Spurs v Liverpool Preview

As the teams who meet at White Hart Lane this Sunday are the Premier League’s top two for number of chances created this season (with Spurs edging it by 201 to 196), I’m going to take a closer look at those figures using my chance quality system, to see which team has really got the edge, and considering if the lack of Steven Gerrard will prove problematic for Liverpool.

Before we continue, a quick reminder of the six types of chance that I record, which are based on the area of the pitch that the key pass is received in, from best to worst:

Central Box Open Play (CBO) – Passes in open play that are received in the central area of the penalty box, which I define as the width of the six yard box reaching out from the goal line to the edge of the box.

Central Box Set Play (CBS) – These passes are received in the same area as the above, but are obviously from dead ball situations. All other set plays are recorded in the zone where they are received.

Wide Box (WB) – These are the areas within the penalty area that are wide of the six yard box.

Central Outside Box (COB) – This zone maintains the width of the six yard box, but covers the area from outside of the penalty box out to where the final and midfield thirds meet.

Final Third (FT) – The rest of the final third essentially, meaning outside of the penalty area, and beyond the width of the six yard box.

Outside Final Third (OFT) – The recipient of the pass will have to do remarkably well to score with one of these, as they are getting the ball outside their attacking third of the pitch.

Let’s have a look at how the two teams fare in an attacking sense.

ImageWe can see that there’s very little in it, with both teams creating forty-nine open play chances in the centre of the box. Liverpool do however create almost ten percent more of their chances within the penalty area as a whole, having created exactly one hundred in the goal area, to Tottenham’s eighty-three.

I’m sure that penalty box predator Roberto Soldado would prefer Spurs to create far more of their opportunities in the box than they have been doing, as only three teams in the division create a lower proportion of their chances in the box than Tottenham do. How do the teams fare defensively?

ImageIt’s a very similar picture to the attacking stats. On the face of it, Spurs are the better of the two sides as they have conceded a lot fewer chances in total. However, a closer look reveals that the north London outfit have allowed more chances in the centre of their box, and the tally for the whole penalty area is tied at fifty-six each.

By combining the two sets of figures, we can see the ‘chance difference’, and a look at this probably explains why Spurs have only scored as many goals as Luis Suárez has on his own this season so far.

ImageLiverpool have created sixty-one chances more than they have allowed, and for Spurs the raw figure of 105 is even better. The theme from the first two tables continues though, and we can see that the bulk of Spurs’ advantage is outside the box.

Forty-nine of their chance difference opportunities are in the FT and OFT zones, and across the whole Premier League just 4.6% of these opportunities are converted, compared to 14.6% in the CBO zone, where Liverpool have the edge.

The Reds’ main issue on the chance creation front for the next few matches is the unavailability of Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool captain has created the most goalscoring opportunities in the league this season, so will the Reds struggle to set up chances in his absence?

Gerrard’s ability from set plays will surely be missed (as he has created seventeen of the team’s twenty-one CBS chances), but the form from the season so far, which you can see in the table below, suggests that Liverpool can still fashion opportunities at White Hart Lane. The players are sorted by frequency of total chances created:

ImageAs top chance creators average around three chances per game, Raheem Sterling can be pleased with his input from his limited pitch time this season (and some of that was at wing-back, don’t forget), albeit virtually half of them have been in the poorer areas.

In the final column of the table I have stripped out set plays, and we can see that Gerrard is only ranked 7th for frequency of chances in open play.

This is no slight on the skipper, as he’s unlikely to create masses of chances in open play due to where he plays on the pitch, but it certainly suggests that all is not lost on the creative front without Gerrard.

A look at WhoScored confirms this. Twenty-five players (with a minimum of eight appearances) in the Premier League average 1.7 key passes per game this season, and four of them (Gerrard, Suarez, Coutinho and Henderson) play for Liverpool.

No other club has more than two players in this elite group, so even with Gerrard absent, the Reds still have three of the most consistently creative players in the division.

The key to a Reds victory in my opinion could be Joe Allen. He’s not particularly creative himself (due to where he plays on the pitch) but he excels at winning the ball back and quickly giving it to the likes of Coutinho, Henderson and Sterling. They can then in turn play in Suarez, who could have a field day against Spurs’ defence, particularly now Vertonghen is out.

Brendan Rodgers has achieved a lot in eighteen months at Liverpool, but he’s yet to win an away game at a big rival. If the Reds can defend well, with this level of open play creativity, they surely have a chance to break Brendan’s duck.

Related articles you might like:

Goals (Short and Long Term) – Liverpool are on track with both of these, actually…

How Many League Goals Can Suárez Score in 2013/14? – An ongoing post, which monitors how many goals the Uruguayan is forecasted to score by the end of the season.

Spurs Problem? Shot Placement – An attempt to explain why Tottenham have not scored many goals this season.

Please check out my other articles, and follow me on Twitter or via Facebook. Thanks.

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