*The stats in the article are gathered manually from Squawka. Minutes include stoppage time. Offensive, Defensive and Net rating are the totals per 100 minutes.
Over the last month I have tried to analyze the different defensive and midfield lineups used by Jurgen Klopp and how well they have done. Finally we get to the area of the field for which the Liverpool supporters should have the fewest complaints – attack. After 32 matches Liverpool are the highest scoring team in the league with 68 goals – 3 more than Chelsea, who have a game in hand. So how have our attackers done?
Even though after recent events Jurgen Klopp will need to look for alternatives, 2 of the 3 attackers in our 4-3-3 were able to stay consistently on the field up until the derby last weekend.
|Player||Minutes played||Team goals scored||Offensive rating||Team goals conceded||Defensive rating||Net team gain||Net rating|
Only Nataniel Clyne has played more PL minutes than Roberto Firmino this season. The English full back hasn’t traveled several times around the globe for international duty. It seems like the rest Firmino got against Stoke was long overdue.
A freak injury has ended Sadio Mane’s season but given the circumstances he has been very reliable. The stats evidence what our eyes have been telling us all season – the team is playing at a higher level when he is on the pitch. Hopefully there will be no complications with his injury and we will be able to enjoy Sadio for the full length of next season.
Phil Coutinho’s season started brilliantly but took a hit after suffering an injury against Sunderland in the middle of season. He missed seven games and looked off the pace after returning to the line up. Thankfully the little magician is back to his best lately.
Divock Origi has been the utility man in attack – filling in when any of the starters are unavailable. Origi is the most commonly subbed on player – 19 times. The team has struggled to dominate matches with the Belgian leading the front line.
Daniel Sturridge – a man who splits the opinion of supporters. He has played just 20% of the minutes available and is yet to play a full match this season. His goal involvement is not impressive – just 2 goals and 1 assist per Squawka. A lot of experts say he doesn’t fit the system and yet when he is on the pitch the Reds blow teams away. The numbers are not inflated by favorable sample size – the only high scoring match in which the Englishman has played major minutes is the early season 4-1 win against Leicester City. If that match is removed from the sample, Sturridge would still rank second just behind Mane in offensive rating.
Liverpool’s nuclear triage
|Attacking three||Minutes played||Team goals scored||Offensive rating||Team goals conceded||Defensive rating||Net team gain||Net rating|
|Coutinho, Firmino, Mane||1076 (35%)||28||2.60||14||1.30||14||1.30|
|Firmino, Origi, Mane||583 (19%)||13||2.23||6||1.03||7||1.20|
|Firmino, Sturridge, Mane||355 (12%)||10||2.82||2||0.56||8||2.26|
The biggest issue yet again is the failure to keep the best players in the line up. Injuries and the AFCON have made it impossible for our starting attack to log significant minutes together. Coutinho, Firmino and Mane have spent just over a third of the total minutes playing together in attack. When that trio is on the pitch Liverpool is firing on all cylinders. The defensive rating of our starting attack is on par with the season average, guaranteeing spectators some high scoring matches – 42 total goals scored in just over 1000 minutes.
The minutes that other lineup have played together are not significant. It is worrying that the “Other” lineups have a negative net rating with over 1000 minutes. With Mane out, Klopp will need to use such lineups in every match until the end of the season.
Coping without Sadio Mane
Sadio Mane has arguably been Liverpool’s best player this season. The Senegalese has scored 13 goals, assisted 5 and created 4 clear-cut chances. He has constantly been a menace on the wing and even in the center on rare occasions. Many say that the thing that this Liverpool squad lacks the most is consistency – something that can’t be said for Mane’s performances. We got a glimpse of how important he is for the squad when the winger was out in January and we are seeing it again in the recent fixtures.
|Minutes played||Team goals scored||Offensive rating||Team goals conceded||Defensive rating||Net team gain||Net rating|
The picture isn’t pretty without Mane. A negative net rating, 2 losses, 2 draws and 1 win in full matches without him – 5 points out of 15. He was subbed out with Liverpool leading 3-1 against Bournemouth only for the team to lose 4-3. In fact the only lineups to have a positive net rating without the winger are:
- Matchday 26 against Leicester, with the team 3-0, Coutinho scored the consolation goal (27 minutes without Mane)
- Matchday 30 against Everton, with the team leading 2-1, Origi sealed the win (37 minutes without Mane)
- Matchday 32 against Stoke, 2-1 win, full 97 minutes with Mane
No wonder Jurgen Klopp decided to tinker with the formation after the injury. Clearly up to the match against Stoke last weekend the team was failing to perform without the Senegalese international. Whilst the drop in offensive output should be expected, conceding 2 goals per 100 minutes is simply shocking even for our leaky defense. Going forward there aren’t that many options – as good as he is, Daniel Sturridge will not be ready to start any time soon. The attacking trio to take us to the Champions League is Coutinho, Origi and Firmino, with hopefully a match winner in Sturridge available to come of the bench.
Busy summer ahead
There is a strong opinion among supporters that Liverpol need a proven 20 goal a season scorer. Liverpool are the highest scoring team in the league and rank 4th in chance conversion ration (just 0,4% behind leaders Arsenal) via transfermarkt. The big chance conversion rate of the team is 30% (13 scored out of 43) – of the top 6 only Manchester City (33%) and Arsenal (58%) are doing better. Scoring goals is not a problem and the finishing, while not on elite level, is still amongst the best in the league. Klopp prefers a formation with one central striker and Firmino is doing a fantastic job in that position. The manager seems to really like Origi and has a reputation of developing young players, people forget that the Belgian is still just 21. Sturridge looks like he is on the way out and if he goes a replacement will be needed. I don’t think getting a striker is a priority this summer.
The main focus should be on getting a winger. There is no senior player with the same playing style as Sadio Mane, which hurts the team a lot when he is not available. Klopp’s 4-3-3 is built around the balance of having one of the wide attackers being a natural winger and the other cutting inside. Having more than one option is in this position is an absolute must for next season. The youngsters don’t look like they are going to be ready to take on a major role next season. Lazar Markovic is still under contract but is most likely going to be sold.
An argument can be made that the team needs another number 10 to cover for Coutinho too. Klopp has tried playing Firmino and Lallana in his position when he was out but both of them are way more efficient in their current starting positions.