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.
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.