Liverpool: Attacking Concerns at Lack of Goals from Open Play for the Reds

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal from a penalty kick with his team mates during the Carling Cup Semi Final First Leg match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on January 11, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Taking into account the defeat at Bolton Wanderers but excluding the 5-1 triumph over League One outfit Oldham Athletic, Liverpool have now managed to score eight goals in their past eight fixtures.

That is pretty much in keeping with the Premier League season as a whole, where the Reds have netted 25 times in their 22 games so far.

A pretty shoddy goalscoring record in fairness.

By way of comparison, last season Liverpool were 13th in the table after the same number of matches, and had scored 27 times.

During the title charge season of 2008-09, the Reds were second in the league and had scored 36 times. They had also conceded only 14 goals; following the defeat to Bolton, Liverpool have now let in 21 this campaign.

So alright, goalscoring has been a problem for this season.

We already know that.

Liverpool have failed to score in seven league matches this season, while they have only scored three goals in a game on two occasions.

The Reds’ top league scorers this season, Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy, have just five goals apiece.

But more troubling than all of these individual statistics—or perhaps indicative of how they come about—is the fact that Liverpool have really struggled to score goals from open play recently.

Over the past five weeks or so, taking into account these last eight matches, this is the breakdown of Liverpool’s goals scored:

Two set pieces against Villa, a blank against Wigan, Maxi’s header from open play against Blackburn (though the move originated from an uncleared corner), two goals from open play and one set piece against Newcastle, a blank in the league against Manchester City, a penalty against the same side in the League Cup, nothing against Stoke and then an open-play goal versus Bolton.

Four goals from open play in the last eight matches against meaningful opposition.

Now, there are valid points to any argument that it doesn’t matter how a goal is scored, as long as it is scored—but what happens when the set piece delivery is poor for any given game?

Or you face a side well-drilled in defending set plays?

What about when penalty decisions don’t go the way of your team, or when you have a record like Liverpool’s this season, with four spot-kicks missed in the first half of the season? In 2003-04 the Reds missed five penalties (El-Hadji Diouf, Emile Heskey, Michael Owen x2, Steven Gerrard) so if you’re thinking things couldn’t get any worse on that score, well, there is precedent for it.

Confidence plays a part in goalscoring and finishing, but so does technical ability, mentality and of course playing the percentages for those to whom attacking movement does not come so naturally; players have to have the aggression and nous to get themselves into goalscoring positions in the penalty box to begin with.

Hover around the edge of the penalty box, and the ball might come to you if a cross is half-cleared.

Get yourself into the box though, and perhaps crosses from the flanks will have a better chance of finding a Red shirt to begin with.

The lack of attacking bodies—and I’m not just talking about from crosses here—when the Reds attack at times has been extremely disappointing.

The likes of Charlie Adam are never likely to bomb into the penalty area on a regular basis, being more the kind of player to operate between the edges of each penalty box, but he and others must do it when they sense the time is right.

If Adam is not going to get into the box, he needs to be withdraw himself a little more, to offer cover, to allow another team-mate to do it instead.

It goes without saying that the forwards all need to get in on the act more often too, but the service and support has got to be better for them as well.

Liverpool have to get back in the groove of scoring for fun, and quickly, otherwise their season could be over by this time next month.


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