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.
I compiled the shooting figures for all 98 sides in Europe’s top five leagues, to try to examine Liverpool’s record more closely, as well as some specific stats for the Reds regarding shooting inside and outside the box.
A deeper look at the numbers reveals that the Reds are ludicrously inefficent when shooting, and often make poor decisions when opting to have a pop at goal.
As well as having the most shots in total, Liverpool are also ranked a very creditable seventh out of the 98 sides in Europe’s big leagues for number of shots on target. However, when combining the two sets of figures, it reveals that the Reds have the fifth worst shooting accuracy. Liverpool may get a lot of shots on target, but in percentage terms they are woeful; 30.4% on target against an average of 34.8%.
Similarly, the Reds have scored the tenth most goals in the big five leagues of Europe, but they have taken so many shots to do so that they are only ranked 65th for shot conversion percentage. Brendan Rodgers deserves credit for improving Liverpool’s scoring record (as at the time of writing the Reds have only scored more goals per league game in three of the last twenty seasons), but with greater efficiency they could surely improve yet further.
So how do we explain this ineffiecency?
Of the 23 players who have had fifty-or-more shots in England’s top flight this season, Suárez is ranked seventeenth for both shooting accuracy, and shot conversion percentage. If he wasn’t so wasteful, he’d be a decent player!
But as he is Liverpool’s talisman striker, he obviously takes the majority of the shots, and so has a massive impact on the side’s efficiency in front of goal.
Breaking the team’s figures down into shots taken inside and outside of the box explains a fair bit too.
43% of Liverpool’s Premier League shots have been taken from outside the area this season, which equates to 8.3 per game on average; of the nineteen other teams in the top flight, only Spurs take more per game from further than eighteen yards out.
As only one in forty-four open play shots from outside the area leads to a goal, this means that the Reds are essentially wasting eight shooting opportunities every game for starters, as they will rarely score from outside the box.
Their choices in the box are far from perfect either.
Blocked shots are often symptomatic of poor decision making, as players can be too keen to have an attempt at goal when realistically there are too many players in the way, which greatly reduces their chance of scoring. It would often make more sense to try to find a colleague in space, but impatience (both from the fans as well as the players, in fairness) can kick in.
With five games still to play, the Liverpool side of 2012/13 have had more blocked shots (84) in the box than in any of the previous four full seasons (by six-or-more already), and a higher proportion (22.8%) of their in-box efforts for the same period too.
With Suárez in the team, it will probably never be possible to eradicate wasteful shooting entirely, but with the talent they have, Liverpool should really be scoring more goals, and better shot selection could make a massive difference.
Related articles you might like:
In Praise Of Jordan Henderson – A look at the former Mackem’s impressive performance at Villa Park, as well as the poor shooting choices used by his colleagues.
Shots On Target Difference – An article looking at just how important this particular statistic is.
Shot Difference and Goal Efficiency – A piece on how efficient each Premier League team is at both ends of the pitch in 2011/12.