Liverpool could soon launch a new goalscoring weapon that Andy Robertson helped develop
After propelling Liverpool to the Premier League title, Manchester City have already added more firepower. Erling Haaland, the 21-year-old phenom who scored 86 goals in 89 appearances for Borussia Dortmund, is heading to Manchester.
Liverpool already have plenty of goal threats at their disposal, of course. Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino scored 63 between them last season, Luis Díaz’s production is set to increase markedly and Sadio Mané’s potential replacement may also step in.
However, to truly match the likely power of their biggest domestic rivals, the Reds may need to call on other sources of goals as well. Fabinho, for example, appeared as an unlikely outlet last season (although helped by penalties) and Naby Keïta can also be a goalscoring midfielder.
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Liverpool’s shooting tally last season was led, unsurprisingly, by the three strikers who played the most minutes – Salah, Mane and Jota – but fourth place did not belong to a midfielder. Instead, he was a nominal defender at Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The 23-year-old has registered 51 attempts during the Premier League season, averaging 1.6 shots per 90 minutes. However, only 14 of them were on target and only two found the net. Across the whole division, only 17 players finished the campaign with a lower goal conversion rate than Alexander-Arnold, 258th.
It is important to recognize the difficulty of the shots he was taking. He was tied with Jordan Henderson for the farthest average shot distance at 23 yards, and only two players – Curtis Jones and James Milner – landed an xG per shot lower than his 0.05 (among those with at least 10 attempts).
Still, Alexander-Arnold was left behind his fellow full-backs in the goalscoring department. Chelsea’s Reece James, the player he is most often compared to, scored five goals, as did AC Milan’s Theo Hernández, while PSG’s Achraf Hakimi netted four.
The difference is not really huge. But Alexander-Arnold has set a new standard for assists, and he has the skills to do the same when it comes to goals.
There are two ways to achieve this. The first, and the simplest, is to refine your shot. These are far from simple chances, but fans often feel that a player who usually exhibits impressive command on a football should be able to do better. So often, it seems, he hastily launches his effort into the pit. Indeed, on 37 occasions, he let the goalkeeper off the hook.
But perhaps the best solution is to take more dangerous positions. For inspiration he need only look to the opposite flank and Andy Robertson, who has developed a penchant for getting to the back post to meet a cross.
Robertson’s xG/shot last season was twice as good as his teammate, while Hakimi (0.1), James and Hernandez (both 0.07) also all bettered Alexander-Arnold. He was also far ahead of the right-back in percentage of shots inside the penalty area (66 vs 29) and shots in or from the penalty area (five vs zero). Most Liverpool fans would agree that Robertson just isn’t as good at shooting, yet he ended up with one more goal.
We’ve seen Alexander-Arnold’s game evolve in 2021/22 as he sometimes seeks to influence games from tighter positions. He has already established himself as the king of assists, but the next step could be to put himself in better positions to score himself. Many teams will develop plans to contain him as a creative influence, but that would pose a whole new problem.