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7 struggling, 2 thriving: How Liverpool's creative players compare to 19/20

How are Liverpool’s creative players faring compared to last season? It’s an interesting question to ask, given the strange campaign (though we would say that, we’ve written an article on it).

Liverpool have two prominent new signings, after all, in Thiago and Diogo Jota. They’re also not at their creative best, struggling in recent weeks to score goals against even weaker sides.

So we had a look at the xG stats and exactly how Liverpool’s most important creative players compare to last season.

(Thanks to Understat for the statistics here) (All stats are per90 minutes for balance)

xG – Expected goals (the number of goals the player should score given the quality of their chances)

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xA – Expected assists (the number of assists a player should have given the quality of chances created for teammates)

xGChain – Expected goals from moves involved in (the number of goals the team should score given the quality of chances following moves involving the player)

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Mohamed Salah

19/20: xG – 0.64, xA – 0.27, xGChain – 0.97

20/21: xG – 0.59, xA – 0.19, xGChain – 0.76

Down across the board. That’s actually surprising, given Salah is the Premier League top scorer.

Most notable is the significant xGChain drop-off. 0.97 is an elite number – Lionel Messi was at 1.09 last season, for comparison. It suggests moves are breaking down with Salah far more than last season.

Liverpool aren’t creating at the same level when playing through him. He’s still around the same level as others but he’s not quite the same outlet.

Sadio Mane

19/20: xG – 0.48, xA – 0.24, xGChain – 0.82

20/21: xG – 0.47, xA – 0.22, xGChain – 0.83

Nothing to worry about. Things might not be falling for Mane but he’s producing at a similar level to last season.

Roberto Firmino

19/20: xG – 0.49, xA – 0.22, xGChain – 0.84

20/21: xG – 0.45, xA – 0.16, xGChain – 0.81

Easy to see the problem here. Moves where Firmino needs to make the final ball aren’t coming off. Fix that and the Brazilian will be shining again.

He just needs to connect with the final pass more often.

Diogo Jota

19/20: xG – 0.46, xA – 0.10, xGChain – 0.62

20/21: xG – 0.48, xA – 0.26, xGChain – 0.93

A particularly interesting one as Jota’s 19/20 campaign was at Wolves.

That xGChain number is fantastic. Truly outstanding and near Kevin De Bruyne level (1.00) and above Bruno Fernandes (0.81).

When Liverpool play through Jota this season, they’re a more threatening team. Everyone else may be struggling in some way but not Jota – he is thriving.

Thiago

19/20: xG – 0.13, xA – 0.06, xGChain – 1.00

20/21: xG – 0.05, xA – 0.12, xGChain – 0.65

We went into this one in more depth here.

The latter number is a massive drop-off. Thiago used to guarantee at least one goal simply by playing through him. Now, however, he’s one of the lower producers on this list.

Hopefully, it’s just a case of fitting in and that should come in the next month or two with a good run of games.

Xherdan Shaqiri

19/20: xG – 0.28, xA – 0.09, xGChain – 0.37

20/21: xG – 0.08, xA – 0.31, xGChain – 0.79

Shaqiri barely played last season so the comparison is hard to do.

What is notable, though, is that the Swiss is producing the highest-quality final passes with the best xA score. Something to consider as Liverpool struggle to create at the moment.

Andy Robertson

19/20: xG – 0.05, xA – 0.23, xGChain – 0.59

20/21: xG – 0.05, xA – 0.22, xGChain – 0.60

Same old Robertson. Exactly what we expected as the most reliable player in the team continues to impress.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

19/20: xG – 0.09, xA – 0.32, xGChain – 0.58

20/21: xG – 0.07, xA – 0.19, xGChain – 0.76

This one is quite bizarre. It suggests that Liverpool create really well by involving Alexander-Arnold but his final passes are far worse.

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A confidence thing, then? He’s still making things happen but needs to find that final ball again. Then he should be back to his best.

Still one of Liverpool’s most creative players just not with his crossing for once.

Divock Origi

19/20: xG – 0.28, xA – 0.11, xGChain – 0.47

20/21: xG – 0.56, xA – 0.07, xGChain – 0.76

The second-highest xG in the team and a good xGChain score. Given he has no goals or assists, the answer is clearly a finishing problem.

Origi gets in good positions but doesn’t finish and that’s difficult to improve. If he corrects that, we’ve got a genuine threat from the bench.

But he doesn’t appear likely to do that soon.

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