Mid-Season, Mid-Table: Liverpool FC and why we are where we are

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20 games in to the season now and it’s the time of year where the table starts to take shape. Every team has now played every other team once.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 2, 2016: Liverpool's Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen look dejected as his side lose 2-0 to West Ham United after the Premier League match at Upton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In a league that is desperately lacking in quality, we are currently only the eighth best team. The optimist will say we’re five points from fourth. The pessimist will point out we’re four points from 13th. We’re 12 points behind the leaders and 13 points above the bottom 3. Whichever way you cut it, it’s poor. Here’s why:

Goal Scoring

The goal scoring problems I pointed out at the beginning of the season in the article ‘major flaws laid bare’ have come home to roost.

I said if we played 4-5-1 with any of the current players, we would score approximately 41 goals this season – 1.1 goals per game. After 20 games we have scored 22 – which is 1.1 goals per game.

It didn’t take Nostradamus to predict that, we simply have no players who score goals. Brendan Rodgers put together an entire midfield squad of players incapable of hitting the back of the net. I keep hearing “if only we had our shooting boots on” – well to put on your shooting boots, you actually have to own a pair.

European Football - UEFA Europa League - Group Stage Group B - Liverpool FC v FC Girondins de Bordeaux

Only five teams in the league have scored fewer goals than Liverpool FC.

Let’s take a look at each player and their goal scoring contribution to date (the ‘predicted goals’ is what was predicted in that earlier article based on each player’s past goal scoring records.)

It shows, categorically, just what Klopp has inherited from a goal scoring perspective and why persevering with the current crop won’t cut it. Rather, it will require the addition of proven goal scoring talent in multiple positions throughout the team. (Ings and Sturridge are excluded from the following list for obvious injury reasons.)

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If you’re looking for the single biggest reason why we are where we are, there you have it. We have scored 22 goals – the same as Sunderland and the second lowest of any team in the top 10.

Sturridge and Ings, with two goals each, are our joint third highest scorers for the season. In 20 league games, our third leading goal scorer has a dismal two goals – to put that in perspective, that’s one less than Wayne Rooney.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 20, 2015: Liverpool's Danny Ings scores the first goal against Norwich City during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Only five players in the entire squad have scored more than one league goal.

Only two players have scored more than two league goals.

We have only nine players who have scored league goals this season – and for Saturday’s game, six of those nine (Sturridge, Ings, Milner, Origi, Skrtel, Henderson) were injured. In fact, the entire first eleven on display vs. West Ham have a grand total of twelve goals between them this season, and of those, Benteke/Coutinho have eleven of them.

In three games this season – home to Villa and away at Chelsea and Man City – we hit the jackpot and scored a total of ten goals (mind you, two of these are battling relegation!) In the other SEVENTEEN league games, we have scored a total of TWELVE times!

We have scored one goal or less in 15 of the 20 league games to date.

But as well as goal scoring, it’s also goal creating where all the same players fall short. The highest number of assists we have from ANY player in the squad this season, is three. To put that in to perspective, Mezut Ozil has 16, De Bruyne and Silva together total 15, Mahrez and Albrighton total 13. Even those cuddly Blues from across the park have two players with seven assists each and two others with four each.

Defending

Due to the absence of anyone better (although I did hear the tea lady fumbled a cup and saucer but managed to catch them) Simon Mignolet continues as first choice – and the goals continue to fly past him. Not all his fault of course, but too many are.

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 6, 2015: Liverpool's goalkeeper Simon Mignolet looks dejected as Newcastle United score the second goal during the Premier League match at St. James' Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I mentioned in the earlier article, he had played 79 of the last 81 games at the time and had conceded 104 goals. This season, he has played in 19 of the 20 league games to date and conceded 21.

The 24 we have conceded to date is the second worst defensive record of the top 10 – only Leicester have conceded (one) more, but I think they’ll accept that seeing as they’re the league’s second leading scorers and are 10 points ahead of us.

Martin Skrtel, until injured, continued to be the swashbuckling, action man liability he too often has been. Alberto Moreno still hasn’t figured out the balance between defence and attack and that his primary job is the former. Lovren has improved from diabolical to decent, but nothing more. Sakho has been good, accident and injury prone in equal measure. Only Nathaniel Clyne has been a qualified success of any of the back five with a level of consistency head and shoulders above any other player in the squad.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 20, 2015: Liverpool's Martin Skrtel shakes hands with Watford's captain Troy Deeney as he goes off injured during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

None of this can be blamed on Klopp. He inherited these limitations and has had no opportunity as yet to do anything about it. He’s sharpened one or two tools, but they’re in essence the same dodgy tools he was handed.

If we can take any shred of positivity from his short time in charge, it is that the flaws he inherited have already shown themselves to be very real, and in many cases cannot be “coached” out (you can’t ‘coach’ a midfield of Lucas, Allen, Henderson, Can, Milner to suddenly become consistent, regular goal scorers.)

All of the above has resulted in the only negative goal difference in the top 11.

Klopp has publicly stated that he won’t be looking to buy in the current transfer window. If not, it surely can only be that he won’t be able to negotiate and bring in the players he truly wants?

It must be as clear to him as it is to the rest of us, that the current squad is desperately in need of major surgery.

Click here for Alex’s player-by-player review

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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