Back in February, I wrote an article that looked at how Liverpool’s creativity level had increased once Daniel Sturridge had started playing for them (and you can read it here). Now that Philipe Coutinho has his feet firmly under the Anfield table, the figures show that the Reds have kicked on again in creative terms.
Not only that, but the twenty year old Brazilian from Inter Milan is also outperforming the Premier League’s great-and-good with regards to the creation of clear-cut goalscoring opportunities on an individual level.
Remarkably, Coutinho has already created seven clear-cut chances (or CCCs) in the league, having only been on the pitch for the equivalent of about seven-and-a-half matches. For context, only twenty-seven players have fashioned more than that in the top flight this season, and they have all played far more football than the Reds’ new boy has.
I’ve collated the figures for the thirty-nine players who have created seven-or-more CCCs this season, to see how Coutinho ranks on a pro-rata basis. As the previous paragraph implies, he leads the way:
As you can see, Liverpool’s number ten is ahead of some very illustrious names.
It’s interesting to note that had he been as much as 50% less productive in this regard, Coutinho would still be the sixth best player in the Premier League. That’s quite an impact from a 20-year-old who hadn’t previously played in this country before.
I also thought it’d be interesting to see what proportion of the chances a player creates are classified as clear-cut; in other words, who specialises in providing top quality opportunities to their teammates. No prizes for guessing which curly-haired honorary Scouser is ahead of the pack.
The Brazilian favours through-balls to create chances (think of Suárez’ first against Wigan, for instance), and is joint top in the Premier League (as well as joint fourth across Europe’s top five leagues) for accurate through balls per game. These tend to lead to clear-cut chances, as a successful through ball will usually leave an attacker one-on-one with the opposition keeper.
It should of course be noted that the small sample size of Coutinho’s Liverpool career could easily explain why he leads the above rankings, not least as he’s had the opportunity to boost his figures against some of this season’s lesser lights, such as Newcastle and Wigan, whilst he had his poorest game against Chelsea, the toughest side he’s faced so far.
But by the same token, every other player on the list has likely played some of the poorer sides without contributing as much as Brendan Rodgers’ latest signing has, so he still deserves credit for performing well when given the opportunity.
So how exactly has his form affected Liverpool’s creativity?
I noted in the aforementioned look at Sturridge’s impact that the Reds’ had gone from 2.36 clear-cut chances per game to 3.00, in the former Chelsea forward’s first five games.
Prior to Coutinho’s first start, Liverpool averaged 2.31 CCCs in their opening twenty-six league fixtures. In the nine games since, the Reds have averaged a whopping 4.0 per game, including a season’s best performance of seven against Swansea City.
This improvement has seen the Reds’ season average rise to 2.74 clear-cut opportunities per match, which is a 13% increase on last season’s 2.42 average. Impressive stuff.
It’s also worth recognising that Brendan Rodgers’ men have had an incredible 8.2 shots on target per game in the same period (as I read in this excellent article) which is a 46% improvement on their 5.6 SoT per game average in 2012/13 prior to this spell. This will have been possible thanks to an increase in top quality opportunities, and Coutinho has been at the centre of that.
With Sturridge third in the Premier League for minutes per goal, and Coutinho top of the pro-rata clear-cut chance creation rankings, it certainly looks like Brendan Rodgers did some fantastic transfer business in January. Is it too soon to be excited about 2013/14?
Related articles you might enjoy:
Coutinho: The Lowdown – A look at the new boy’s career stats so far.
The Creative Impact Of Sturridge – The new signing has already boosted Liverpool’s creativity, have a read to find out how much!
Spain: The Through Ball Kings – The top performers in the Premier League all hail from the same nation…