When a team holds a 25-point gap at the top of the Premier League with 29 games played, it’s pretty obvious that the entire team has been performing at the very highest level.
Liverpool have dropped only five points all season, with the defensive line playing a key role. The Reds have recorded the most clean sheets and conceded the fewest goals of any side in the division so far in 2019/20.
The team’s work at the other end of the pitch has been important too — only Manchester City have scored more goals, with Jürgen Klopp’s side having hit the back of the net 66 times, twice less than the 68 scored by the Sky Blues.
Of course the front line shoulders much of this burden. Between them, the trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino have notched 57.6pc of goals scored by the side this season — 38 out of 66.
All three are more than capable in front of goal, but even when you have such a potent attacking line it’s important for others to chip in. That’s exactly what has been happening at Liverpool this season.
Of all first-team regulars this season — those who have more than 1,000 minutes under their belt — only Firmino, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have recorded fewer strikes than their xG (expected goals) in 2019/20.
The England international, a set-piece master, boasts the highest xG of any other Liverpool defender in the league this season, showing how much of a danger he can be in the opposition half.
His two league goals this term is only slightly below the 2.2 xG he has accumulated since last August, meaning he has pretty much scored the exact number of goals that might have been expected of him up to this point.
Robertson rarely offers a threat to goal himself, and has accumulated an xG of just 1.3 this term. His actual goal tally stands at just one — a vital strike against Aston Villa which was the catalyst for a late, late victory back in November.
Firmino, however, whose struggles in front of goal have been well documented this campaign, is well behind his xG of 12.2 having netted just eight times in the Premier League.
The Brazilian is yet to record an league goal at Anfield this season, with all his strikes coming on the road. He has been criticised by some for his lack of end-product, but we all know his importance to the team and that scoring goals is not the priority for him like it is for other strikers.
That said, the fact he is four goals behind where he is expected to be still presents a worry, even if it is just a small one. Hopefully when football resumes he will rediscover his clinical finishing.
Fortunately, while Firmino has been slightly wasteful in front of goal, his teammates across the pitch have been stepping up. Salah’s 16 league goals is slightly better than his 14.5 xG stat, while Mané’s total of 14 is a really strong total compared to the 11.4 he is expected to have scored up to this point.
The midfield has been criticised by fans and pundits alike for not offering enough attacking threat, but the regulars are over-performing in front of goal according to the statistics.
Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all been on the pitch for more than 1,000 minutes each. The 10 league goals scored between them in 2019/20 greatly exceeds their cumulative 5.4 xG, while all four have scored more goals individually than expected too.
At the back, Virgil van Dijk has been far more efficient in front of goal than expected. The dominant defender has scored four times in the Premier League this season — double his xG of 2.0.
Even many of those who have lesser roles in the first team squad have been clinical finishers. The likes of Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri and Joël Matip have all scored more league goals than expected since last August.
The Reds’ league position shows just how important their attacking work on the training pitch has been. For many years Liverpool have had no trouble scoring goals, but to add that defensive solidity while keeping that cutting edge has made for a formidable team, one which has taken the Premier League by storm this season.
Creating chances can be the most difficult part of attacking play, but these numbers show that, if the opportunity is there, this crop of Reds will likely take it.
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