27 shots, only 7 of which were on target resulting in 2 goals. The standout statistic from Saturdays friendly against Western Sydney Wanderers echoed many of our games last season and highlighted our key weakness. It’s a statistic that points to us not taking our chances but is their more to it, can marginal improvements on last season lead to us being more clinincal this season?
For a lot of last season we created a lot of chances, but not all of those were great chances. The key is to create better chances and then hopefully the goals per chance improves. We are already showing that we are looking to improve the quality of chances with Harrison in particular playing the balls into better areas. We should hopefully see some good end product from the highly rated Costa too. When you consider the lack of end product from our number 10 spot last season this should improve massively this coming season as either Pablo, Roofe, Hernandez or Bogusz will be playing in there.
You can understand why Bielsa keeps doing the same things, if we improve our efficiency in taking the chances by just 10% then based on 20 chances per match being missed at present then that is an extra 2 goals per game that we'd score. Now whilst that may be extremely fanciful as it would see us scoring an additional 92 goals (so 165 for the season based on last season's tally) it shows that with just a slight improvement (1% improvement is 9 extra goals) in taking our chances we could do extremely well. With a full season under Bielsa you would hope we would see these marginal gains.
Patrick Bamford's miss against Western Sydney Wanderers, from @LUFC_WorldWide
We will always be vulnerable to conceding goals (although only 50 from 46 matches last season) but as long as we are taking our chances at a slightly improved rate then it should render a lot of opposition goals unimportant as it will be a 3-1 win instead of 3-0 whereas last season due to our lack of finishing it was a 1-1 draw or 1-0 loss in games we dominated chances wise. In the second game against Birmingham last season we hit the post and less than a minute later were a goal down. Had we scored instead of hitting the post and we probably would have won that game.
Despite their misses Bamford or Roofe could have got 25 goals last season without the injuries, Roofe in particular was on course for a big target. For all they miss, they will get lots of chances with the way we play. We have 2 strikers capable of 25+ goals combined and still the telling factor for us is goals from the other 9 outfield players. If we take Bamford for example he has always been a streaky scorer so whilst he could go for a spell of games where he is banging them in every game and carrying the team then we also need other players to step up and score if he goes 10 matches without a goal.
The signing of Costa should improve that if we can accommodate him and still get Pablo's level of end product too. Harrison looks a lot sharper and should score more than he did last season and also has shown signs of creating better chances so should significantly increase his assists. There is no reason for him not to get double figures for both goals and assists. Suddenly there is a very real possibility of 3 players behind the striker capable of both double figures for goals and assists.
Mateus Bogusz's goal against Western Sydney Wanderers, from @LUFC
If that happens, and there is no reason to suggest it shouldn't barring major injuries, then it should be enough to see us promoted. When you throw in Bogusz, Roberts, one of either Roofe or Bamford, Clarke, Shackleton etc to cover for those 3 positions and we should definitely be increasing on last season's goals scored.
We have to accept we will miss chances. Jimmy Greaves, one of the most natural finishers this country has ever produced, said he expected to score 1 in 4 chances. When you look at the fact that he was scoring at around 0.8 goals per game at the very top level of the game, including in Italy and for England it just shows that even the best strikers miss chances. In this stat obsessed xG era we sometimes get carried away and seem to almost expect strikers never to miss.
Taking more of our chances next season