Liverpool’s attack has gone a little under the radar this season.
The Reds have 15 goals from their opening six matches, a total that only Manchester City, Newcastle United and Brighton can better. It is worth noting here that 13 of the 16 goals scored by Newcastle this season arrived in two of their matches and given we’re dealing with small sample sizes at this stage, their numbers are massively skewed.
Jurgen Klopp’s side rank second for Expected Goals (13.3) and are only one of two teams (along with Man City) to have a total of over 12 at this stage of the campaign. Liverpool are also joint-top with Newcastle for big chances created (17).
To put all of this into context, if the Reds continue at this rate of production, they are on course to hit 95 goals and finish with an Expected Goals (xG) haul of almost 84. Under Klopp, Liverpool’s most productive season in terms of goals was 2021/22 when they found the back of the net 94 times from an xG total of 97.7. We can’t really draw conclusions from six games of a Premier League campaign, so take it all with a pinch of salt, but right now the attack is doing more than enough to have this team in the title picture if this output continues as the norm.
Whereas in previous seasons, Liverpool have been on UK television most weeks, this time around has been a little different. This, along with the fact they struggled last year, might be why this group seems to have been overlooked a little.
Yet here we are, six weeks into the season, 16 points on the board from a possible 18 and unbeaten in 17 Premier League matches.
This sort of return is even more impressive when you consider Thiago is yet to feature this term, Virgil van Dijk was suspended for two matches, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ibrahima Konate have missed games through injury and Liverpool have been down to 10 men in a third of their outings.
All while revamping the midfield.
The attack as a unit is one of the strongest Klopp has had at his disposal. The German tactician is able to pick three from Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nuñez, Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz, with Ben Doak waiting in the wings.
What has been particularly interesting over recent weeks though, is what happens to this team when Darwin, Diaz and Salah are in the same front three.
As mentioned above, the sample size isn’t the largest and this may be a little premature, but the spike in attacking threat when the new Liverpool number nine is leading the line is noticeable.
For a little background information here, in the four games Darwin didn’t start, Liverpool averaged 2.75 big chances per 90 and finished with an average xG of 1.94. The former Benfica man didn’t start the draw with Chelsea or the wins over Bournemouth, Newcastle and Wolves, though he did prove to be the match-winner against the Magpies after coming off the bench.
For even more context, the Reds created four big chances against both of Wolves and Bournemouth but managed just two against Chelsea and one against Newcastle.
In the three matches Darwin has started, the 2019/20 Premier League champions have averaged 5.6 big chances per 90 and racked up an xG average of 2.58. Context is key here. In two of the three games, the Reds have been awarded penalties and one of these starts was away in the Europa League to LASK. So this will skew the numbers slightly.
However, you can’t hold this against Darwin. After all, he played a pivotal role in the one Liverpool won against West Ham. And you can’t ignore the fact the team are creating twice as many big chances when the Uruguayan is involved from the start. While LASK weren’t the best opposition, West Ham and Aston Villa aren’t easy opponents and yet Klopp’s men racked up huge numbers against both.
In the 3-0 win over Villa, Liverpool had five big chances and finished with an xG of 2.47. Against West Ham, the Reds had an incredible seven big chances and created chances with an xG value of 3.03. Per Andrew Beasley, West Ham haven’t allowed a team as many big chances on their travels since 2018. It highlights just how dominant Klopp’s men were at Anfield yesterday.
The front three of Diaz, Salah and Darwin have the skill set to power their way past a low block while also having the explosive pace to punish high defensive lines.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this be Klopp’s favoured trio this term and if the early season form is anything to go by, it could well fire the Reds into the title picture.