Thursday, 2 July 2015

A Striking Trio

Barcelona's Treble Top

Congratulations to Barcelona (especially Luis Suarez) on winning the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions league in 2014-15. Barca's front line of Messi, Neymar and Suarez have been hailed as the best ever striking trio. In La Liga the trio scored 81 goals, with Messi scoring 43, Neymar 22 and Suarez 16.

This got me thinking: who were Liverpool's best ever striking trio in the league? I analysed the data from to find the total goals by a striking trio in a top level league season. The graph shows a summary, with the top 10 scores highlighted.

 And the winner is (drum roll)…

Liverpool's Best Ever Striking Trio

The best ever league total from a Liverpool striking trio was achieved in 1963-64 with 67 goals. Roger Hunt scored 31 league goals, Ian St John scored 21 and Alf Arrowsmith scored 15. By the way, the 52 goals from Hunt and St John is also the best ever league total by a Liverpool strike partnership. This total was matched exactly by Suarez (31) and Sturridge (21) in 2013-14.

In 1963-64 Bill Shankly led Liverpool to their first title since 1946-47. This was Liverpool's 6th league title and arguably the season when the modern Liverpool was born. It is fitting that the breakthrough was heralded with one of Liverpool's best ever striking performances. Shankly laid the foundations that would see Liverpool add another 12 titles during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Not to mention the 5 European Cups and 7 FA Cups, etc. I love it that we have etcs that other clubs would die for!

Copyright - John Martin for

Roger Hunt is Liverpool's all time top goalscorer in the league with 244 goals, Ian St John is 14th with 95 goals and Alf Arrowswith is 107th with 20 goals. Roger Hunt and The Saint are lauded, quite rightly, as Liverpool legends. Alf Arrowsmith is less well known. He scored those 15 goals in only 20 matches in 1963-64. Shankly described Alf as "born to score goals" and the evidence backs him up; as a 17 year old Alf scored 96 (!) goals for non-league Tintwistle Villa in the 1959-60 season, a club record to this day.

After signing for Liverpool in 1960 for just £1500 Alf prepared for the first team by scoring 81 goals in the reserves between 1961 and 1963. He became a regular in the team after he scored in the 6-1 Boxing Day victory against Stoke at Anfield; yes, a 6-1 victory against Stoke. Alf announced himself fully by scoring 4 goals in the next game against Derby on his FA Cup 3rd round debut. He was then a regular in the side and helped end Liverpool's long wait for the title. Did any Liverpool player have a greater impact in such a short time? The popular Mancunian had the world at his feet after winning the league in 1964.

Unfortunately a few months later in the 1964 charity shield Alf suffered a serious knee injury and he never fully recovered. Sadly Alf Arrowsmith, Liverpool legend, passed away in 2005. There is a great interview with Alf in this Redmen Revisited article. For example, Alf remembers the post-match reaction to holding on to a 5th round FA Cup victory at Arsenal with 9 men: "Shanks stripped off and jumped in the bath with us!".

One final look at the data...

Goals Per Game Comparison
I was a little reluctant to compare the 1963-64 Liverpool team with the modern day Barcelona team. Modern football is very different from that in the 1960s. And goals scored by itself is not a good indicator of a team's quality. However, the Liverpool team of 1963-64 won the league so I'm happy to compare the strike rate. The graph below compares the league goals per game between the Liverpool striking trio in 1963-64 and the Barca striking trio in 2014-15.

The 1963-64 Liverpool trio compare very favourably with the modern day best. No one is near Messi, of course. But, as you can see, Hunt and Arrowsmith are a little ahead of Neymar and Suarez.

As always Liverpool's next breakthrough season will be led by the strikers. Liverpool's history says that to win the league we need a striker partnership that will score 37 goals on average. Further strengthening of Liverpool's front line is required in the summer of 2015, through the addition of at least one experienced striker. And Liverpool's promising young strikers should definitely see Alf Arrowsmith as the perfect role model.

Special thanks to for providing the data and photos. And thanks to the python community for providing the data analysis tools.


Method and Code Source Files
The analysis uses IPython Notebook, python, pandas and matplotlib to investigate the data . Essentially the notebook consists of chunks of python code that reads the data from csv files into pandas dataframes and then 'munges' the data and then plots the results using matplotlib. The graphs are generated automatically from the munged data.

View the notebook and download

The notebook contains additional graphs and analysis to that used in this post. You can view the notebook by simply clicking on this lfctrio notebook link. The notebook is also available for download. The lfctrio project files are stored in the lfctrio repository on github.

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