With the Premier League back on hold, Dave Tindall assesses how Liverpool’s first-team squad are living up to their pre-season expectations.
The international break is a pain in the arse but it does afford we Liverpool fans the chance to keep gawping at the table.
Hopefully it’s a sight we’ll get used to as this hugely exciting season rolls towards Christmas. Liverpool at the top of the pile with more points and more goals than anyone. Good times that could become golden.
Talking of goals – and it’s hard not to be mesmerised by the sheer number of them after we smashed six more past Watford – with no game this weekend, it’s a good opportunity to revisit some stats and targets I listed in a previous Red Letter.
In that column two months ago I noted that no Premier League team in the last 20 years had failed to qualify for the Champions League if they’d scored 74 goals or more.
To hit that mark, it requires 1.95 goals per game. To keep it simple, let’s say that averaging two goals per game over the course of a Premier League season gets you top four.
After 11 games, Liverpool are averaging 2.73. At this current rate, we’re on target to score 103, beating by two the 101 we plundered in the near-miss season under Brendan Rodgers. In other words, we’re way ahead of target to beat the magic number that leads to the Champions League.
As well as the overall total, I also attempted to break down our final Premier League goals tally player-by-player, allocating a reasonable target for every likely first-teamer.
The total added up to 89 – seemingly high in many eyes – but the good news is that a couple of players have already hit their target while others are way ahead of schedule. And, of course, we still have over two-thirds of the season to play.
Break it down
So, here’s how they’re doing so far with a brief review of each player’s performance….
Daniel Sturridge – target 12, goals so far 0: Oh dear. And yet, the fact that we’ve scored 30 Premier League goals without a contribution from a fit Daniel Sturridge speaks volumes. He did smash the crossbar twice against Watford and has four goals in the League Cup. His time will come. Keep the faith. Sturridge could still play a pivotal role this season.
Roberto Firmino – target 12, goals so far 5: No wonder he had his teeth done. Bobby F is getting to flash those gnashers on a regular basis with five in the Premier League and another in the League Cup. Throw in three assists too. I love his end product and calmness in front of goal.
Philippe Coutinho – target 11, goals so far 5: After just eight in the top-flight last season, 11 could have looked on the high side but the little magician is nearly halfway there. Coutinho’s assists tally of five has already matched the previous campaign and quite simply he’s playing out of his skin. The Brazilian must be one of the best players in Europe right now. And he’s ours!
Sadio Mane – target 10, goals so far 6: Looking an absolute bargain at £30m and he’s our top scorer in the Premier League after his double against Watford. Between them, Mane, Firmino and Coutinho – our lethal trident – have scored the same number of PL goals as Tottenham’s entire team (15).
Adam Lallana – target 7, goals so far 3: Last season he scored four and had six assists. After 11 games, the silky midfielder is one off both tallies (three goals, five assists). A key component in Klopp’s system and some argue that, despite stiff competition, he’s our player of the season so far.
Divock Origi – target 7, goals so far 0: A bit-part player so far but he does at least have a couple of goals in the League Cup. Origi has done nothing wrong and, like Sturridge, the fact he’s drawn a blank in the Premier League and we’re the top scorers shows we have depth up front where others don’t.
Georginio Wijnaldum – target 5, goals so far 1: I kept his target modest given his reduced role as an attacker but he’s off the mark after a late strike against Watford. Has been excellent but now facing a battle to win his place back from Emre Can, another sign of our strength in all positions.
James Milner – target 4, goals so far 4: The first to get a ‘I hit my target’ badge after banging in four early penalties. Excellent from the spot and he’s adapted brilliantly to his new left-back role, giving us the solidity and reassurance that Alberto Moreno couldn’t while still offering plenty going forward.
Danny Ings – target 4, goals so far 0: Just when it seemed he might be ready to play a role from the bench, poor Danny goes and does his knee (other one this time) again. Hopefully he’ll make a full recovery before the end of the campaign.
Jordan Henderson – target 4, goals so far 1: While everyone else is pouring forward, Henderson is the glue holding everything together in behind. His worldie at Chelsea got him off the mark and hopefully he can chip in with a few more. Two assists as well, Henderson is really growing into his role as captain.
Joel Matip – target 3, goals so far 1: He’s already nailed one picture-book header from a corner and hopefully Coutinho can pick him out many times more. Also, don’t rule out him strolling out of defence, playing a one-two on the edge of the box and slotting into the corner. So classy. And he cost nothing!
Marko Grujic – target 3, goals so far 0: I probably got swayed by all his goals in pre-season. He admits he won’t get much first-team action this season so any goal would be a bonus.
Emre Can – target 2, goals so far 2: Take a bow. Another given more freedom to get forward and he’s already hit his mark with goals in the last two Premier League games. That’s doubled his tally from last season already and he’s only just regained his spot in the starting XI.
Nathaniel Clyne – target 1, goals so far 0: Too busy running tirelessly down the right-flank and getting 7.5 out of 10 every game to be scoring goals! He’ll knock one in at some point and he’ll up his assist count too (currently just one). A vital cog in the overall machine.
Alberto Moreno – target 1, goals so far 0: Lost his place to James Milner and unlikely to get it back any time soon. Likely to smash in a goal somewhere along the line but most Reds are happy to see him on the bench where he can’t give them away at the other end.
Dejan Lovren – target 1, goals so far 2: Hats off Dejan. You’ve already doubled your target with a crucial volley at Chelsea and a header to atone for a howler at Crystal Palace. Set-pieces now offer hope, just as they did in the 2013/14 season when Martin Skrtel was nodding them in.
Mamadou Sakho – target 1, goals so far 0: Nothing to see here.
Sheyi Ojo – target 1, goals so far 0: On the fringes for now so more likely to come on and add the fifth in a 5-0 Anfield rout.
Overall, that’s 10 different scorers and no single player has more than six.
Mane, Coutinho and Firmino have 50% of our Premier League goals but the above stats merely confirm the belief that this title bid – and it must be called that now – is based on a collective effort which every single Liverpool player is buying in to.
Klopp is inventing new roles but somehow putting round pegs in round holes as he does so.
We’re taking the Premier League by storm. Our rivals should be very, very afraid.