Liverpool Have Elite Finishers in the Squad – But They're (Probably) Not Who You Think
Analysing 6 years' of detailed finishing data across Europe's top leagues
Clearly there are lots of different types of goalscorers, but what I wanted to do was define them by type, looking at various detailed metrics.
For Liverpool under Jürgen Klopp, and indeed for most teams these days, a striker is about so much more than scoring goals. My belief is a striker's job is to help the team win games, and if that's from doing everything superbly apart from score goals, that's great.
But for this piece, I wanted to study the art of finishing, and who is statistically a good finisher, not just a ‘big goalscorer’.
My main interest was in who consistently scored more goals than their xG over the full six years for which this has been gathered across the major European leagues.
(Excluding penalties too, which is how some big-name players get 25% of their goals, and says nothing about their ability to get into good positions.)
Players have hot streaks, with one of the most amazing being Paulo Dybala for Juventus in 2017/18, when he outscored his expected non-penalty goals by +10.7, which meant he essentially doubled his tally to 22 actual goals from less than 11xG.
Yet the following season he scored just five goals, at -0.2, meaning his 63 shots were largely of little value, and he reverted to almost the exact mean; a fraction below it, indeed.
So my interest is also in players' averages over the six seasons. The fluctuations are worth noting (to see who is more consistent and who is Streaky), as well as how many shots attackers take (Shot Monsters), and where from (Sniffers vs Long-Rangers. The ultimate aim is Efficiency.
The Reds have had some great attackers since 2017, but quite a few are fairly average when it comes to converting their xG to goals, and a couple are worse than average.
Of the 58 attackers from around Europe I studied – more-or-less every big-name striker/wide-attacker, goalscoring midfielder and the Premier League's regular goal-getters – two from the Reds rank in the bottom 10 for what I’ll call Efficiency, which compares actual goals to xG.
(Again, goals are not everything from an attacker: one goal and 30 assists in a season would be exceptional, and then there's pressing from the front, tackling to win the ball, creating space, beating defenders, and so on. So it’s not a measure of an attacking player’s overall qualities.)
But this season, the Reds haven't taken enough of their big chances, and for all the defensive issues, it's been a poor season for converting xG into goals, aside from two games where 16 goals were scored.
However, there are two players who haven't played a lot of league games for Liverpool this season – but who should both be first-choices next season – who stand out as excellent finishers.
One ranks just outside the top five, and the other is within the top 20.
This article is for paying subscribers only.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Tomkins Times - Main Hub to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.