Mohamed Salah Should Be Winning the Scoring Race

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 16: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates scoring their first goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Burnley at Anfield on September 16, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
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Mohamed Salah has taken the Premier League by storm after his move from Roma to
Liverpool in late June of 2017. The Reds sent £37 million to Italy, in what now seems to
be a bargain for the Egyptian Winger.

Salah’s Scoring Story

Salah has unleashed 17 goals in just 21 games started in the league this season,
which sees him second behind only two-time Golden Boot winner, Harry Kane. He has
already surpassed his previous career high, which came last season with 15 goals in 31
appearances for Roma.

Suffice to say, LFC fans could not have expected this coming into the season. Now
that the 25-year-old has proven to be such a goal-scoring threat, is it unfathomable to suggest that they should be expecting even more?

The answer is quite simply, no.

Diving into the data (via we can see all of Salah league goals this season.
The larger the circle the more likely a goal is expected from that shot. A circle the size
equivalent to .1 means that 10 goals are expected for every 100 of those same shots taken.

On attempts Salah has netted this year, the average expected goal per shot is .316. This
tells us that on average Salah has been able to score when he takes an attempt that we
would expect to go in 31% of the time based on the data. This also means that any shot
that has a higher goal expectancy than that we can reasonably expect Salah to convert and
the opposite with attempts below that value.

Below we can see all of Salah’s attempts where he has failed to score for various reasons.

Of those attempts, an astounding 13 have been at or above the Liverpool right winger’s expected goal benchmark. Of those 13 attempts, six were saved, seven
missed the net and zero were blocked. Tallying the 13 attempts, with an expected
goal rate at or above .31, you end up with a total of 5.56 expected goals Salah has left
on the pitch this season. This is over half a goal more than his fellow winger Sadio Mane has actually scored all season (5).

Compared with Harry Kane

Compare those numbers to the likes of Salah’s toughest competition in the goal
scoring category, Harry Kane, and the contrast is evident. On average, Kane converts
on shots with an expected goal of .355 (not including his goal from the penalty spot,
where the Premier League conversion percentage is ~73%). This means Salah has
been able to score from slightly more difficult situations. Where Tottenham’s
leading man differs is the fact that he rarely fails to convert on attempts the data
tells us he should score.

There have been only four times where Kane has had an opportunity in which his
average expected goal percentage tells us he should score and he hasn’t. These four
opportunities add up to 2.15 more expected goals that Kane has left on the pitch, and fewer than half of Salah’s number. Even when we move Kane’s average expected goal
benchmark down to Salah’s .31, he still only has 3.13 goals he should have scored, but

What does all this tell us?

There are two sides to the story.

The negative outlook from a Liverpool perspective is that Mo Salah has squandered
legitimate chances that he should have scored this year. The macro takeaway may also simply be that Salah is not the tidiest finisher when it comes to converting from
threatening positions.

That being said, the overwhelmingly positive outlook for Liverpool supporters here comes when one considers that, despite all he has left on the pitch in terms of missed chances, he still has 17 goals in 21 appearances and is second in the league in scoring. It is a
testament to his constant pursuit of the back of the net when going forward and his
ability to create so many quality chances. In fact, it dispels any thought that
Salah’s goal run should be attributed to luck or will dry up considering if anything
he should be scoring more.

Time will tell if Salah is able to become an extremely efficient finisher like Harry
Kane. One thing appears to be certain: with the way he finds scoring chances for
himself, goals are sure to follow.

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