Real games show pockets have shrunk for Werner and Salah

Date published: Saturday 1st May 2021 12:54 - Tim Ellis

Timo Werner reacts

Chelsea and Liverpool are discovering that profligacy spreads. Timo Werner and Mo Salah’s struggles have been shared across the team.


“He missed a big one in West Ham now he missed another big one here.”

Thomas Tuchel doesn’t avoid the hard facts of the game with roundabout language. If there was anything niggling the Chelsea manager after the impressive 1-1 draw with Real Madrid, it was that German roadrunner who plays under him. You know the one: moves like hot wheels but then can’t stop freezing in front of goal.

The exact definition of profligacy, to save you the time, is ‘reckless extravagance or wastefulness in the use of resources’. That’s quite a good description of the European Super League. But on the pitch, profligacy is something you may have seen quite a lot of recently. It’s a bloody awkward word and probably one of the most distressing things to witness as a supporter. On digital, widescreen TV the simple chance spurned looks even more unmissable. It can all be extrapolated via xG, but it’s a much more visceral gut punch at the time. You know when there should have been a net bulge. It doesn’t need a computer metric to tell us what we can see.

Leaving a couple of goals out there always leave a sour taste, especially when the match loses its intensity as it did for the Blues during the second half in Madrid. Tuchel said all the right things afterwards. His body language suggested he could do with a bit of plate smashing to take his “anger” out on Timo Werner. Los Blancos were hanging on like an out of shape super heavyweight. They are now only behind on points. A different day awaits in London.

The chance creation funnel eventually dries up, as Chelsea found out. A tie that was there for the taking is now back in the balance. Football is so imperfect in mere stats. Yet it is a callous truth that poor finishing will eventually cause misfires across the whole team. There are consequences in other departments for not delivering in your chosen field.

Take Jurgen Klopp after his front four lost all bodily function in front of goal against Newcastle: “I was really outraged after the game. Just because ‘Why? Why would you do that?’ In our situation, when you don’t use your chances you think ‘oh my God, again’ because it has happened too often this year.” The consequence was that Liverpool dropped deeper than the night of Crystanbul. Joe Willock took advantage.

Joe Willock scores against Liverpool

One-hundred-and-forty-six shots at Anfield and four goals is the astonishing bald fact of 2021. The Reds also missed their moments against Real. The Salah chance at home after a couple of minutes was the one that simply had to go in.

Strip it back to basics. The goal has shrunk just like the pockets do for snooker players. Roberto Firmino pondered: “Maybe there’s a collective factor with the team as well”. He’s got a point. It reverberates.

It’s not as if the current Liverpool team are composed enough to get close. In 2011/12, when Kenny Dalglish’s spluttering team finished eighth, they hit the bar or post an astonishing 33 times. One of the culprits, Luis Suarez, said at the time: “When you shoot, you can look for the spaces between the posts and the goalkeeper. But instinctively, you usually aim for the corners, which means that there’s a chance the ball might hit the post.” Said like a true marksman. Robbie Fowler always seemed to arrow his shots out of reach for the keeper. He just practised like hell. He wasn’t God, just a mortal who made good.

“I used to get little targets and put them in the corners of the net and just aim for them.”

Messrs Werner, Firmino and Mane are passing through the striking graveyard at the moment, previously visited by Fernando Torres, Andriy Shevchenko and countless others. In a week where Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry were inducted into the Premier League hall of fame, you then realise what clinical means. For all the guff about natural goalscorers, hitting the net is truly something that you can’t “overthink” as Tuchel suggested. Just look at Karim Benzema: two half-chances; one goal and one that hit the post. What’s the problem? It’s a job.

Last word to Jose Mourinho: “If you don’t score, what you create means nothing. If they don’t have it (killer instinct) they have to get it”. It’s that simple. If only he had the personnel at Tottenham.

Mo Salah

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