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Dublin: -2°C Sunday 11 April 2021

Why Liverpool could do a lot worse than signing Shane Long

The Reds have reportedly been told the Irish player will cost them €15 million.

Shane Long has 10 goals in 12 starts this season.
Shane Long has 10 goals in 12 starts this season.

THE REACTION TO news of Liverpool’s interest in Shane Long in recent days has been mixed at best.

Some sceptics have harshly dismissed Long, who the Reds have reportedly been asked to pay €15 million for, as a ‘one in four’ striker, meaning he only scores a goal every four games.

In an interview with TalkSport, ex-Liverpool player Danny Murphy urged the club not to sign Long, arguing: “Shane Long? Really?! No, no, no, no, no.

“There’s no point bringing in players who aren’t better than what you’ve already got.

“Would you suggest Long is a better player than Benteke? I don’t think so.”

It’s true Long is not the most prolific of strikers. If you were to compare stats, you would conclude that Benteke is much more of a natural goalscorer — for Villa alone, the striker scored 42 goals in 89 Premier League games, which is just a little less than a goal every two games.

Yet Villa used to set their team up around Benteke. Just because a striker is a success at one club does not necessarily mean he’ll hit the ground running after joining another side, as the Belgian international is currently discovering.

Conversely, sometimes players are very much suited to certain clubs. Like Long, Daniel Sturridge was far from a proven goalscorer when he joined Liverpool.

Sturridge had managed five goals in 21 appearances for Man City, and 13 goals in 63 appearances for Chelsea. And similarly to Long, Sturridge was often asked to play out wide rather than up front for these teams. Nevertheless, notwithstanding recent injury problems, Sturridge has gone on to show that he can score goals on a regular basis at Liverpool when fit, managing 37 in 60 appearances since joining the club.

Moreover, while Shane Long’s goalscoring stats aren’t overly impressive, they can also seem slightly misleading. This season, he has a decent but not spectacular-looking 10 goals from 25 appearances (although Benteke only has seven goals in as many games). It’s more impressive though, when you notice he’s only started 12 of the games in question. Similarly, last season’s tally of eight in 48 appearances is rendered more respectable when it’s presented, without all the 10-minute cameos, as eight goals in 23 starts.

Ireland, meanwhile, have surely been guilty of under-utilising Long in recent times. 14 goals in 59 appearances is not a great return, but then only 18 of those appearances have been starts and only four have seen the Tipperary native complete the 90 minutes. Furthermore, in nine years playing for Ireland, he has made six competitive starts in total, and one of those was his debut back in 2007 against San Marino.

So the idea that Shane Long doesn’t score enough goals for Ireland is offset by the fact that he has never really been given a clear run of games to establish himself in the side, with Robbie Keane having a virtual monopoly on first-team starts up until very recently.

At club level, there has only been one season where Long's tally has reached double figures -- 2010-11, one of the few campaigns where the player has been a genuine first-team regular, as he managed 21 goals in 44 appearances (albeit in the Championship).

And while Long, unlike Benteke, wouldn’t be someone you could describe as ‘a proven Premier League goalscorer,’ his lack of goals are partially compensated for and perhaps attributable to all the highly effective work he does in the build-up play. Take, for instance, Southampton’s most recent match against West Brom.

Long didn’t score in the 3-0 win, but was still a big influence on the outcome of the match.

Check out his intelligent through ball to set up the penalty for the second goal below.


Long almost set up another goal for Sadio Mane thereafter, with a finely weighted pass.


And watch his superb layoff to create space for the third goal below.


Later in the game, Mane could have scored again, as the Ireland striker showed superb awareness once more.


So Benteke may score more goals than Long, but you rarely see him contribute as much over the course of a game. And with Sturridge constantly injured, Divock Origi, Liverpool’s other option up front, looks too raw and inexperienced to make a substantial impact at the moment.

Long’s goalscoring stats must also be considered in the context of who he has been playing for in recent years -- average enough sides who often stick 11 men behind the ball when teams like Arsenal and Man City come to town.

And when you think of Liverpool at their best in recent years, you remember Sturridge and Suarez breaking with speed and causing havoc. While Long may not be as accomplished a player as either, himself and Sadio Mane have regularly posed defences problems with their considerable pace, most notably in Southampton’s emphatic 4-0 win over Arsenal last month.

Moreover, Long’s pace, power and work ethic make him perfectly suited to Klopp’s style of play, and a step in the right direction as the German manager attempts to introduce his high-intensity style to Premier League football.

Although granted, Long -- who turns 29 on Friday -- may be a short-term solution to the problem at Anfiled, particularly given that his lightning pace won’t last for too much longer.

However, it’s hard to see how the Irishman won’t at least improve the Reds’ strikeforce, whose problems were underlined in the toothless 1-0 defeat to Man United at Anfield on Sunday, while they have managed a paltry 25 Premier League goals in total this season -- less than second-bottom Sunderland among others.

Shane Long, therefore, with his pace, aerial attributes and footballing intelligence, would be an asset for most teams at his best, and so Liverpool could certainly do with the in-form Southampton striker in their team at the moment.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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