Luis Suarez – Why Liverpool Haven’t Got Enough

Liverpool fans sing a song expressing the feeling that they just can’t seem to get enough Suarez. There’s a growing consensus in the football analytics community that you know, you actually can. In fact in some areas, you can probably get too much.

Forget the Uruguayan’s antics and let’s just concentrate on the football. We’re not too bothered here about % of shots on target (SOT) or blocked or whatever. We keep getting told blocks are a defensive skill yet still see others in the community criticising strikers for their SOT %. That’s before defenders input to a striker’s shot off target has been properly analysed too. At Differentgame we simply look at expected goals from the number of ALL shots from all areas.

In the Premier League it takes 6 shots on average to score a goal from the central area inside the box. That’s taking into account shots by defenders, midfielders, and attackers. The ‘great’ strikers can almost halve that number to need 3 shots to score from there. The ‘good’ ones can get it down to maybe 4. Suarez for Liverpool takes 5.

The difference between good and what Suarez can manage? In the same 77 game period over the last 3 years, Wayne Rooney scored 10 more goals than he should have from this area while Suarez scored 5 more than he should have. It’s not a huge difference, maybe not even significant.

At Liverpool, Suarez has taken about a third of his shots from outside the box. He’s pretty good at it too – at least from open play. He takes 20 shots to score here where the average is 33. He’s slightly above average compared to the rest of the league’s free kick takers taking 19 to score (the average being 20).

Suarez’ main problem is shooting from wide angles inside the box. He simply can’t help himself. He takes nearly a third of his shots from these angles. And considering Suarez takes a lot of shots altogether that’s an absolute shed load of angled shots.

We’ve seen a lot of comment that the wide forward role may suit Suarez better. He takes 22 shots to score from here when the league average is around 18. Great finishers from here (Bale, Walcott) take around 10 shots to score and can repeat this season on season. Suarez is some way off being even average here, let alone good or even great.

We can chart Suarez’ Liverpool career from the start, plotting the goals we could expect the average player to score against the goals Suarez has actually scored. Here’s how it looks:

Suarez Expected Goals
Original Photo by RuaraidhG @ flickr.com

We can see that it’s taken well over 60 games for Suarez to start and continue to be in ‘profit’ at Liverpool. We haven’t even looked at game state here which means the goals where he’s had his fill feasting on defenders at beneficial scorelines (Norwich, Wigan etc) won’t count as much. He’s spent half of his time at Liverpool not delivering as many goals as the shots and positions he takes them from suggest he should.

Once players get above 4 and 5 shots per game as Suarez continues to, we can pretty much say that they’re starting to take chances away from other players who may be in better positions. Even if they’re not does a really great player just keep shooting anyway instead of retaining the ball? They do not.

Neither Suarez’ decision making nor his execution is world class. Even discounting the baggage the Uruguayan continually brings Liverpool should sell. They’ll get more than he’s worth.

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