Last week, discussing Cardiff City Charles Reep and Egil Olsen's theory that it takes roughly nine chances to score a goal was highlighted. In the Premier League this season, it’s been taking 9.91: or, to put it another way, 10.03% of all shots go in. Cardiff, as a team, fall short of that average, but what of the strikers at the top sides? How accurate are they?
Perhaps most intriguing is the case of Luis Suárez, who with 22 league goals already this season, threatens to break all kinds of goalscoring records. He has made only 17 appearances, or 1527 minutes of football: he scores a goal every 69 minutes. If he were to play every minute of Liverpool’s 16 remaining matches this season and maintain the same ratio, that would be another 21 goals. At the moment, the record for most goals in a Premier League season is jointly held by Andy Cole (Newcastle 1993/93) and Alan Shearer Blackburn, 1994/95), although both of them achieved their mark in a 22-team league, and so with four additional games. The 31 goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007/08 is the record for a 20-team division: at the present rate, Suárez will surpass that midway through the second half of the game away to Manchester United in the middle of March.
Suárez, of course, was prolific at Ajax, scoring 35 goals in 2009/10, his final full season there, but his goalscoring tailed off after moving to Liverpool, following a familiar pattern for forwards arriving in England from the Eredivisie. He scored four goals in his first half-season, then 11 in 2011/12 and 23 in 2012/13. In part, that’s to do with a changing role within the team; in 2010/11, for instance, he was playing deeper than he does at the moment, operating behind Andy Carroll, but the gradual upward trend can mainly be attributed to one thing: he’s taking a greater proportion of his chances.
In 2010/11, Suárez scored with only 7.3% of his shots. In 2011/12, it was 8.6%, in 2012/13 it was 12.3%. This season, it is a staggering 22.9%. In others words, one of every 4.39 shots he has goes in. In part, perhaps, that is down to the partnership he has with Daniel Sturridge creating a higher grade of chances, but then you think of goals like his speculative 40-yarder against Norwich and realise that in part the improvement is down to him having one of those spells in which it can feel that everything he hits flies in. Whether that is down to confidence or luck (after all, he led the league stats in hitting the woodwork both last season and the one before) or a combination of the two is open to debate.
What’s even more remarkable, though, is that Suárez isn’t even the deadliest forward at Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge may have scored half as many league goals as Suárez this season, but he has scored with 23.4% of his shots. Of players among the likely top seven who have played at least 10 league games, those are the second- and third-best strike rates, with only Danny Welbeck higher on 24.3%. Sergio Aguero, with 14 league goals is fourth in the list on 21.5%.
Given Tottenham’s struggles in front of goal, it will come as no great surprise to see Roberto Soldado at the bottom of the list, having scored with just 11.4% of his shots - and four of his five league goals have been penalties. There is cheer for Tottenham fans, though, in Emmanuel Adebayor, who is scoring with 33.3% of his shots, the highest percentage, though he has played only seven Premier League games.
The real question of course, and one that is much harder to answer, is why those percentages change so much, to what extent they’re down to hot streaks and what extent to tactics. What is clear, though, is that in Suárez and Sturridge, Liverpool this season have players who are making the absolute most of the chances that are being generated.
Why is Suárez performing so much better this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below