The impact that Luis Suárez has had in the results Barcelona have achieved in the last one-and-a-half seasons, since the Uruguayan joined the team, is unquestionable. The attacking trio composed by him plus Messi and Neymar has and is on the verge of breaking numerous goalscoring records. One of the most striking aspects of Suárez’s game with Barcelona has been his clinical finishing. He struggled a little bit at the start but once he adapted the team and his partner’s way of playing, his finishing has been nothing but superb. This aspect of his game was clearly expressed in the two FIFA Club World Cup games, where he scored 5 goals from just 8 shots he made, displaying a shot conversion (ratio between goals scored and shots taken) of 62.5%.
Surprisingly enough, such a high finishing percentage has not always been a typical feature for Suárez. As we can see in Figure 1, his shot conversion rate has been less than 10% during his first two seasons at Liverpool. That means that on average he needed more than 10 shots to score 1 goal. During the successive seasons his shot conversion has increased progressively, reaching almost 25% at the current season for Barcelona.
This progressive improvement in finishing chances is not exactly usual in today’s football, as we can infer from Figure 2. Here, Suárez’s shot conversion is compared to Rooney, Ibrahimovic, Higuaín, Lewandowski and Agüero. In the 2010/2011 season, all these forwards had considerably higher shot conversion than Suárez but now he is on top of them all. The same is valid when Suárez is compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the two best goalscorers of the last 7-8 years (Figure 3). All the above mentioned forwards have had ups and downs during their last 6-7 seasons while Suárez has been always improving this aspect on this aspect.
There are some forwards who during the years have shown similar progression in their conversion rate as Suárez, although none of them with such a constant increasing rate. Aubameyang, Benzema and Müller (Figure 4) are the current most prolific forwards, if we consider the main European teams. This data has to be taken a bit cautiously regarding Müller, since unlike the other 3 forwards present on the graph of Figure 4, he takes his team’s penalties.
In order to have a summarized and maybe a better overview of Suárez’s improvement, Figure 5 shows his conversion rate compared to the lower and upper bounds of the all 11 forwards mentioned earlier. These bounds basically show the minimum and maximum shot conversion of this set of 11 forwards for each season. In the 2010/2011 season, when Suárez joined Liverpool, he had a shot conversion lower than any of these forwards, while in the current season, he is among the forwards with the highest conversion rate.
Obviously, many parameters affect the shot conversion rate and some of them are very difficult to account for. For example, when playing for Barcelona Suárez takes less shots than in his last two seasons at Liverpool and maybe he takes ‘easier’ ones. Most likely other players (e.g. Messi) have the responsibility or the role to deal with more difficult situations (like taking free kicks, shots after one or several dribbles, etc). Another influencing parameter might be the quality of chances he gets now compared to the previous seasons. Nonetheless, the continuous rate by which Suárez has improved his finishing is exceptional and unmatched in Europe during the last seasons.
Note: All the data are based only in games in the following competitions: National Leagues, Champions League and Europa League.