The Evolution of Luis Suárez | Stats Analysis

The Evolution of Luis Suárez | Stats Analysis

Originally published on

Luis Suárez has experienced a remarkable purple patch so far this season scoring 10 goals from a mere 12 games in the Premier League. Further, Suárez has scored 5 goals from his last 4 consecutive games, a streak surpassing his previous record of scoring in only two consecutive Premier League games (on three occasions). Thus, I’ve decided to use a number of simple attacking metrics to break down his form and discover why he’s on the best streak of his Liverpool career to date.


Ever since joining Liverpool at the tail end of the January transfer window in 2011, Suárez has been continually scrutinised for his ability to convert chances. I, myself, have been guilty on numerous occasions for dubbing the player “profligate” for blowing increasingly simple clear cut chances and taking a large number of shots per goal. That has not been the case so far this season. The following graph plots the cumulative trend in Suárez’s conversion rates (goals/ total shots) over the past three seasons:

Evidently, there has been a consistent downwards trend in his conversion as the course of the season progresses and his goals-to-shots ratio averages out over the past two seasons (red and green lines). However, whereas Suárez began his first two seasons at Liverpool on goal scoring highs that slowly descended, this season has seen a new, more upward and positive trend (purple line). Take his conversion rates from 2010/11 and 2011/12 and his current goal scoring efficiency from 12 games this season:

His current conversion rate of 13.9% is remarkably higher than in his first two seasons at Liverpool, intimating that Suárez is currently on a run of form where his efficiency is abnormally above his previous Liverpool averages of 7.3% (2010/11) and 8.6% (2011/12). Revisiting the trend graph above, it is clear that his current form is one that is increasing in efficiency, as he is taking fewer and fewer chances to score a goal as the season progresses (hence the upward trend in his conversion rate). How do these conversions relate to an improved goal scoring efficiency in real numbers (goals)? Well, take how many shots it takes him to score this season comparative to his previous seasons as an example:

    • (2012/13) 13.9% conversion equates to: A goal every 7.2 shots;
    • (2011/12) 8.6% conversion equates to: A goal every 11.6 shots;
    • (2010/11) 7.3% conversion equates to: A goal every 13.7 shots.

In a league that is commonly conceived as “harder than the Eredivisie”, Suárez is scoring goals at an efficiency he achieved only once during his time at Ajax. In his three seasons at Ajax, Suárez had the following conversion rates:

    • Ajax 2007/08: 15.7% conversion or 6.4 shots per goal;
    • Ajax 2008/09: 11.2% conversion or 9 shots per goal;
    • Ajax 2009/10: 12.7% conversion or 7.9 shots per goal.

At an average conversion rate of 13.9%, Suárez is scoring goals at a rate that outperforms his 2008/09 & 2009/10 productivity at Ajax, seasons where he scored 22 and 35 goals respectively, a hopeful sign of things to come this season for El Pistolero.

Focus of Attack

As the pivot in Liverpool’s attacking front 3, Luis Suárez has taken on the weighty responsibility of scoring all the club’s goals and has, so far, successfully done so. Liverpool’s reliance on Suárez as their main threat is blatantly obvious considering the club’s League goal scorers; with Suárez (10 goals) the only multiple goal scorer at the club. (The discussion as to whether Suárez as a centre forward is ‘successful’ and the performance of Liverpool’s current front 3 will have to wait until another day.)

As the pivot of Liverpool’s attack, and having seen Andy Carroll (Liverpool’s only other recognised striker) sent to West Ham, Luis Suárez has been presented with a greater number of chances this season to score relative to his previous seasons:

As shown above, Suárez has increased the number of shots he takes by 1.9 per game – a 46% increase. Furthermore, Suárez has been able to emulate the attacking frequency of his Ajax days, averaging the same shots per game ratio as he did over his 3 seasons at Ajax (total of 580 shots over 97 games – 5.98 shots per game on average).

But how much of Suárez’s increased shot count can be attributed to his own form and how much to the changes Rodgers has made to the system? Well, the answer is that his improved form is multifaceted. On one hand, Rodgers’ Liverpool are creating 13.23 chances per game, compared to Dalglish’s Liverpool who created 12.76 chances per game. As such, this would intimate that Suárez may be benefiting from an extra 0.6 shots per game if the increase in chances are concentrated at his feet.

The more probable reason is the departure of Andy Carroll. Last season Carroll took, on average, 2.2 shots per game alongside Suárez who managed 4.1 shots per game. Take Carroll out of the equation and purely on numbers, there is roughly 2 shots begging to be taken by the remaining forward(s). Add Rodgers’ systematic 0.6 increase in chances created per game and it would seem to intimate that Suárez may be the beneficiary of both the change in chances created and Carroll’s deduction from the lineup, with the remainder distributed to the two ancillary players in Liverpool’s attacking trinity.

However, increased shots does not immediately correlate to an increased scoring efficiency. The most notable reason for Suárez’s increase in scoring efficiency is his increased ability to convert clear cut chances (CCC). So far this season, Suárez has scored 50% of his clear cut chances (6/12), which compares to only 25% of his clear cut chances (7/28) last season. Had Suárez maintained his 25% CCC this season, he would have only scored 7 goals so far and his conversion rate would be 9.7%.

Thus, it is apparent that Suárez’s incredible run of form is attributable to systematic changes made by Brendan Rodgers (bravo) as well as Suárez’s increased capacity to score in the Premier League – a sign of acclimatisation to the League or maturity as he enters the peak stages of his career?

Next Page: Luis Suarez goal projection value for 2012/13 and the conclusion… (click on the page 2 below)

Luis Suarez Goal Projection

The exciting aspect of such an analysis is less in hindsight, but more the promise of foresight projections. Holding the assumptions that:

  1. Suárez maintains his current conversion rate (13.9%); and
  2. Suárez maintains his current shots per game (6);

over the course of the season, it is projected that Luis Suárez will have an incredible season, scoring 32 goals.

If Suárez manages to score 32 goals this Premier League season, he will notch the second highest goals scored for a Golden Boot winner (given he wins it) in Premier League history – beaten only by Andrew Cole (1993/94) and Alan Shearer (1994/95) who both scored 34 goals.


The overall improvement in Luis Suárez’s game is emphasised by the goal projection table above. By simply increasing the number of shots he takes per game from 4.1 to 6 per game and improving his conversion from 8.6% to 13.9%, Suárez is expected to more than double his goal tally from 14 goals last season to 32 this season. Such improvements in the Uruguayan’s game are arguably attributable to his central forward positioning and personnel changes to Rodgers’ 4-3-3, coupled with Suárez’s own maturity  or acclimatisation to the Premier League.

Whilst he may not have reached the goals per game heights of his final full season at Ajax, Suárez is mirroring the positive trend of his Ajax days here at Liverpool, with his ability to score a goal every game increasing every season. Such a trend is one that will arguably define Liverpool’s success in seasons to come, especially if his prowess to find the back of the net continues to trend upwards.

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