Regular readers will know that one of my projects this season is monitoring the quality of chance that teams in the Premier League create, based on the area of the pitch in which the key pass is received.
With a shade over half of the season gone, I thought I’d review the individual figures for Liverpool’s squad to see who has done well, and whose chances aren’t worth the grass they’re passed across.
Before we go on, a quick reminder of the six pitch zones I use to determine chance quality.
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.
Here are the figures for the Liverpool squad, arranged by minutes per chance created.
Using info from WhoScored as a guide, anyone consistently setting up a chance every fifty minutes or better would be in the Premier League’s top twenty creative players, and it’s very encouraging to see that the Reds have six players within this performance mark.
Surprised to see Aspas in that elite group? Perhaps he benefits here from only having a small sample of pitch time, but the truth of it is that only eleven players in the English top flight are averaging more chances per game than the Spaniard is right now, so perhaps Aspas deserves to be cut a little slack by the Anfield faithful.
You may have noticed that almost half of Gerrard’s chances have been created via set piece situations. If we exclude dead ball opportunities, it makes an interesting difference to the top seven players.
It’s no surprise to see the Liverpool captain tumble down the rankings, but it’s interesting to see that Raheem Sterling leapfrogs over Philippe Coutinho once set plays are excluded, into second place behind Luis Suárez.
Not only that, but the young England international has created the joint second-most CBOs, which are the best quality of chance that I monitor, so he deserves a pat on the back for his creative efforts. Clearly Suárez is the king on that front, but who else has done well when looking at pitch time pro rata.
It’s that man Aspas again! But away from the former Celta Vigo man, another oft derided player, Jose Enrique, takes the bronze medal. Victor Moses is also higher in the chart than I would have assumed, based on his overall performance level to date.
At the other end, Coutinho is lower than I would have predicted (though his weapon of choice, the through ball, is often received in wider areas of the box, or outside it entirely if on the counter) and these figures highlight that whilst Jordan Henderson is a reliable creator of chances in total, they’re outside the box around 75% of the time.
So to ‘answer’ the title of the piece, it’s Luis Suárez. But then it was always going to be, wasn’t it? And he’s scored by far the most goals to boot too; what a guy!
The performances of the likes of Sterling and Aspas are far more notable, surprising, and encouraging for their Anfield futures, so they get the most credit from me. I’ll revisit this at the end of the season to see if they can maintain their impressive form.
Recent posts you might like:
The Time Is Now – Liverpool have started 2013/14 well, but their next five games (in mid January 2014) are key if the Reds are to finish in the top four. This explains exactly why that is.
The 39 Steps Part Two: Progress! – Victory over Hull City means Liverpool are seven games ahead of the last three years, and this article explains why.
2012 and 2013: Chalk and Cheese – Liverpool’s performance in the last two years could hardly be more different.
How Many League Goals Can Suárez Score in 2013/14? – This features a forecast table, which is updated after every match.
LFC Pass Combination Heatmaps 2013/14 – A look at which players have been most involved pass-wise, and who they’ve linked up with in every league match this season.