11 July 2013

Luis Suarez and Goals Scored by a Club's Top Scorer

The transfer furor surrounding Luis Suarez hasn't even come close to a deafening crescendo, but it's already infuriating.

An awful lot of Liverpool fans seem almost resigned to his exit. At the least, it doesn't seem to carrying the wrist-slitting woe-is-me torpor which followed Torres' ignominious departure.

But make no mistake. No matter how he may have statistically over-performed in front of goal (especially compared to his 2011-12 totals), how much controversy permanently surrounds the player, or how less reliant Liverpool were on his goals as the season went on, his departure would leave a gaping hole in Liverpool's attack.

There have been just three seasons where Liverpool were more reliant on a single goalscorer since the Premier League's inception 21 seasons ago.

Robbie Fowler's second and third seasons for the club – 1994-95 and 1995-96, also Roy Evans' first two full seasons as manager – are the far-and-away leaders, when God scored 28 and 25 goals in consecutive campaigns. Torres' debut season is third, tallying 24 of Liverpool's 67 goals, 30% of the league goals he scored in his three and a half seasons with the club.

But whether or not Liverpool were reliant on a single goalscorer seemingly had little impact on Liverpool's final league place. Liverpool spread the goals outstandingly when finishing second in 2008-09, but Liverpool also finished in the Champions League places when Fowler and Torres monopolized the scoring.

The average percentage of goals scored by Liverpool's top scorer over those 21 seasons was 26.63%. Liverpool's average league position in the nine seasons above that mark was 4.44. It was 5.25 in the 12 seasons below that mark. Slightly better when there was a dominant scorer, but not meaningfully so.

It was, however, amusing to see that the four Premiership seasons where Liverpool were least reliant on a single goalscorer were four of Rafa Benitez's first five seasons, with Torres' debut season the exception. Because of course they were.

Which segues nicely into an update on this graphic from much earlier in the season, looking at how reliant each Premier League club was on a single scorer.

And the subsequent chart…

Unsurprisingly, it's vastly different to the version made after just 11 league matches. Only Liverpool, third-most reliant on one player, and Arsenal, the least reliant on one player, are in the same positions.

Just Aston Villa and Swansea got a larger proportion of goals from their top scorer than Liverpool, Benteke and Michu respectively.

The league-wide average for goals scored by the club's top scorer was 26.94% (unsurprisingly quite similar to Liverpool's average over the 21 Premiership seasons). 10 clubs were above that, 10 were below, and the average league position of the 10 clubs both above and below that mark was just about 10th.

To be fair, yes, Liverpool became much less reliant on Suarez as the season went on – more specifically, after Sturridge and Coutinho signed. Only two of his 23 league goals came in the final 10 matches, the last four of which he sat out due to suspension. Liverpool still scored 18 times during those ten matches, an average of 1.8 per game, which was just slightly less than the season-long 1.87 goals per league game average. Liverpool's record was five wins, four draws, and one loss, an average of 1.9 points per game, vastly better than the season-long 1.61 points per game average.

On March 2, Suarez was responsible for 39.6% of Liverpool's league goals. By the end of the season, that number had dropped to 32.4%. During the first half of the season, especially during the first 12 games, Suarez was single-handedly keeping Liverpool afloat in attack; he scored 64.7% of Liverpool's goals through those first 12 matches. Where, I hesitate to remind, Liverpool averaged just 1.25 points per game and were sat in the bottom half of the table.

As Liverpool grew as a team and added more key attackers, Liverpool did a much better job spreading the wealth. In those last ten league matches, Sturridge scored six; Henderson three; Coutinho, Gerrard, and Suarez two; and Agger, Borini, and Downing once. Which bodes well for next season, whether or not Luis Suarez remains with the club.

Still, let's not pretend that Suarez's exit would be anything other than a monumental change.


Ian Moore said...

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nate said...

hahahahaha *gasp* hahahahahahaha

Okay boss, if you don't want me to link to your website – the only examples of which are a link on the sidebar and a three-year old post – you got it. Links removed.

I'm incredibly sorry I used your publicly available information (which you are not the sole owner of, seeing as how you collect it from other publicly available reports, but that's a different argument) and linked back to your website, clearly giving credit where due. Please don't throw me in the briar patch.

Also, as a common courtesy, it probably would have been easier to just email me rather than comment on a completely unrelated post.

But I guess I shouldn't be surprised that such a first-class, internet-savvy site such as the one you represent went about it in this manner.

Abhiram said...

First comment is just lame...

On another note,
The data on Fernando Torres form 2008/09 campaign is a little erroneous. If he scored 24/77 total goals as shown in the chart, he scored 31% of the goals.

In the paragraph, you mentioned 67 goals for that year. Then I guess your value mentioned makes sense