ASSESSING LIVERPOOL’S SQUAD: ATTACK
With today being the eve of the new season, we finalise our look at the strength of the Liverpool squad. We’ve been judging their readiness for all the challenges that lie ahead in what promises to be another enthralling season. We’ve gone through the entire squad already with the attacking department being the last one to analyse. All the other articles are available on this blog.
“Goals pay the rent.”
Liverpool have Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi and the outgoing Xherdan Shaqiri in attack. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Harvey Elliott can both do a job too, but we classed them as midfielders in our previous article so we’ll leave them out for now. Are these options enough? Do the Reds need one more? Read on and see what we think.
Salah, Firmino, Mané
The famous trio are heading into their fifth season together and are still going strong. Since Salah joined in 2017 to complete the trio, they’ve spearheaded us to major success. They will go down as the greatest attacking trio in the club’s history and quite possibly in Premier League history. Not only their obvious talent, but their staying quality, consistency and fitness over the years will go down in the history books.
The trio have plundered 468 goals and assists for the club so far and their influence remains as crucial as ever. Last season though, Sadio and Bobby struggled for form for long stretches of the season but Mo carried the torch and netted 31 goals across all competitions to ensure top four qualification. In Bobby’s case, that’s two consecutive seasons where he’s not scored enough goals. 12 goals in 2019/20 was followed up with 9 goals last season.
A far cry from the 27 goals and 17 assists he bagged in the 2017/18 season. It could be said that as a team, Liverpool have changed from that gung-ho, all out attack approach that hallmarked that season, but as a number nine (false or otherwise), Bobby needs to do better than the last couple of seasons. His assist figures almost make up for it though, as 22 assists in that timeframe is nothing to be sniffed at.
Beyond the stats however, his performance levels have not been at the required level on too many occasions over the past two years. To his credit, he still shows up in big games for big moments as his late winners in the Club World Cup semis and final, not to mention the one at Anfield against table topping Spurs, or the performance at Old Trafford with top four on the line. It is usually the case that when Bobby plays well, Liverpool do as well. He is the system after all.
Sadio Mané’s could have been a one off but I guess this season will prove whether that’s the case. When you look at the raw stats, 16 goals and 9 assists last season is actually a very decent season, but again, the performances were maddeningly frustrating at times. A far cry from when he won the Golden Boot in 2018/19 and powered us to the title the following season. He admitted it himself, he looks well rested now and ready to tear Premier League defences a new one.
Mo remains the one whose goal output stays consistent even when performance levels drop. 44 goals & 16 assists, 27 goals & 12 assists, 23 goals & 13 assists, 31 goals & 6 assists. That’s his return since the very first season he joined the club. Impressive is an understatement. He has his own dips in form but what he’s world class at, is movement and anticipation, meaning he always gets on the end of chances. The Liverpool faithful will hope the Egyptian king continues to rule this season.
The 24 year old was a bit of a sensation in his debut season. Signed out of the blue late in the window, he came in and hit the ground running. A debut goal off the bench against Arsenal was just the start as he went on a scoring spree including a classy Champions League hat trick away to Atalanta. His momentum was unfortunately checked by an injury in December that kept him out for months.
He had freshened up things in attack and even threatened to wrestle the starting shirt from Firmino. His injury cost the club as much as the centre back crisis. In his abscence, the usual trio played non-stop till they lost form. With no viable alternative, they kept playing through the bad form. Jota’s return to fitness gave the required boost as the club limped over the line on the final day.
13 goals and an assist in 30 appearances could have been way more if not for the injury. The Portuguese international returned late to pre-season due to his involvement in the Euros but has already looked sharp, scoring twice. He looks set for an even bigger season this time round. Keep playing like he did most of last season, and he could barge his way into the team like he threatened to do last season.
The 26 year old joined the club in January of last year to much fanfare after impressing in Champions League games for Salzburg against Liverpool. He made 14 appearances in that half season with five starts, no goal or assist to show for it. The pandemic induced lockdown didn’t help as he was isolating on his own in a completely different country. The following season, he had a slightly better go at it.
4 goals, 2 assists in 17 appearances (7 starts) in the first half of the season was not great but not a disaster either. He was sent out on loan to south coast club Southampton in January in an attempt to get him the needed game time. He scored on his Saints debut but that wasn’t a sign of things to come. Just one more goal followed in the next nine appearances. He returned to Merseyside this summer and has impressed in pre-season.
It looks like he’s staying so he has another chance to try and make his mark. Truth is, he hasn’t been able to do that so far. Klopp saw him as cover for Firmino in that false nine role, but his slight physique saw him struggle to get into games. With Jota now around and comfortable through the centre, maybe Taki will be used on the left wing more often, as he performed well in that role against Osasuna.
The 26 year old cult hero has experienced an alarming fall from grace since his stock was at it’s highest after scoring in the 2019 Champions League final. He has looked a shadow of himself and his languid body language hasn’t helped, as he almost seems not to want it enough. Like a player who is comfortable with his role as a backup. Origi made just 2 starts in the Premier League last season.
He scored one goal in the whole of last season, from 17 appearances (6 starts). He hasn’t shown any interest in leaving to seek further playing time, neither has he shown any hunger to turn things around. Still showing the same laid back attitude he’s been carrying since. At 26 he should be entering his prime but perhaps a lack of ambition is holding him back.
There is still a need to freshen up the attack in my opinion. Minamino and Origi haven’t done enough past two seasons to suggest they can push the first choice attackers like Jota did. With Shaqiri reportedly agreeing personal terms with Lyon, the hope is that the club can then dip in the market to add a new face to the attack. Sadio and Mo are going to miss a couple of games due to AFCON after all.
Liverpool missed 68 big chances in the Premier League last season, comfortably the most in the entire league. There is a need for a more natural finisher to help turn some of those misses into goals. That will help reduce the burden on the usual scorers. With less than three weeks of the transfer window remaining, fans around the world will keep hoping for that one addition.
Liverpool have the squad to challenge for the top prizes, but one more addition in attack will increase their chances even more in the face of some fierce competition from their rivals.
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