29 May 2014

On Liverpool Shooting 2013-14

Premier League totals only. Not including Liverpool's five Premier League own goals.

Location data taken from the match infographics done throughout the course of the season, which you can find here. And as a reminder, this is where Liverpool's 96 non-own goal Premier League goals came from (from this post):

Locations with Above-Average Accuracy:
Six-Yard Box, Box Central, Byline Left, Byline Right, Box Right, Out Box Left

Locations with Below-Average Accuracy:
Box Left, Out Box D, Out Box Right, Out Box Center, Deep Left, Deep Center, Deep Right, Wide Left, Wide Right

Which makes sense. Five of the six "Above-Average Accuracy" are inside the box, while Liverpool took fewer shots from "Out Box Left" compared to the other locations directly outside the box. It's slightly odd that Liverpool were better from the right side of the box compared to the left, but better outside the box on the left compared to the right. Sample size and all, I imagine; in this case, Liverpool were more accurate on the side where they took fewer shots.

The most efficient areas? The six-yard box and middle of the 18-yard box. The least efficient areas? The central areas outside the box, especially outside the penalty arc, where Liverpool took 121 shots and scored just seven goals. Again, nothing surprising.

And that's unsurprisingly a large discrepancy between potency and accuracy inside and outside the box. But Liverpool was nowhere near the worst offender in this regard. Only five Premiership teams took a smaller percentage of shots from outside the box: City, Everton, United, Arsenal, and West Ham. And only seven scored a higher percentage of goals from outside the box: Norwich, Stoke, Chelsea, Hull, Everton, and Tottenham. Only Everton, who scored 40 fewer goals than Liverpool, shows up on both lists. You can see the league-wide totals here.

All season long, Liverpool did well to get shots from high value positions, and did better than average in converting their more speculative efforts, and reaped 101 goals – 24 more than Liverpool's next-best Premiership campaign – as a reward.

In 2012-13, Liverpool scored 59 goals inside the box (83.1% of all goals) and 12 from outside the box (16.9%), with 421 shots inside the box and 318 shots outside the box. Liverpool took more shots in total in 2012-13 – more than any other team in either 2012-13 or 2013-14 – but the proportion of shots inside the box compared to shots outside the box was almost exactly the same. But in 2012-13, Liverpool scored from outside the box once every 26.5 shots, almost 12 shots more per goal than it took in 2013-14. Players who scored from outside the box?

In 2013-14, Liverpool's shots on target and overall accuracy improved as the season went on, especially after the January signings of Sturridge and Coutinho. Liverpool had to get better, quickly, starting poorly in Rodgers' first campaign, but finishing rather strongly as personnel improved and ideas took hold.

By the end of the season, Liverpool's shot accuracy had risen to 31.4%; it was 28.3% prior to Sturridge's full debut. And the 2012-13 mark was a little less than a percentage point better than the 2011-12 mark, which was 30.7%, even though Liverpool scored just 47 goals that season. Suarez 7; Sturridge 4; Coutinho, Gerrard, Henderson 2;

This season's 39.6% shot accuracy is more than eight percentage points better than last season. Eight! That's an egregious, hopefully-not-unsustainable amount. And like in 2012-13, it improved as the season went on, but to a lesser extent.

Liverpool only took three more shots over the second half of the season, but 10 more were on-target and, more importantly, 17 fewer were blocked. Liverpool's shot accuracy was 2.5% better in the second half of the season. That resulted in 13 more goals. And that 14-match unbeaten streak which propelled Liverpool toward an unlikely title challenge.

Putting nearly 70% of the shots at Stoke on target, culminating in a 5-3 win, was a major factor in the rolling six-match accuracy improvement to start the second half of the campaign, but there's a noticeable rise over the final 19 games, only dropping below 40% after the loss to Chelsea, followed up by the draw at Palace, with Liverpool putting slightly more than 30% of its shots on target in each of those matches.

On the whole, aside from a handful of matches (*glares at the Chelsea result*), this was a very good season for Liverpool's shooting. And it was a key factor, the key factor, in this being a very good season for Liverpool. But, of course, I'm very concerned how sustainable it'll be going forward.

Coming soon: I'll focus solely on Suarez and Sturridge's contributions. Maybe tomorrow, but probably Monday.

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