Liverpool desperate for return of star shooter after wasteful Man Utd outing

Liverpool were left rueing missed chances as they came away from Old Trafford with a measly point on Sunday – and the stats show just how much wastefulness cost them.

At half-time of the contest, it only looked like there was going to be one winner, with Liverpool in complete control. They’d taken 15 shots on Andre Onana’s goal to no reply, and were good value for their lead.

However, Jurgen Klopp’s side only possessed a precarious one-goal advantage as the second half got underway. The game, which could have been put to bed prior to the interval, was far from over.

What followed was a complete capitulation from the Premier League title chasers. United turned the game on its head, scoring two goals out of very little, with the Reds requiring a late Mohamed Salah penalty to salvage a point from a match that should have been comfortably won within 45 minutes.

As the final whistle blew, Liverpool had accrued an xG (expected goals) of 3.6 throughout the contest – a figure far superior to Manchester United’s 0.7 xG.

However, due to an inability to find that finishing touch, the spoils were shared and the Reds made the trip down the M62 feeling all but shortchanged. The stats show that they only had themselves to blame.

240318 -- MANCHESTER, March 18, 2024 -- Liverpool s head coach Jurgen Klopp reacts during the FA Cup quarterfinal match between Manchester United, ManU and Liverpool in Manchester, Britain, on March 17, 2024.

Failure to live up to expectations

According to FBref, Liverpool’s xG [3.6] was over four times that of Man United’s [0.7]. They’d taken an astonishing 28 shots on the opposition goal, the most United had let through on record in a home Premier League game since the 2003/04 season.

Most culpable for their wastefulness was Dominik Szoboszlai. The Hungarian had a plethora of good openings to score but failed to find the net, ending the game with an xG of 0.8.

Darwin Nunez’s finishing also had something to be desired at Old Trafford. A player who has vastly improved his output this term compared to his debut season, he found himself reverting to the habits of old against United, taking five efforts on goal to no avail.

Both Luis Diaz and Salah found their way onto the scoresheet – but with 11 shots between them, they could have easily added to their respective tallies for the day.

Diaz ended the game with a 0.9 xG, while Salah finished the contest with 1.2 xG. For the Egyptian, only 0.8 of his xG was made up from his converted penalty, with the remaining 0.4 indicative of the handful of chances he missed in both the first and second half.

Echoing a sentiment felt by many Reds fans, Liverpool legend John Arne Riise was left frustrated that his former side didn’t make the most of their domination in such a mammoth fixture.

“Looking at how we played and how we dominated things, it should’ve been a win,” Riise told Anfield Watch exclusively, via BoyleSports, who offer the latest Premier League betting. “I hope we don’t have this kind of game too often in the last couple of months.

“It was 15-0 in in the attempts in the first half, and you end up losing the game from this. You can’t do that when you want to win the Premier League.”

A return that can’t come soon enough

What Liverpool were craving for at Old Trafford was a man with a clinical touch. They desperately needed their star sharp-shooter, Diogo Jota, who is edging towards a return from injury.

When you delve into the data, it’s clear to see what Jota brings in terms of finishing. This season, the 27-year-old has managed to significantly outscore his xG – he’s averaged 0.78 goals per 90 minutes in the league, despite only averaging 0.38 xG per 90, according to FBref.

This compares to his attacking colleagues, none of whom have managed to achieve a similar feat by outperforming their xG this term.

The starkest contrast comes when comparing Jota’s stats with those of Nunez, the Portuguese international’s main competition up top.

With 31 goal contributions in all competitions, it would be a disservice to not recognise how prominent the Uruguayan has been in the goals this season. Nevertheless, consistency with his final product remains an issue.

Nunez has noticeably underperformed his xG in the league this term, especially when compared to Jota – averaging 0.55 goals per 90 for 0.73 xG per 90.

Diogo Jota has outperformed his Premier League xG by almost double, whereas Darwin Nunez has underperformed.

Of course, Liverpool’s captain of chaos has added so much more to the team than goals this season, and it would be incredibly harsh to say that he deserves to be dropped when Jota returns to fitness.

However, as the title race enters its pivotal closing stages, Klopp will be ever thankful to have his most clinical asset back available for selection.

Champions League winner Riise similarly felt Jota’s poaching-qualities were missing from Old Trafford at the weekend, and insists his return will only be positive for the side’s productivity.

The Dane added: “Jota is a player who you might not see him a lot in the game and then suddenly he just pops up and he does an unbelievable finish or whatever out of nowhere.

“That's the type of player you need especially at this stage of the season, where you can just trust that someone's going to get a goal somehow. He's that player. It’s going to give us a big boost to have him back.

“He will be ready to give something, and the players who are there now will feel the pressure because he's going back, so they need to produce as well. If they don't produce, Jota's back and he will produce.”

Diogo Jota

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Chelsea FC LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 31, 2024: Liverpool s Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda

Liverpool will be desperate to get back to winning ways as they host Atalanta in the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday, hoping to stay strong in their pursuit of a farewell treble for the departing Klopp.

With Jota expected to return to training this week, the striker is edging closer to a much-welcomed comeback – although Thursday may come too soon.

Whether he makes a cameo against Atalanta or returns as expected for Liverpool’s next Premier League outing at home to Crystal Palace, it will signal the return of Klopp’s Portuguese pillar of productivity when the club need it most.

Share This Article