Why Always Suarez?

The inspiration for the title of this piece came from Man City’s former wayward Italian forward.  However, as I was forming the gist of this article in my head I thought that perhaps Luis Suarez may have some merit in his claims of picking up more than his fair share of Liverpool blame.

The aspect of Suarez’s game that this article will look at is how his choice of shot selection compared to Liverpool’s shot selection as a whole.

Entire Team

To begin, we’ll remind ourselves of Liverpool’s shot locations over the course of the 2012/13 Premier League season:

Liverpool

To recap, shots from “poor positions” are defined as shots from outside the extended dotted penalty area.  20% of their shots came from this area with 56% originating from the confines of the penalty area and 31% of those occurring within the six central zones.
It’s worth noting that the values for inside the penalty area may not be exactly correct, I used the boundaries of my zones that most closely match the penalty area.  It’s not the absolute minutiae of the detail that the above images are used for, instead I find them a great way of presenting an overview where otherwise there would be a lot of data to absorb and analyse.

Suarez

We’ll now look at the shots that Suarez took last season:

Suarez

Remainder of Team

Following a request by @DanKennett, I created the heatmap for shots taken by Liverpool players not named Luis Suarez.  Here is the image of shots taken by all the other Liverpool players:

Liverpool Exc Suarez

How does Suarez compare?

As Liverpool’s main striker it would normally be reasonable to assume that the shots Suarez take would be from better positions than his team mates.  This would certainly be the case for the vast majority of main strikers for most teams.
However, there is a perception that Suarez is not very careful with his shot choices and that he takes shots from a lot of unfavorable positions.

Yes, we can see that Suarez takes some very wild shots, as witnessed by the red cells on the left hand side of his image.  However, in fairness to the Uruguayan both of those zones seen just 1 shot each.  Does that fact put a different complexion on his heatmap?

If we consider that “just” 16% of his shots are taken from what I have described as poor positions then perhaps his infamy for taking crazy shots is perhaps a little undeserved.

Let’s put his shots from poor positions into context.

His Peers

Looking at main strikers; Van Persie had just 7% of shots from poor positions.  Ba had 12%, Defoe 11%, Tevez 12%, Benteke 4%, Lukaku 7%, Kone 13% and his Anfield colleague Sturridge had 7%.

So there is no doubt that in terms of players whose main role is to lead the line and be the main attacker for their team that he takes shots much earlier than his peers would typically do.  However, he would probably contend that it is unfair to compare him against this group of players as he doesn’t play in a similar style to most of them and his rate of 16% isn’t that far above most of those other players.

Let’s now look at a grouping of  players who don’t just lead the line and the proportion of shots they took from poor positions.  Bale had 29%, Cazorla 28%, Lambert 26%, Walcott 14%, Mata 11% and Rooney 24%.  Suddenly when Suarez is compared to this group of players his shots from poor positions figure of 16% looks quite good.

Given the type of game Liverpool play and how often Suarez is involved in the attack you could almost make a case for his shots from poor positions being fairly low.

Within Liverpool

As stated above, it would normally be reasonable to assume that Suarez (as the main striker for Liverpool) would have better shooting locations than the rest of his team, however I am not sure that most Liverpool fans would have agreed that this was the case in the season just ended.

It may be a surprise, therefore, to see that Suarez had less shots from poor positions than the rest of the Liverpool team.  Shots by players other than Suarez originated from poor positions 21% of the time, remember that Suarez had just 16%.Suarez also trumps his teammates in terms of shots from inside the penalty area, he had 63% with his teammates just at 53%.

Conclusion

Given the position Suarez plays there will be some bias in his figures compared to his teammates as a whole, as he should find himself shooting closer to goal than they do.
However, before writing this article the author assumed that Suarez’s shot selection would be worse than the rest of his teammates.  It was therefore a surprise to find that in reality Suarez’s shooting choices do not seem to be as wild as his reputation would suggest.

Just perhaps, at least in this regard, he might have some merits in his claim that his reputation can’t seem to earn a break in England.

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