’s side were still good enough to compete. If you’ve been around the TLO-spehere for longer than two minutes you’ll know we all felt that the drop off in the attack last season was a combination of playing 8th and 9th choice players in central defense, a mix and match midfield from game to game, and an insane fixture list that gave the players no down time. Jurgen Klopp said essentially the same thing yesterday when asked about why his team has been so much better at scoring this season.
“We were lacking stability, said the Liverpool manager. “And we didn’t have stability not because we had no centre-halves for a while and we had to find solutions for that, the problem was that we were like in the early stages shocked that we cannot play the football anymore we wanted to play because we didn’t have the stability, which we have now obviously. Everybody knows exactly what he has to do. When you put the midfielders back in the last line then you put midfielders in the line who usually don’t play there or are protected by either Hendo or Fab, and now they play double-six. That’s the problem and all of a sudden you lose your rhythm. That’s what happened to us last year. We had to find a solution and thank God we found the solution early enough to qualify for the Champions League.”
After a much more regular offseason, including full rest for everyone, even if they played in international tournaments this summer, Liverpool have found their rhythm again, and have been red-hot on the attacking end. Through 13 Premier League games, Liverpool have scored 39 goals, good for an average of 3 goals a game. That’s the most ever goals under Klopp at this point for Liverpool...by seven goals.
Seven clear of any previous PL season after 13 games for goals scored, nine clear on goal difference. https://t.co/pgZzUVyndV— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) November 27, 2021
The goal scoring exploits of Mohamed Salah have been well documented so far this year, leading the league with 11 goals, including some sensational solo efforts. What shouldn’t get lost in the mix is that Sadio Mané and Diogo Jota are currently tied for 3rd in the league for goals scored with 7 a piece. Add in 4 more from Roberto Firmino, and the attacking band has 29 goals in the league.
It’s impressive output to be sure, and it’s even more impressive when you start digging into the stats. It should come as no surprise that Liverpool are generating shooting chances at a ridiculous rate. All of the four Liverpool attackers are getting off a lot of shots, with Mohamed Salah leading the way at 3.92 shots/90 per FBRef, followed by Mané (3.54), Jota (3.35), and finally Firmino as the only one taking less than 3 shots a game...barely (2.91). While they are taking a high volume of shots, they are hitting the target at a very high rate as well. Mo is getting 1.69 shots on target per 90, followed by Firmino (1.46), Jota (1.4), and Mané (1.23) Only Burnley’s Maxwell Cornet (1.61 Shots on target per 90) compares to Liverpool’s attacking players with his ability, with most of the other leading goal scorers in the league around 1 or below.
That’s a lot of numbers to say that Liverpool players are taking a lot of shots, but they are putting a high percentage of those shots on target. It should come as littler surprise, then, that the Liverpool players are generating most of their shots from within the box rather than taking pot shots at any sight on goal.
Mohamed Salah has been the most adventurous of his compatriots from where his shots are coming from. As seen in his shot map below (from Understat), Mo is still hitting a decent number of shots from outside the box this season, and in fact, he has the highest distance from goal on his shots of all of the Liverpool attacking players (15.1 yards per FBRef).
On the other end of the spectrum, Diogo Jota is hitting from close range almost all of the time. He is averaging only 11.1 yards from goal on his shots, with a very nice clustering in the center of the box.
Mané also has done a nice job of getting to the center of the box before shooting. Despite taking a few pot shots from distance, he is still averaging only 12.3 yards from goal per shot.
And finally, Roberto Firmino, who hasn’t had as much game time due to injuries and some regular rotation, but still is taking shots from fairly high value areas in the box. He is averaging 12.4 yards from goal per shot.
The other players in and around the top of the goal scoring stats in the Premier League all have a much higher spread of locations their shots are coming from, which again is probably fueling why they have less shots on target (and less goals).
It will be fun to watch and see if Liverpool can threaten the single season record of goals by a club that was set by Manchester City in 2017/18 with 106 goals. That was a clip of 2.79 goals a game. While there’s a good chance that Liverpool do come back down to scoring at more earthly rates as the season wears on, the shot selection of the attacking players is certainly showing that Liverpool are creating and putting on net a lot of high value chances.