Many people were surprised in the summer of 2013 when Brendan Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo:
“I’m looking to bring 20 more goals into the team…when I look at the reality of it we scored 47 goals the season before I arrived and this time got 71, and we hope to add to that amount.”
Considering that the Reds had just scored the second most league goals the club had managed in a Premier League season, it sounded like a slightly outlandish claim, not least as many thought the defence was the end of the team requiring more attention.
Yet with nine games to go, Liverpool are now just one strike shy of the record seventy-seven they amassed in 2008/09, and so are very likely to amass more than twenty more than they did last season. How has the goal scoring forecast varied across the season, and how has this impacted the defence?
The below graph show how the goals for and against forecast has changed as the season has gone on.
The main thing to note here is that whilst the goals for trend has risen and risen almost continuously (with Liverpool on track to set a new club goals record in the Premier League from as early as game fourteen onwards) to the point where they are now heading for one hundred goals, the goals against figure largely levelled off a long time ago.
After crossing the forty goal barrier after game twelve (at Everton), the goals against line has stayed below fifty since, with the current shot conversion average suggesting the final tally will be forty-six.
Considering that this would only be three more against than last season, that’s not much of a price to pay for an extra twenty-nine (on current form) at the right end.
I thought it would be interesting to see if any of the shooting stats, both for and against, have changed much since the thirteenth game, as that was the debacle away at Hull City.
Obviously it’s not an even split of the season (as there have been sixteen games since), but as the campaign has been an almost constant stream of highs since then, it seems an interesting cut off point, and as I said the goals against has remained pretty consistent since then whilst the attacking prowess has continued to rise.
My initial instinct was that perhaps the number of shots in the box at both ends of the pitch has changed dramatically, but that hasn’t particularly been the case.
The Reds have increased their own average, from 8.5 to 10.7 per game, but their opponents have also seen a very slight rise, from 6.6 to 6.8 per match. A look at the figures for all shots, and shots on target sheds some more light on the issue.
What a difference a defeat at Hull appears to make! Liverpool have seriously got in gear since then, increasing their own shooting by around a quarter, whilst forcing a drop off for their opponents (most significantly with shots on target).
It’s interesting that Liverpool’s shooting accuracy has increased by less than two percent between the two sets of games, but their opponents’ has dropped by a whopping twelve percent. As they’ve been shooting as often in the box, are the Reds just lucky that their opponents accuracy has dropped off? Answers on a postcard please.
This decrease has had a massive effect on Liverpool’s shots on target ratio, whilst their total shot ratio has remained fairly consistent.
In the last twelve games or so, the shot ratio has remained fairly constant, whilst the shots on target ratio has gone past the all-important sixty percent marker and continues to rise (and you can read more about the importance of shots on target ratios here).
The difference in shots on target ratio for the pre- and post-Hull games is quite simply startling. Across the opening thirteen league games of the season, the Reds posted a figure of 53.1%, which is about par for a team finishing sixth or seventh.
In the last sixteen games, they have logged an incredible 70.3% of the shots on target in their matches. When you consider that league champions average around 65%, you can see why Liverpool remain very much in the title race on this form.
In their ten unbeaten games in 2014, the Reds have had a total of seventy-four shots on target whilst allowing just thirty-one, and have out-shot their opponents in nine of the games (with the one reverse, at West Brom, being by the odd on-target shot in seven; but for Toure they’d have probably managed it in that game too). At present, Brendan’s boys are on track to post the second highest shots on target tally of any Premier Legaue team over the last six seasons; remarkable stuff.
A repeat of this form over the final nine games will give Liverpool a real fighting chance of the Premier League title, and Brendan Rodgers a shot at immortality. Twenty more goals? The forecast is currently twenty-nine and counting. It seems that Rodgers is a man of his word.