Whilst I’m a frequent advocate of football fans showing patience (be it towards a newly assembled side, an under-performing £35m striker, or following a narrow, undeserved defeat), following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw at Sunderland my plea is for the Liverpool team and their star striker to show more patience themselves.
At the time of writing, Liverpool have had more shots per game (18.8) than any other side in the Premier League; that they are only ranked 13th for shots on target (3.8 per game) is obviously a big part of why they are not winning football matches, but where they are shooting from is hugely relevant too.
Research by a fellow Red statto Dan Kennett has revealed that only 1 in 44 shots from outside the area (excluding direct free kicks) has resulted in a goal in the past four seasons of Premier League football; in other words, they’re barely worth bothering with.
Yet at present (albeit with a small sample of four games), Liverpool are taking a higher proportion of their shots from eighteen-yards-or-further than they were last season; 45%, as opposed to 42% under Kenny Dalglish’s stewardship in 2011/12.
Whilst 3% may not seem like a massive increase, the three top scoring sides in the Premier League last season were at least 3% below Liverpool’s figure, so a small percentage change may result in a significant goal scoring increase: 35% of Arsenal’s shots were from outside the box, the least in the division, with the two Manchester sides joint third lowest on 39%. To my mind, the Reds need to be more patient in their build up, and shoot only when a better opportunity is presented.
In fairness to Brendan Rodgers, a more patient approach is obviously what he is aiming for; for instance, Liverpool are crossing less frequently than last season (at 23 times per game compared to 29 last term), which is indicative of a measured build up rather than flinging the ball into the box at the earliest opportunity.
Luis Suárez was widely quoted before the match on Saturday, giving his opinion on the difference between the current and previous Liverpool managers, illustrating further how Rodgers preaches patience to his charges:
“Training is not so different from under Kenny Dalglish but Rodgers insists on more touches on the ball whereas Dalglish wanted a more direct game. Under a new coach, we must adapt to his style and carry out his orders. I’m going to do that”.
On an individual basis, Suárez could definitely benefit from being more patient in front of goal. At present, the Uruguayan striker has had 19 shots; at least seven more than every other player in the division. Yet looking at the shooting accuracy for players with five-or-more shots so far this season reveals that Suárez is ranked a scarcely credible 50th for shooting accuracy, with 26%.
As an example, Robin van Persie has had virtually half as many shots (12) as Suárez, yet by getting 50% of them on target, he has four goals; twice as many goals as Suárez for being virtually twice as accurate with his shooting. Not rocket science I know, but the facts lay it bare: Liverpool need more patience from Suárez, and not just a shot as soon as one becomes available.
Back to Suárez’ quote above, a look at the ‘touch’ stats backs him up regarding Rodgers’ approach: Liverpool have averaged 733.5 touches per game in their opening four league fixtures this season, whilst they were recording 701.1 in 2011/12. However, Swansea averaged 752.8 under Rodgers last season, so presumably we will see Liverpool improve further towards this figure as Rodgers gets further time to mould his team as he wants them.
Similarly, the Reds have lost possession 146 times per game in 2012/13, which is down significantly from their 165 average last season. The stats definitely suggest that Brendan Rodgers is in the process of implementing a more patient build up, with an emphasis on ball retention. The next step is for Suárez and the Reds to make the most of this in the opposition penalty box. If they can, I’m confident Liverpool can make swift strides up the league table.
I’m off on holiday for a fortnight now, so will miss the United game – bad planning on my part! The next article should be up following Liverpool’s match with Norwich at Carrow Road in two weeks.
Statistics are for Premier League games only, and were sourced from EPLIndex and WhoScored. Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here. You can follow me on Twitter here.