Opta stats have shown that Liverpool’s pass accuracy was much improved at the Hawthorns – our overall pass accuracy was 88.9 percent, compared to an average of 80.9 percent accuracy last season.
New-boy Joe Allen completed 95.6 percent of his passes, with Lucas, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson also scoring over 90 percent pass accuracy. So it goes without saying that Brendan Rodgers has improved the team’s passing, but our shooting accuracy is still nowhere near good enough. Against West Brom, Liverpool managed just two shots on target out of a total of 16 goal attempts.
Both of those shots on target came from Luis Suarez, who for all his skill still represents part of the problem. He had eight attempts on goal in total and you would expect the Uruguayan to bury at least one of them. Had he managed to get more than two of his shots on target, Suarez could have made all the difference at the Hawthorns. If Liverpool are to rely on Suarez for goals this season, he will need to be more prolific in front of goal. As for Fabio Borini, as encouraging as it was to see him score against FC Gomel in the Europa League, based on Saturday’s evidence he will need to perform better against Premier League opposition.
Our other senior striker, Andy Carroll, faces an uncertain future at Anfield, which is a shame. As Derek Byrne noted in his article on Wednesday, Carroll is our only true number 9 and if he leaves the club during this transfer window, we will have just days to replace him. I’m all for seeing Liverpool pass the ball into the net, a la Barcelona, and Spain showed during the European Championship that it is possible to score goals and win games without playing a centre forward. But it isn’t possible in every game and Carroll is a good alternative that I would be sorry to see leave Liverpool without being properly replaced. Everton beat Manchester United on Monday night thanks to a towering header from Marouane Fellaini and we all know Carroll can head the ball better than the Toffees’ resident Afroman. Carroll can and should have a future at Anfield, even if it is just as a Plan B when tiki-taka isn’t working.
The most obvious solution seems to be to sign another striker, either in place of Carroll or alongside him, Suarez and Borini. But as I noted in my article last week when looking at potential Liverpool signings, it seems apparent that we don’t have any money left to spend. A loan acquisition or the free transfer market are both possibilities, but off the top of my head I can’t think of anyone in either category who would solve our scoring problem. If we were to sign a new striker before the end of the month, Clint Dempsey would be the most likely candidate, but again as I noted last week, our interest in the American seems to have cooled.
Another alternative is for Rodgers to put more work into getting the best out of our current strike force, whether that means bringing in a strikers’ coach (not Michael Owen) or simply changing the training regime for Suarez, Borini and Carroll. Our three senior strikers all have very different playing styles, but I’m sure they would all benefit from spending more time on the training ground improving their shooting accuracy. Having lost Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy this summer – all three of whom were capable of scoring crucial goals for the club – we will have to look to our wingers and central midfielders to ease the burden on our strikers. I’m confident we can still rely on Steven Gerrard for goals but I’m less sure about the rest of our midfielders and strikers. I can only hope that Stewart Downing’s Europa League goal against Gomel was the first of many goals from the former Aston Villa man this season, while also hoping Oussama Assaidi can prove to be a threat in front of goal.
I don’t know how to solve Liverpool’s scoring problem, which is why I’m writing this article rather than organising the training drills at Melwood. But I do know that we need to do something, because the only way we’ll improve on last year’s league position is if we improve our accuracy in front of goal.
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