Liverpool Football club isn’t for the faint of hearted.
The evidence is there; between Istanbul, the now infamous games against Dortmund and Villarreal, and even that fateful night in Basel when the lights shone down on Klopp’s tenure and left Liverpool in a puddle of despair. Every game is a new cardiac examination of one’s heart and ability to deal with pressure; and Jürgen Klopp hasn’t exactly done much to prevent that.
In fact, in true Liverpool fashion, he’s built a side that’s not only exceptionally entertaining, but will ensure more than enough Liverpool fans are breathing great big sighs following matchdays. Whether that’s a sigh of relief or a sigh of exasperation is entirely dependent on the players on that pitch and the tactical manoeuvrability of the man on the touchline; but thus far; the signs are good.
Not just good, even. They’re exciting, tantalising, trailblazing, riveting. They’re tense, gut-wrenching, apprehensive, nerve-wracking, unbelievably passionate and uncompromisingly aggressive.
A litany of words; yet one seems to bind them together. Liverpool.
Perhaps there’s a touch of inevitability about a club that made its name off of swashbuckling victories and unparalleled goalscorers, but goals aren’t going to be a difficult thing to come by on the fields of Anfield Road this season. In a league filled with contrasting styles; the pragmatism and defensive nous of Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho against the tactical splendour of Pep Guardiola and the unbridled chaos of Jürgen Klopp, wars will be waged weekly. What Liverpool have is an armoury filled with goals; coming from everywhere.
Fans shouldn’t have expected anything less, either: it’s in Jürgen Klopp’s footballing DNA to play an attractive, extremely quick style of football – it’s one that caught the eye at Borussia Dortmund.
In fact; the similarities are striking. Dortmund won the title on the back of an attack that scored 80 Bundesliga goals. In contrast: Liverpool scored 63 goals and conceded 50 in the Premier League last season. A goal difference of 13 meant finishing eighth was no surprise; but even if Liverpool’s defence is leaky; all it takes is a goal difference of +30 to historically obtain top four.
This means, even if our defence concedes 50 goals this season; we’d have to score 80 – the exact same as Klopp’s title-winning Dortmund managed in 2011/12, to ensure a spot in the top four.
And the reality is Liverpool can.
As of the time of writing, Liverpool have created the third most chances of any team in Europe this season; 135 chances, third only to Roma (138) and Real Madrid (152). The chances are there, but what can fans expect in terms of finishing? If, and it’s a big if, Jürgen Klopp can get his team firing on all cylinders for an extended period of time, then does his team possess the players to score the amount of goals necessary to guarantee top four?
Well, Klopp’s 2011/12 Dortmund is a good place to start. Though he can surely be given some leeway considering this is his first full season in charge of Liverpool, the objective should remain the same. Using team averages; getting the average amount of goals per attacker in Dortmund’s front four of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Götze, Shinji Kagawa and Ivan Perisic was 11 goals per attacker. It’s a stat that became slightly conflated due to Lewandowski’s total tally of 22 goals. The totals of the front four are spread below.
Lewandowski :22 goals
Kagawa :12 goals
Götze: :5 goals
Perisic :5 goals
Obviously the comparison is skewed slightly by the fact that Liverpool have played a front 3 instead of a front four this season, but if Sadio Mane, Phillipe Coutinho, and Roberto Firmino can each get to the 11 goals mark – or one gets around the 15 goals mark, which would alleviate the stress on the others, then Liverpool would have the necessary amount of goals from the front three. In turn, that would mean an output of less than 10 goals from one of Daniel Sturridge or Divock Origi (or five from both) would get Liverpool to their mark.
There’s reason to believe they might well do it too; so far this season both Coutinho and Mane have scored four goals in eight appearances, while Roberto Firmino has three. If Firmino finds his shooting boots, he could well be on the way to a 15+ goal season. Below is an example of how that could shape out.
Firmino :15 goals
Coutinho :11 goals
Mane :9 goals
Origi+Sturridge :9 goals
The striking thing that comes out of Klopp’s title-winning Dortmund side, however, was the ability to obtain goals from their midfield and defenders.
Błaszczykowski scored 4 goals, as did Piszczek at right-back. Kevin Großkreutz scored 7 goas as a rotation option on the flanks, while Ilkay Gundogan and Sebastian Kehl combined for 6 goals from midfield.
Those numbers are definitely achievable. James Milner already has 4 goals to his name – the same as Piszczek managed at full-back all season. If Emre Can and Jordan Henderson can combine for 5 or 6 goals, while Gini Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana contribute 8-10 between them, Liverpool would be sitting pretty. Add in goals from the bench; from the likes of Divock Origi, Danny Ings, Marko Grujic or even Sheyi Ojo, and perhaps a few goals from set pieces (this is a rather optimistic piece, go on, suspend your disbelief), then Liverpool could well be on their way to an 80 goal season.
Jurgen Klopp’s built a squad capable of achieving that. Now he has to coax it out of them. If they manage it, then top four would be a near-guarantee, and who knows, it might even lead to something more.