Liverpool are very much on course to win the Premier League title. The claims of ‘luck’ and VAR being on the Reds’ side are nonsense—here’s how Jurgen Klopp‘s team have been much better than the rest.
It’s almost too easy, isn’t it? They say we’re lucky; we know that fortune comes from working harder, planning smarter and being better than everyone else.
Looking at Liverpool playing on any given game week, it’s impossible not to pick out multiple areas where the Reds are the best: the centre-back partnership, the midfield work rate, the on-the-ball qualities of the front three.
But there are key indicators which show not just how good Liverpool have been, but how much better than their challengers—which, in the interests of winning the league title, is really the main objective.
So next time some social media complainant offers up the suggestion that the Reds are living on borrowed time, perhaps have a check at how their team is faring in the following categories…
Liverpool have had a few games in 2020 where Klopp, the fans and even the players have felt we might have put matters to bed rather earlier than we eventually did.
It’s all about being clinical sometimes, when the games are a slog and teams try to stay “in the match” until the last 10 or so.
Thankfully, the Reds have largely been irrepressible in front of goal, and even though Man City (65) have scored more Premier League goals than Liverpool (60) and taken more shots, we do it more efficiently.
Not only have our goals resulted in more points (0.78 points earned per goal for them, 1.22 for the Reds), we need far fewer chances to find the back of the net than City.
- Man City: 497 shots, 65 goals – 7.6 shots per goal required
- Chelsea: 407 shots, 43 goals – 9.5 shots per goal required
- Liverpool: 389 shots, 60 goals – 6.5 shots per goal required
Keep ’em coming, Redmen.
Quality as well as quantity
It isn’t just about the number of efforts, of course. If Andy Robertson took 20 shots a game from his usual station on the left wing, we wouldn’t expect it to result in a hat-trick for him.
No, instead, the Reds have made sure that the chances they are creating are frequently high-quality, high-value opportunities to score, from good areas of the pitch.
A massive 64 per cent of Liverpool’s shots come from inside the 18-yard-box, the highest percentage of any team in the top flight when shots are grouped by six-yard, 18-yard or outside the box.
And, by contrast, our long-range efforts—outside the area—account for just 28 per cent, the second-lowest in the league. Some fans might sometimes want us to try our luck a little more often from range, but the players we have can inevitably bide their time and wait for a better opportunity to strike.
Contrast that to Man United, who are the highest long-shot proponents in the league this season: an unhealthy 48 per cent of shots come from outside the area, contributing in no small part to their paltry haul of 36 goals.
Don’t gift opportunities
At the other end of the pitch it matters just as much.
For a team as aggressive, on the front foot and press-centric as Liverpool are, the team are incredibly disciplined when it comes to not giving away free-kicks.
Of course they are necessary sometimes, and the likes of Robertson, James Milner or Fabinho aren’t averse to giving the odd snide one away to break up a counter, but by and large the Reds time their interventions exceedingly well.
In fact, the Reds commit easily the fewest fouls per game in the league (8.4) and have also earned the fewest yellow cards (24).
While that doesn’t sound as though it’s vital by itself, consider this: every single Premier League team has scored the same or more goals off set pieces as they have off counter-attacking situations, and 18 of the 20 have scored at least one penalty.
If you don’t give them those chances to create in the first place, they’re not scoring them against you.
Of course, shots do get through sometimes—so it helps to have Alisson Becker in place when they do.
He is protected by the finest defensive pairing in the league, the most dangerous pair of full-backs and a team full of work ethic and great tactical organisation—but Ali himself is also in a league of his own.
That’s represented by the fact that among the league’s top clubs, Liverpool have the best difference between the average expected goals conceded per game and their actual goals conceded.
- Liverpool: Expected conceded 1.0, Actual conceded 0.6
- Man City: Expected 1.1, Actual 1.2
- Leicester: Expected 1.3, Actual 1.0
- Tottenham: Expected 1.5, Actual 1.2
As shown above, the difference is an impressive -0.4 swing in the goals we concede on average, which only Sheffield United (-0.5) can match—and they were never title rivals—while Man City have actually conceded more (+0.1) than they would expect on average.
Around Europe and the leading teams there, it’s a similar story, with only Real Madrid (-0.4) matching the Reds and each of Juventus (-0.2), PSG (-0.1) and Bayern Munich (0.0) having higher values for both their expected goals against and the difference to their actual defensive record.
When it comes to keeping out goals, it’s a case of the lower the better – and that’s exactly what Alisson makes sure is the case every week!