Analysing Liverpool’s Struggles with Finishing Efficiency

The Premier League three-horse title race took a dramatic turn last weekend when Liverpool and Arsenal shockingly lost to Crystal Palace and Aston Villa respectively, pushing Manchester City to the top spot.

The damaging defeat of Jürgen Klopp’s men at Anfield came at the back of another stunning 3-0 loss in the Europa League to Atalanta – ultimately leading to their elimination from the competition – and a disappointing 2-2 draw to Manchester United in the Premier League.

In these games, Liverpool’s defensive cracks that leaked goals were a pertinent issue, however, their finishing flaws were arguably more devastating.

Shortcomings in the Final Stretch

When crunching the numbers, Liverpool’s finishing troubles are evident – reflected by the average expected goals (xG) and goals scored chart below.

The xG trendline quantifies the quality of chances generated in a match. Comparing this value with the goals scored figure helps us identify potential over and underperformance in terms of their finishing. Moreover, taking cumulative averages of a team for a season will help us identify trends.

Therefore, in the graph below, when the xG trend line is below the goals scored curve, it indicates finishing outperformance, while the opposite reveals substandard performance.

As illustrated above, Liverpool is currently enduring a rough period as they struggle to convert chances despite creating almost three goals worth of chances on average every game.

The Reds’ underwhelming form in front of goal has cost the team valuable points in the past weeks, with the most recent outing against Crystal Palace highlighting their dire conversion rate of 0.30 goals per shot on target – 12th in the Premier League.

Darwin Núñez, Diogo Jota, and Curtis Jones, among others, were presented with golden opportunities to open the scoring for Liverpool. However, they consistently failed to find the net.

The damaging loss led to Liverpool relinquishing their leading position to Manchester City, sparking a two-point rift between the two teams with just six league games left.

In March, Liverpool had a glorious opportunity to swing the title odds in their favour as they faced Pep Guardiola’s men at Anfield. Despite the visitors taking an early lead, the Reds dictated proceedings as they generated the better goal-scoring chances throughout the match.

Although they levelled the tie with a converted penalty, Liverpool was left disgruntled as they failed to secure all three points.

The problems with Liverpool’s chance conversion can be attributed to three players – Núñez, Luis Díaz, and Mohamed Salah – all of whom have fallen short of their expected goals. Among them, the Uruguay striker stands out as the poorest performer by a considerable margin.

A ray of hope for Liverpool fans is the timely return of Jota after a knee injury that set him on the sidelines for over eight weeks. In the league, the Portuguese forward scored nine goals from an xG of 4.9 – an impressive margin of overperformance – the highest value in the squad.

Nevertheless, the extent to which Jota will influence the remainder of the season is doubtful since match minutes will likely be limited to protect the player who has just returned after a ligament tear.

“If we can win football games, we will see how many we can win, and then we want to be around when the other guys struggle if they struggle.”

As admitted by Klopp after the defeat at Palace, the title race is not in Liverpool’s hands anymore, with City in the driving seat. However, if Liverpool wants to have the chance to take advantage of any slip-ups by their competitors, Klopp has to ensure that his attackers start firing immediately.

The race for the Premier League crown has taken many turns over the past nine months, with Klopp hoping for one last plot twist in his favour to cap his remarkable tenure at Liverpool with the perfect ending.

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