Can Erling Haaland help Liverpool evolve?
What is the next evolution for this Liverpool side? After a series of disappointing results, that seems to be a common question, at least on social media anyway. The Reds huffed and puffed in games against West Brom, Newcastle United and Southampton, but eventually grew frustrated and turned to just aimlessly putting the ball into the penalty area.
The feeling is that Thiago adds a bit of creativity from the middle third. I’m in the minority now but I still harbour hope that Naby Keita will manage to stay fit over a period of time as his inclusion gives Liverpool something different in midfield. I realise I’ve been saying this for three years now, but you never know.
The Reds have shown they can identity wide forwards who fit their profile. Perhaps the next step for them is to find a striker who scores goals instead of just creating them. Roberto Firmino has been one of the club’s best buys and key to their success. However, he’s never been and never will be prolific. He chips in with big goals from time to time, but with Liverpool now as dominant as ever in possession, now might be the time for a more ruthless forward to lead the line.
There’s been a lot of talk surrounding the future of Kylian Mbappe recently. The Frenchman has 18 months left on his PSG deal and reports have suggested that the Ligue 1 side might be tempted to cash in on him to free up funds to bring in Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero.
Liverpool are regularly named as a potential destination for the World Cup winner, but Real Madrid are believed to be favourites for his signature.
Instead, the Premier League champions could turn to Erling Haaland. Linked with countless Premier League clubs, his buyout clause makes him attainable to the masses. If Liverpool want a pure goalscorer, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone better. He doesn’t waste chances.
It's just over a year since @ErlingHaaland moved to @BVB. In that time he's taken just three (3) shots from outside of the penalty area. pic.twitter.com/jjLoOqeVSs
— Twenty3 (@Twenty3sport) January 11, 2021
Since joining Borussia Dortmund, he’s taken just three shots from outside of the penalty area. That accounts for 4% of his total efforts in the Bundesliga. For context, Firmino takes 28% of his shots from outside the box, 27% of Mohamed Salah’s shots come from 18+ yards while 17% of Sadio Mane’s are from distance, per understat.
When looking at xG per shot, Salah and Mane are tied at 0.17 with Firmino averaging 0.14 since his move to Merseyside. Haaland, however, has an average xG per shot total of 0.25. He’s getting into dangerous areas on a regular basis and, as mentioned in a detailed piece on him here, he’s also adding value to his efforts with his technique. He makes good opportunities into great ones. Haaland is the difference between dominating the ball but being unable to break the deadlock and ensuring the scoreline matches a confident performance.
Liverpool would have to tweak their game to accommodate the 20-year-old, but change is on the horizon. In football, you adapt or you perish. The Reds have had this group of attackers for four years now and all are heading into their 30s. They aren’t ready for retirement, not by a long shot, but Jurgen Klopp will no doubt be thinking of ways they can keep things fresh. Haaland makes them predictably unpredictable.