Liverpool’s scoring woes are well documented. For all the possession and chances the Merseyside club seem to create, they have only scored 19 goals in 15 games. In fact since Rafael Benitez’s last season Liverpool’s goal returns have steadily decreased.
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The Spaniard’s unconvincing last season at Liverpool looks much better in hindsight when it is seen that none of his replacements has managed to better his goal tally over an extended run of games, no matter what style of play they’ve brought in. Manchester United and Chelsea are currently scoring 2.5 and 1.7 goals per game to put this stat into stark perspective. Even Arsenal, a club only two points ahead of Liverpool and in similar crisis, have managed to find the net 1.6 times a game.
Most people seeing Liverpool create numerous chances only to miss them repeatedly say the obvious solution is to sign a proven Premier League poacher. Someone who only needs one opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net. And they don’t come much more proven than Darren Bent, scorer of 70 league goals in 165 Premiership matches. However is this just a case of reputation exceeding reality? Would Darren Bent really help Liverpool?
Upon closer examination of Bent’s goal statistics it appears that his poacher’s reputation is heavily built on one good season at Sunderland where the forward scored 24 league goals in 32 appearances. At his other two Premiership clubs, Tottenham and Aston Villa, his returns have been considerably more muted, which may have inspired Harry Redknapp’s famous quote about his missus after the striker missed a sitter against Portsmouth.
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Upon looking at these statistics it’s clear that Darren Bent has only performed to the level of a top class striker for an extended period of time once in his career. For his career he’s been a 0.4 goal per game forward, and excluding that season with Sunderland drops the figure to 0.36. That means on average Darren Bent will give a side around 13 league goals a season, maybe 15 or 16 if he’s fortunate. Considering that excellent season with Sunderland came when Bent was 25 and before his ankle ligament rupture the figure will most likely trend to the former number.
Why would Liverpool want as their savior a player not deemed good enough for the 15th placed side in the Premiership?
Conversationally Liverpool’s other rumored poaching target, Klaas-Jan Huntealaar, averages around 0.5 goals per game for his career in Spain, Italy and Germany, a figure that rises to 0.65 if his time in the Eredivisie is included. The Hunter is also coming off one of his best ever seasons with a rate of 0.9 goals per game in 2011/12. As opposed to Darren Bent who is currently in the doghouse. Why would Liverpool want as their savior a player not deemed good enough for the 15th placed side in the Premiership?
Currently Liverpool have a forward who is scoring 0.7 goals per game in Luis Suarez, and replacing a 25 goal player (although it’s only 40% into the season and those numbers should regress) with a 15 goal player doesn’t make sense. Even last season Suarez scored around at about the same rate as Bent and in the Eredivisie his returns were consistently much better. Moving Luis Suarez from his position of influence is only justified if the replacement is a far better option.
Added to Bent’s underwhelming scoring record is the fact that Aston Villa paid around £24m (£18m+incentives) for the player and would be reluctant to take a huge loss. Bent is also an England international (although in keeping with his club record most of his international goals have come against minnows) that would expect quite large wages. These facts, in keeping with his age, mean Liverpool’s ownership is unlikely to consider Bent for the role of backup striker. As it is Fabio Borini scored at close to Bent’s career rate in his one full season in Serie A and works much harder for the team at a cheaper cost to the club, making a move for Bent seem even less sensible.
All the things discussed above solely concern scoring, forwards are expected to do much more in Rodgers’ system. Brendan Rodgers wants pressing to start from the front and the ball to be won back quickly. Suarez is a prime example of this, not through any genius defensive work but through sheer determination to hassle opponents. Comparing Suarez’s current season to Bent’s last season as a Premier League regular the stats paint the picture of a player ill-suited to Rodgers’ up-tempo system.
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These stats just tell us what we already know. Bent is not as mobile a forward player as Suarez. He’s less adept at bringing others into the game and he loses the ball far too easily in the final third. And this season’s Suarez is actually doing Bent’s job at the same rate Bent did when he was last a regular. Liverpool already have problems with misplaced passes in the final third adding Bent and pushing Suarez out wide would only exacerbate the situation.
Now the point of this article is not to harp on about the fact that Darren Bent is a worse player than Luis Suarez. This article is simply making the case that there is hardly any logical reason for Liverpool to waste precious transfer resources bringing Darren Bent to Anfield. His fee and wages would be too high, he’d displace Suarez from the Uruguayan’s preferred position. He would marginalize his forward partners in Rodgers’ 4-3-3 and disrupt the high speed pressing game Rodgers is trying to create.
Rather than helping to solve Liverpool’s problems, Bent would only make them worse.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.
I am currently a University student majoring in Economics and a budding football writer who is keen to examine statistical evidence to arrive at informed conclusions.
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