'Liverpool have best front-four in the league’ says ex-Red, and the stats agree with him

Former Liverpool player Mark Lawrenson believes the Reds possess the best front-four in the league, but what do the stats say?

Writing in the Liverpool Echo, former Liverpool player Mark Lawrenson made a comment about the Reds’ front-line that could easily have been lost in the rest of the story.

It was a piece on Brendan Rodgers’ defence, and how it would take time for him to develop it into the ultra-effective unit required to challenge both domestically and in Europe, alleviating the mistakes and the goals conceded that have often been overshadowed by the exploits of their front-men.

And there was the comment:

The Reds are going to have to hope the forward four – which I think is now the best in the Premier League – keep knocking in the goals.”

The best in the Premier League, thinks Mr Lawrenson; which got me thinking about the other sides’ goal-getters.

I instantly discounted Chelsea, because for all the heroics of Eden Hazard their strikers are not of the quality of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Similarly, Arsenal are over-reliant on Olivier Giroud.

So the pundit was on course to be right, with only Manchester City and Manchester United potentially possessing front-fours as effective as the one Rodgers can call on.

Suarez, Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling have been outstanding this season, and were at it again against Swansea City on Sunday, ensuring Liverpool outscored the opposition after another defensive lapse or two.  Although this time Jordan Henderson proved the hero.

But what of City’s goal-scorers and suppliers: Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and David Silva? Or the United quartet of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata?

Are they less impressive (and more importantly less effective) than Liverpool’s players?

PlayerTeamGoals / appsGoal Assist / appsOntarget Scoring Att / appsKey Pass / appsAppsMins
Luis Suarez Liverpool 1.05 0.41 2.59 2.95 22 1,974
Daniel Sturridge Liverpool 0.95 0.26 1.74 1.21 19 1,496
Raheem Sterling Liverpool 0.23 0.14 0.73 1.41 22 1,468
Philippe Coutinho Liverpool 0.14 0.18 0.95 1.82 22 1,694

Suarez and Sturridge top the Premier League goal-scoring charts so far this season, which in itself suggests they are the cream of the crop.  

That the Uruguayan averages more than a goal a game in the league is also an outstanding statistic, giving that only Sergio Aguero gets close to that from the teams featured here...but not as close as Sturridge, who is just .5 away from a goal a game.

PlayerTeamGoals / appsGoal Assist / appsOntarget Scoring Att / appsKey Pass / appsAppsMins
Robin van Persie Man Utd 0.69 0.13 1.19 0.88 16 1,313
Wayne Rooney Man Utd 0.45 0.41 1.32 2.00 22 1,846
Adnan Januzaj Man Utd 0.15 0.10 0.45 1.10 20 1,176
Juan Mata Man Utd 0 0.60 0.20 3.20 5 430

In comparison, the United forward-line fall well short in goals scored, although Rooney's assist-per-match stat is exactly the same as Suarez's.

The SAS do, however, outdo the United pair when it comes to scoring attempts on target; while Sterling and Coutinho also outdo both Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata in that area.

Mata does however trump all four Liverpool players in terms of key passes since his switch to Old Trafford.

In fact, only City's David Silva outperforms him with an average of 3.94 key passes per league match.

PlayerTeamGoals / appsGoal Assist / appsOntarget Scoring Att / appsKey Pass / appsAppsMins
Sergio Agüero Man City 0.88 0.29 2.06 1.65 17 1,199
Álvaro Negredo Man City 0.38 0.13 1.04 1.08 24 1,515
Edin Dzeko Man City 0.35 0.05 1.00 0.65 20 1,161
David Silva Man City 0.24 0.41 0.59 3.94 17 1,431

I have included all three City strikers in this analysis simply because of the rotation used by Manuel Pellegrini and the fact that the trio have featured regularly to date.

As I said earlier, Aguero gets close to Suarez in terms of goals per game, and in terms of shots on target.  But close is not enough.

PlayerTeamGoals / appsGoal Assist / appsOntarget Scoring Att / appsKey Pass / appsAppsMins
Olivier Giroud Arsenal 0.48 0.28 1.00 1.08 25 2,154
Aaron Ramsey Arsenal 0.44 0.33 1.22 1.44 18 1,495
Santiago Cazorla Arsenal 0.19 0.19 0.95 1.95 21 1,719
Mesut Özil Arsenal 0.19 0.38 0.76 3.00 21 1,810

In the interest of fairness, I have included both Chelsea and Arsenal in this piece because it would be foolish to discount them without considering the statistics.  But in truth no one in the Gunners side gets close to the goal-scoring record of Suarez and Sturridge, although Mesut Ozil does outdo everyone (including the Uruguayan) in terms of key passes.

PlayerTeamGoals / appsGoal Assist / appsOntarget Scoring Att / appsKey Pass / appsAppsMins
Eden Hazard Chelsea 0.44 0.19 1.00 2.59 27 2,280
Samuel Eto'o Chelsea 0.35 0.12 1.24 1.12 17 1,101
Fernando Torres Chelsea 0.21 0.11 0.58 0.68 19 1,033
Willian Chelsea 0.11 0.06 0.61 2.17 18 1,207

Which leads us to Chelsea, who are arguably one great striker away from challenging the best of them...although they are doing a pretty good job of that even without him.

The Blues do not currently challenge the Reds when it comes down to a straight battle of stats.  But as Jose Mourinho knows all too well, matches are won on grass, not on paper.  So while Lawrenson appears to be right in his assertion, it may still not be enough to win Rodgers the title come May.

image: © kuaver

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