As regular readers will be aware, one of my projects for 2013/14 has been to monitor the quality of chance (based on the area of the pitch that the key pass is received in) at both ends of the pitch for the twenty teams in the Premier League.
Having looked at the individual chance quality stats for the Liverpool squad recently, I thought it would be interesting to do likewise for the top five creative players in the Premier League this season, to see if the leader of the pack in volume terms also creates chances in the best quality areas too.
At the time of writing, the Premier League’s five most creative players average 2.5 chances per game-or-more, and they are:
1) David Silva, Manchester City. Perhaps aided slightly by having the smallest sample here (with sixteen games played), the Spaniard has averaged a whopping 3.9 chances per game this season, and bagged seven assists to date.
2) Mesut Ozil, Arsenal. The £42.5m man appears to be proving a smart purchase by Arsene Wenger, as he has provided his colleagues with 3.0 opportuinities per game on average. Eight of these have been converted, putting the German join third on the Premier League assists chart, along with…
3) Luis Suárez, Liverpool. The Uruguayan is the only striker in the top five, assisting his fellow Reds with 2.9 chances per game. Considering that he is also the top scorer in the Premier League in 2013/14, this is no mean feat.
4) Robert Snodgrass, Norwich City. Perhaps a slightly surprising inclusion, in view of the international standing of the other players in this list, but nonetheless the Canaries’ midfielder has set up 2.7 chances per game. However, he has only got one assist; is this down to Norwich’s misfiring strikers, or the quality of chance that Snodgrass provides?
5) Eden Hazard, Chelsea. The Belgian has assisted five goals from his (on average) 2.5 chances per game. He is the only player out of the five here to feature in every match so far this season, and has created the most chances in total: sixty-six.
For the purposes of this investigation, I was pleased to see the variety of clubs, transfer fees, nationalities, pitch positions and level of Premier League experience involved.
Snodgrass’ Norwich City side are currently sixteenth in the league, and he only cost approximately 1/28th as much as Ozil did. The Gunner is in his first season in the division whilst Silva is in his fourth, and there is a South American striker alongside midfielders from across Europe.
Before we continue, a quick reminder of the chance quality zones that my system uses.
Here’s the table of how many chances the five players have created in each zone, and they are sorted by how often they have created a chance overall.
Compared to the original order above, the only change in this table is that Snodgrass has sneaked past Suárez into third place. However, the Liverpool hit man has created the most chances in the all important CBO zone, and the highest proportion of chances there by far. Here’s a reminder of the importance of CBO chances.
These figures will not make good reading for Mesut Ozil or Arsene Wenger. Approximately six out of seven chances that Ozil creates are outside the CBO zone, meaning that they have a far lower chance of being converted. This has a massive bearing upon the expected assists that the five players’ chances will have had.
The expected assists system is far from perfect, as it assumes that all chances in a zone are equal, and that they are converted at league average rate, which is of course unrealistic. At the same time though, it does give an overall view of the chance quality, irrespective of the quality of striker on the end of them.
As I alluded to above, Ozil’s relative lack of CBO chances means that his expected assist tally is lower than two players (Suárez and Hazard) who create chances less frequently than the German Gunner does overall.
I also remembered at this point that the players have seen varying amounts of pitch time, so how often should they have expected to provide an assist?
Well, well, well. Robert Snodgrass, a Scottish international who cost just £1.5m from a club in the Championship has logged an expected assist more frequently than the combined £86m (or so) talents of Suárez, Ozil and Hazard.
However, as we saw in the original table, almost half of Snodgrass’ opportunities have come via set plays into the centre of the box. The mark of a true creative genius is the ability to create top-notch chances in open play, so let’s exclude CBS chances and replot the table.
Again, I must reiterate the limitations of this system. A through ball from Ozil is far more likely to be scored than a cross from Snodgrass, as can probably be seen in the former having eight assists to the latter’s one (though quality of striker set up is relevant too). With limited time, and manual collation of limited data, holes will always occur.
But take a bow, David Silva. I suggested above that the Spaniard’s chance per game rate was aided by his small sample of matches, but these figures show that he still deserves his place at the top of the chance creation table.
Or does he? Gerrard and Rooney have more assists than Silva, and Southampton’s Rickie Lambert has matched his tally of seven too. In a future article I will see if the chances those players have created have been better than Silva’s, or if they have been fortunate to have racked up as many assists as they have.
In the meantime, it seems that Suárez should be player of the year, Ozil is overrated, and maybe a team should take a punt on Snodgrass if they’re struggling to create chances.
Recent related posts you might like:
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Chance Quality Preview – The league’s top two for over scoring based on their chance quality meet at Anfield, so here’s a closer look at their records to date.
Liverpool, Shots On Target, and The Top Four – I revisited an old article on shots on target to see if the findings apply to 2013/14. It turns out they do, which is good news for Liverpool.
When Is A Chance Not Really A Chance (Or Even A Shot?) – One for the football analysts amongst you. I spotted a discrepancy in some match stats, and investigated further…
Henderson and Comolli – An in-depth look at Jordan’s creativity in his final season at Sunderland. Was Comolli right to rate it so strongly?