Liverpool’s season is at something of an interesting crossroads. On the one hand, they’ve had their hardest start to a campaign in 25 years. The Reds have got through it largely unscathed, all things considered, and have 20 points after eight league matches for only the third time in the Premier League era.
But the goals and great results have also dried up recently. Liverpool haven’t won any of their last four games in all competitions, scoring just twice along the way. When the opposition reads Chelsea (twice), Napoli and Manchester City, the sky isn’t exactly falling in. What is concerning Kopites, though, is the lack of goals from their fabled front three.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah have nine league goals between them. This is the same tally as they had after eight games of 2017/18, so it’s far too soon to be overly worried. However, Mané hasn’t scored in his last seven starts, and Salah only has one goal in his. The Reds’ four game win-less run is comprised of their only matches this season where none of their first choice front trio has found the net.
Will they find their feet now their fixture list softens over the next few weeks? Or are they genuinely out of form?
The stats are on the side of a goal surge. Mohamed Salah is currently the Premier League leader for expected goals (xG) this season. The Egyptian is also fifth in our shots leader board for the division, and his dashboard illustrates that he has missed some high value chances in 2018/19.
With three goals scored against an xG total of 5.9, it would be surprising if he didn’t rattle in three goals before too long. Only Fulham have conceded more goals than Huddersfield this season, so will the John Smiths stadium witness Salah’s scoring resurgence? Not necessarily, as the following chart will attest.
You can see from the chart that Huddersfield’s defensive performance hasn’t been wildly dissimilar to that of Spurs or Arsenal by this measure. The Terriers have been no more than four shots on target worse than those sides either.
They’ve conceded 10 and seven more goals than those teams respectively though. Huddersfield’s save percentage appears to be the problem. On average, 70 percent of shots on target are saved by goalkeepers. Yet for David Wagner’s side that figure reads 60, while Arsenal (78) and Spurs (82) are streets ahead.
Twelve’s stats imply that on a pro-rata basis Huddersfield’s Ben Hamer has performed better than Alisson this season. However, the devil is in the detail; Hamer faced 14 shots on target at the Etihad, which is the most any goalkeeper has had to endure in 2018/19. He hasn’t necessarily been better than Liverpool’s new ‘keeper, just far, far busier. In any case, Jonas Lössl currently has ownership of the starting spot.
Huddersfield have faced some tough opponents – the champions, Chelsea and Tottenham, for starters – but one goal and no points from home games with Crystal Palace and Cardiff point towards a very long season ahead. Three of the Terriers’ four goals in the Premier League this season have come from set plays, leaving a single open play goal from eight matches.
It’s impossible to see how they can lay a glove on Liverpool on Saturday evening, so whether the Reds’ elite strike force springs into life this week or not, Klopp’s team should have far too much for the home side.