Whichever way you look at it, five wins from five games in the new Premier League season is pretty impressive.
As usual, the goals are flowing. Liverpool have hit the back of the net 15 times in that handful of games – an average of three goals per game. Four goals conceded also gives them the joint-best defensive record in the division, and a higher goal difference than any other side.
In their five matches so far, the Reds have taken 16 shots between minutes 31 and 45, with six goals scored at this stage of a match. The front line has been especially clinical, as the xG (expected goals) for these efforts sits at 2.90. This means that they are marking more than twice as many goals as they should be.
Jürgen Klopp has clearly been stressing the importance of this period of the game to his players, and it has proven to be an excellent time to score. On four occasions, goals in this time period have put Liverpool ahead in the match. Sadio Mané has been especially lively, scoring three of the six.
At the other end of the pitch, the Reds have been just as strong. Between minutes 31 and 45, they have allowed only five shots on their goal this season. None of them went in.
Going in at the break is a huge advantage, providing a real confidence boost. We saw this most effectively against Southampton. Liverpool were poor in the opening period but still led at the break after Mané’s first-half injury time strike. Afterward, they went two ahead and were largely comfortable, except for a nervy finish courtesy of Adrián’s late blunder.
It has been the cornerstone of the Anfield club’s performances so far this season. They have led at half-time in every game so far. The desire to take control of games early is clear, and it has paid dividends so far.
Now it’s time to do the same in the second period
Scoring late goals in matches is old hat for Liverpool. They managed 24 between minutes 76 and 90 in the Premier League last season – significantly more than in any other 15-minute period.
Their fitness and ability to keep up the same relentless intensity even late on in games was too much for most opponents, and earned Klopp’s side so many points in 2018/19. So far this year, however, this seems to have been lost.
In fact, they have managed only seven efforts on goal in the final 15 minutes of matches, scoring one solitary goal. Indeed, it is the only period in which they have conceded more shots – and goals – than they have notched.
This must change. The ability to keep a high intensity and score late, significant goals is such a weapon, but at the moment it is being left in the armoury.
Sadly, it isn’t a case of bad luck distorting these stats. Liverpool’s xG for the final 15 minutes of Premier League matches so far is 0.96, with the one goal scored meaning that they are around where they should be given the way the games have gone.
Bad finishing isn’t the problem, then, but chance creation itself – and probably fitness. With the quality Liverpool have in attacking areas, making opportunities should not be difficult, especially against tiring defenders late in matches.
But the good news is that we are still very early in the new season. Momentum is still building and, with more games, the match fitness will no doubt be there soon. Late winning goals could be the difference between winning trophies and a disappointing season. Liverpool must make sure they land on the positive side of that coin.