Heading into the new season, the final third is the only real area of the Liverpool team that seems to be in a good place.
Doubts remain over the future of Caoimhin Kelleher and if the 24-year-old does depart, the Reds will need to find an adequate back-up shot-stopper to deputise for Alisson Becker. That won’t be an easy feat.
The defence needs reinforcements. Neither Joel Matip nor Joe Gomez have covered themselves in glory during pre-season and both struggled in the 4-4 with Southampton to end the 2022/23 campaign, while Ibrahima Konate has a history of injuries and new captain Virgil Van Dijk isn’t the player he once was. He’s still one of the best in the world but he was one of many players to have a difficult season last year.
Liverpool’s midfield rebuild is still underway, though it has, rather emphatically, slowed down over recent weeks. Multiple bids for Romeo Lavia have been rejected and the Reds don’t appear to have anyone else on their shortlist despite losing Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.
In attack, however, the 2019/20 Premier League champions seem well-stocked. Diogo Jota, Darwin Nuñez, Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah have gotten themselves on the scoresheet 15 times in pre-season. Armed with a new supply line in the form of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, Klopp’s men should, in theory, at least, have one of the most potent forward lines in Europe.
But are there enough goals in this team?
How many goals does it (usually) take to win the Premier League?
This figure was significantly down from the 94 they managed during the 2021/22 campaign. In fact, on just one occasion during Klopp’s seven full seasons with the club have the Reds scored fewer and that was during the 2020/21 season plagued by injuries when Liverpool found the back of the net 68 times.
Under the German tactician, excluding the 2015/16 season when he was appointed in October, the Merseysiders have averaged 82 goals per season.
Does this current squad have the firepower to hit a similar number this season?
If the club have aspirations of finishing comfortably inside the top four, they are going to have to get close to that figure.
There are exceptions to this but, generally speaking, there is a link between goals scored and points amassed at the top end of the Premier League table.
Over the past seven seasons, the team in fourth has averaged 70 goals and they’ve finished with 71 points. The team finishing third has averaged 73 points with 69 goals. The runners-up tend to average 85 goals for their 85 points while the eventual champions have averaged 92 goals for 94 points.
As you can see, around 70 goals sees you battle it out for a third or fourth-placed finish. Over 80 goals is usually enough for a runners-up spot but if you have eyes on claiming the title, 90 goals is the target (though the Reds managed it in 2019/20 with 85). The sample size is large enough to use these numbers confidently too.
At a glance, you might consider the Reds to be unlucky to not claim a top four spot last term given they outscored Manchester United in third (58 goals) and Newcastle United in fourth (68 goals) but Liverpool’s total was grossly inflated across two matches.
They romped to a 9-0 win over Bournemouth and a 7-0 victory against Manchester United. Of their season total, 21% of their goals arrived in those two matches. If you remove those games, Klopp saw his side score 59 goals across 36 outings for a rate of 1.63 per game. Now, if you average the 1.63 over an entire 38-game campaign you get 62 goals. Liverpool were basically a 62-goal team and they finished on 67 points. It tallies up.
Where are Liverpool's goals coming from?
So, do the Reds have the goals in their team to mount a top-four challenge? Are there enough goals to challenge for the title?
You aren’t supposed to use historical data as a predictor as there’s a lot of variance when it comes to finishing. If you look at the data for the front five though, it makes pretty interesting reading.
For example, Salah has underperformed his Expected Goals total in three of the past four seasons. Across his last two campaigns, he’s underperformed by a total of 5.1 and he’s been the team’s most consistent attacker during this period.
It is difficult to truly judge Jota’s time at Anfield due to injuries slowing down his momentum. Since the move from Wolves, however, across close to 5,000 Premier League minutes, his goal return has effectively been par with his Expected Goals haul.
Diaz falls into a similar category, albeit from a much smaller sample size. The Colombian has just 1,959 minutes in the English top-flight. For his efforts, he has eight goals from an Expected Goals total of 7.85.
Darwin struggled for consistency in front of goals last season. Liverpool's new number nine was a reliable menace but there was nothing reliable about his finishing. Despite having an Expected Goals total of 14.37, he failed to hit double figures in the league, ending his debut campaign with nine goals. It is worth noting here that a similar sort of thing happened during his first season with Benfica before he exploded. It could happen again but there are no guarantees it will.
Gakpo was a little more consistent with his finishing, chipping in with seven goals from an Expected Goals total of 6.55.
Liverpool’s five attackers, generally speaking, tend to underperform when it comes to finishing. There’s every chance they all improve this season – they’ve looked sharp in pre-season – but that doesn’t always translate into good form once the real action kicks off.
Salah has always scored a minimum of 19 in the Premier League for Liverpool and has averaged 23 per season during his time with the club. If he hits similar numbers this term, though his role has looked a little different in pre-season, the Reds still need to find at least 50 goals from somewhere.
Of course, the other four attackers all have it in them to hit double figures but we’re yet to find out Klopp’s plan in terms of who is going to start and how the ones who don’t can impact the game off the bench. Ultimately, playing time will dictate how many goals these guys score.
Mac Allister and Szoboszlai have the ability to score more goals than their predecessors in midfield, so that will help. Curtis Jones, if played in an advanced role rather than as a defensive midfielder, showed he’s got an eye for goal in the run-in last season. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s inverted role should see him get better shooting opportunities too while Konate and Van Dijk remain threats from set pieces.
On paper, Liverpool have 70+ goals in their squad. But football, sadly, isn’t played on paper and if Klopp isn’t able to balance things out in attack, it could be a struggle. Especially if Salah is adopting the role of a creator again rather than a finisher.