SINCE Jürgen Klopp took the helm at Liverpool in October 2015, Liverpool have netted 101 goals in 57 games — 50 in the league in 2016. That’s four ahead of everyone else. The numbers speak for themselves, they really do, writes OLI FELL.
The Reds score a LOT of goals. More than everyone else, right now, and it’s great. It feels like we can outscore everyone every game. Who doesn’t like goals? When Liverpool are at their absolute best goals seem incredibly simple to come by, and they come by the bucket-load. In this Liverpool team, more and more players are starting to chip in too.
Never mind our defence, I don’t want to talk about that. Not since Rafa Benitez have I really been bothered about talking about our defence. That’s probably a bad thing, because ‘goals win you games, defence wins you titles’ etc. I’m here to praise our outstanding goalscoring ability within our squad, and why I believe it can continue.
Since Klopp took charge almost a year ago, four players have managed double digits for the Reds. Roberto Firmino has 14, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho have 13, and Divock Origi has found the net 11 times. The sheer potency of the players Klopp has at his disposal is mad. It’d take a brave man to bet against all of our forwards notching 10 or more this season. Not only are our forwards scoring goals, out of the 101 goals, 22 different scorers have contributed.
I’m sure he’s sick to death of people quoting this, and he probably wishes he’d never said it, but Jürgen’s ‘heavy metal football’ (sorry) really is bringing the best out of a number of players. The intensity and rigour of the pressing from the midfield forces teams into either going long or making risky passes. It’s havoc. Using Firmino as an example, not only is he a quality footballer he also chases down everything. Everything. Klopp’s way of playing suits the players we have. He’s shipped off those who didn’t fit the system, he’s brought in others who do.
He’s also brought in lads who have an eye for goal, and are comfortable on the ball too. Remember those lads who scored against us last season? He’s signed them, too. Sadio Mane scored three against us last season, Georginio Wijnaldum scored two. It seems like a bit of a funny ‘strategy’, and it is probably genuine coincidence, but if it stops them scoring against us, and means they’ll contribute for us, I’m all for it.
Wijnaldum is yet to open his account, but Mane already looks like the perfect purchase, in terms of the way he suits our system. I don’t think I’ve been more impressed with a new signing’s start since Fernando Torres. It’s no surprise we were poor against Burnley without him. Reliance on Mane isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, he’s a top player that’s why we forked out the money for him. However, others have to step up in his absence.
There was a stat, banded around last January, that we had the worst shot conversion in the league at 10.3 per cent. That is pitiful, to be fair. We had 365 shots. Liverpool’s conversion rate has always been notoriously low, aside from 2013/14 when it felt like every shot went in. This season, the Reds have managed 72 shots, with 26 of those coming in the Burnley defeat. The Reds have bagged nine goals, so a conversion rate of eight per cent. The lack of ruthlessness in front of goal has already cost us points in two games. We have to be smarter, and facing the brunt of this is Coutinho.
Look, Coutinho is absolutely great, but he has to be smarter on the ball. This was apparent when he was brought on against Leicester and tried immediately shooting from 30 yards, it was baffling. He can get away with it from time to time, because he does pull one out the bag every so often, but he’s had 17 shots this season in the league, scoring just two goals. I’m not in any way here trying to drag down Coutinho, or any of our forwards, because they’ve been brilliant, and I’d rather we shot more than not enough. There’s just some instances where frustration builds and desperation creeps in.
Regardless of that last paragraph, which is my only concern about the free-scoring Reds, the way Klopp is building the team is a complete contrast to what we’ve seen in the past. Yes, Brendan Rodgers had the 13/14 season, when Liverpool scored about four every game, but the season after saw a Suarez-less Liverpool suffer ineptitude in the final third to the extreme. There’s a fear factor now when we play teams. You can sense it. A split second moment of hesitation in the opposition’s back four and we’re in. All it takes is one mistake to be pounced upon, and there’s four or five players in advanced positions. Opposition teams, managers and defenders will take notice of this too, it will play on their minds.
So, 11 months into Klopp’s reign and there’s already much to be positive about regarding goals, our forward play and everything in general to be fair. But our attacking play, when in full flow, has been nothing short of sensational. We’ve scored the most in the league in 2016. We’ve scored three or more goals in a game eight times in 2016, we’ve hit four twice this season alone.
It’s important to remember that Mane, Firmino and Coutinho are all still only 24. Sturridge – 27, Origi – 21. Adam Lallana is the slight anomaly at 28, but if recent performances are anything go by, he could be on his way to justifying his lofty price-tag and, as reported, a new contract. There’s still room for them to grow into more confident and capable footballers, and I’d suggest we have the perfect man in charge to get it out of them. We are scoring loads, but we still lack nous at times. As Klopp ingrains his mentality, and style of play into this team, hopefully the tricky Reds can become the ruthless Reds.
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