Jürgen Klopp’s side recorded a scarcely believable 7.27 expected goals, the highest total by a team in a single Premier League match since the statistic came into use. To put the barrage of shots in further context, Liverpool’s xG against Newcastle was more than they managed in last season’s 7-0 win over Manchester United and the 9-0 win over Bournemouth combined.
Liverpool finished the game with 34 shots on goal, with Newcastle’s second-choice goalkeeper Dubravka keeping the score respectable with 15 saves. For a while, it looked as if Liverpool might follow Arsenal’s lead and fail to win a game in which they had more than 30 shots, but an exceptional second-half performance from Mohamed Salah helped them pick their way through.
Liverpool’s xG was boosted by winning two penalties, the first of which was missed by Salah. The Egyptian has now missed six Premier League penalties since joining Liverpool in 2017, more than any player in the division. Liverpool stuck with him for their second penalty, won in controversial fashion by Diogo Jota, and this time Salah converted.
Had the result gone against Liverpool, there would have been more questions about Darwin Núñez’s profligacy. Núñez finished the game with eight shots on goal, more than Newcastle as a team, and five on target. Those chances added up to 1.61xG, which is the highest by any player this Premier League season in a game in which they have failed to score. Núñez features twice high up that list, having produced 1.14 xG in a goalless game against Aston Villa in December.
If Núñez can start converting these chances at even an average rate, then Liverpool will have one of the most dangerous strikers in the league on their hands. Centre-forwards who under-perform according to their xG is something of a theme at the top clubs this season, with Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus and Chelsea’s Nicolas Jackson also frustrating their respective fanbases.
Liverpool’s previous home league matches were draws with Manchester United and Arsenal, when they were wasteful in the final third and scattergun with their shot selection.
“In a couple of situations we had, we shot from distance when there probably would have been a better-positioned player,” said Klopp after the goalless draw with Man United.
“I knew it when we scored against Fulham four times from outside the box that there would be a moment when we shoot and everybody thinks ‘why didn’t we pass the ball?’”
Liverpool have taken 144 shots from outside the penalty area this season, comfortably the most in the league (Man City and Tottenham are the only other teams to take more than 100). Seven of them have found the net, an above-league-average success rate of 4.9 per cent. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominik Szoboszlai are excellent strikers of the ball, but Liverpool have perhaps been guilty of giddiness and listening to the Anfield crowd demanding they shoot.
Against Newcastle however, they avoided falling into the same trap by slowing down and playing the extra pass. At half-time, Liverpool had taken eight shots from outside the penalty area, but they took just one more in the second half.
For the opening goal, Liverpool’s front three of Luis Díaz, Núñez and Salah combined in a style that called to mind the interplay Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané used to produce. Núñez could have shot from a tight angle, but instead lifted his head up to lay the ball on a plate for Salah.
It was a similar story for Liverpool’s second goal, when Salah showcased his creative powers by sliding a pass through for the underlapping run of Diogo Jota, who was also unselfish in squaring for Curtis Jones. Liverpool almost managed to walk the ball into the net.
Not only did Liverpool create a high volume of chances, but the quality of those chances was exemplary. They also took 34 shots against United, but finished that game with an xG per shot number of just 0.07. Against Newcastle, that figure was a sky-high 0.21. To put it another way, on average each Liverpool shot had a roughly one in five chance of being a goal.
Often a team has to sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to efforts on goal, but Liverpool managed both on Monday in a memorable victory that sent them three points clear at the top.