EPL

Firmino key for Liverpool despite lack of goals – forward assessed in Opta data

By Sports Desk October 17, 2020

Roberto Firmino's importance to Liverpool is undoubtable.

Ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby against Everton, manager Jurgen Klopp again defended the forward over his lack of goals, with Firmino yet to find the net for the Premier League champions this season.

And for good reason. As Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane dominate the headlines and the goals, Firmino plays a key role for Liverpool.

Using Opta data, we take a look at how Liverpool go with and without Firmino, plus his output.

 

No doubt over Firmino importance

His output constantly questioned, Firmino's importance to Liverpool has often been highlighted on the rare occasions he has been absent for the Reds.

The data shows the same. Since Firmino's arrival from Hoffenheim for a reported £29million in 2015, Liverpool have played 194 Premier League games.

Klopp's side have a win percentage of 64.8 when the durable Firmino has played, compared to 53.3 in the 15 games they have been without him. They also collect more points per game (2.2 to 1.9) with Firmino.

While Liverpool have scored slightly more without Firmino (2.2 average goals for to 2.1), they have more shots, possession, crosses and passes into the final third with the Brazil international, highlighting his link-up ability and movement. Both passing accuracy and accuracy in the opposition half is slightly higher, too.

With Firmino having scored 29 of his 57 Premier League goals away from home – Liverpool have also been completely dominant at Anfield – their winning percentage on the road in the league without him is just 37.5, compared to 58.4 with him.

Firmino provides balance

Salah and Mane have been two of the Premier League's best attackers in recent seasons, so it is no surprise Firmino's goal involvements are below his star team-mates. Since their respective arrivals at Anfield, Salah has an incredible 106 in 112 games and Mane has 86 in 130, with Firmino (57 goals and 37 assists) contributing 94 in 179.

A key factor to that has been Firmino's inability to convert as well as his team-mates. Salah was the last of the trio to arrive at Liverpool, joining Firmino and Mane with his move from Roma in 2017. Since then, Firmino's big chance conversion sits at 41.3 per cent, compared to Salah (49.5) and Mane (46.2), although he also gets far fewer opportunities. The Egyptian has had 1.02 big chances per 90 minutes, more than both Mane (0.85) and Firmino (0.65).

And while Salah has enjoyed a spectacular Liverpool career, Firmino's goal involvements have also been consistent at and away from Anfield. Since the trio came together, Firmino has been directly involved in 31 goals in 58 away league games, similar to his 28 in 55 at home. On the road in that time, Salah has 39 in 54 games, while Mane's drops off to 25 in 50.

Plus, Firmino balances out the front three. He has a considerably better dribble success rate (61.1) than both Mane (52.3) and Salah (51.5) since the dynamic trio formed their partnership, while he can also drop deeper, providing 3.7 passes into the final third per 90 minutes, compared to Mane's 3.1 and Salah's 2.2.

Liverpool may need more goals from Firmino, but there is no doubt about his importance to Klopp's side.

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    Since Lampard took charge at the start of last season, Chelsea have conceded 89 goals in 62 games across all competitions, an average of 1.44 per game.

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    KEPA STATS MAKE ABYSMAL READING

    Delving deeper into Opta's advanced goalkeeper metrics, we can look at expected goals and how their keepers rank in the goals prevented statistic.

    Unfortunately, it makes abysmal reading for Kepa. 

    There were 43 shot-stoppers who played a Premier League game since Lampard took charge of Chelsea and Kepa ranks last in goals prevented differential.

    In his 36 league matches for Chelsea since Lampard took charge, Opta's expected goals system projects the Spaniard should have conceded 39.21 goals. The actual figure was 51, giving him a goals prevented ratio of minus 11.79.

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    As a team, Chelsea have conceded 63 in the league since August 2019, while the expected figure is 44.74, their minus 18.26 differential being far and away the top-flight's worst.

    Southampton are next worst at minus 9.91, while the best record is held by Sheffield United, who conceded 46 when they were expected to concede 56.59, giving them a plus 10.59 ratio.

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    Chelsea (44.74), City (44.34), Liverpool (44.67) and United (46.61) all rank similarly for the Premier League goals they would have been expected to concede since the start of last season.

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    City (42) fared best, with Ederson (plus 4.47) ranking well, while Liverpool (46) United (48) finished up relatively close to their expected figures, all highlighting just how badly Chelsea have been let down between the sticks compared to their nearest competitors.

    Chelsea will hope Mendy, once fully fit and settled, can resolve their goalkeeping woes, as it is clear the data backs up Lampard's statement.

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