As the deal for Lallana appears to be close to completion, I thought I’d better move this recent piece back to the homepage.
With Liverpool hotly tipped to sign Southampton’s England international Adam Lallana, I thought I’d review his creativity stats via my chance quality system, to see if his raw numbers warrant the £20m+ transfer fee that he is likely to command. I’ve also tried to pick the bones out of a couple of other important statistics too…
There’s several reasons why the England international might appeal to Liverpool. As Brendan Rodgers told the official Liverpool site this week:
“You’ll get some players who are specialists and who need to play in particular positions, but if we can get players in who are multi-functional, and can play in different roles and are multi-dimensional in their work, it sets us up and gives me more options as a coach.”
A quick look at Lallana’s WhoScored profile reveals that he certainly fits the description of multi-functional.
He’s also able to cover a great deal of ground at speed, as this image which Dan Kennett was able to find illustrates.
Although the players are sorted by distance covered, notice how Lallana has a greater average speed than any of the other players in the table. We also know (thanks to this tweet) that Lallana won possession in the attacking third of the pitch more times than any other player in the Premier League this season, which demonstrates his ability to press his opponents high up the field. So far, so suited to a Rodgers team.
Lallana also had a good campaign in front of goal. He scored nine times, and it’s worth noting that four of them were the opening goals of matches; for context, Suárez and Sturridge scored opening goals six times each, so it illustrates that the Southampton man hasn’t boosted his tally with easier goals in comfortable victories as some players do.
He also had a decent record with (Opta defined) big chances, converting four of the ten that came his way, which is in line with league average for conversion rate. As Liverpool had almost twice as many such chances as Southampton did (with 119 to 66), Lallana would have more top quality scoring opportunities with the Reds, and the figures suggest that he would tuck a fair few away. He also converted his seventy shots at an above average level too (12.9% vs 10.1%), though of course we are looking at small samples here so it’s hard to draw anything too conclusive.
What about Lallana’s creativity? Liverpool are in desperate need of more options from the bench; Rodgers has only been able to eke out seven goals and four assists from his substitutes in the league in two years at Liverpool, and most of those came from Sturridge and Sterling. Could the Southampton man provide the gaffer with better options?
In terms of key passes, Lallana averaged 1.9 per game in 2013/14, which was the joint-thirteenth most in the Premier League. I like to look at where these chances were received though, to try to add some context to the figures. In case you’ve not seen it before, here’s the pitch map which I use to assess where created chances are received:
The stand out thing for me is that he has created twenty-six open play chances in the centre of the box (CBOs), which is more than every player in the Liverpool squad bar Luis Suárez (who set up thirty-one), and this is reflected in the ‘Minutes Per Expected Assist’ figures (which are calculated by using league average conversion rates for the six zones) in the table below . The figures shown here are for a minimum of one expected assist.
As with most statistics though, there is a potential fly in the ointment, and in this case it’s crossing; of Lallana’s twenty-six CBOs, thirteen of them came from crosses. If he moves to Liverpool, who only averaged 17 crosses per game in 2013/14 (which was the fewest in the division) is he going to be able to be as effective in creative terms? Equally though, he would be playing for a better team at Anfield, so his numbers could possibly get a boost from that. If nothing else, this is probably a good example of how it is hard to look at a player’s raw statistics and say “what if they played for this team?”.
There has been debate recently on the forums regarding Lallana’s dribbling prowess and his ability to win fouls in dangerous areas, so I thought I’d take a closer look at those figures, to see where on the pitch these actions took place. I used the same zones as detailed in the above chance quality map.
In terms of dribbles (a.k.a. take-ons), Lallana completed 1.8 per game this season, which ranked him as the joint-fourteenth best in the division. In total, he passed an opponent with the ball seventy times; five times in the box, ten in the central zone outside the box, twenty-nine occasions elsewhere in the final third, and twenty-six times further out than that.
The problem with trying to assess these figures is that I have no idea where other decent dribblers do their work, and sadly it’s time-consuming to find out! An internet search hasn’t shown up any similar work along these lines, but please let me know in the comments below if you are aware of anything.
To try to give Lallana’s dribbling location figures some context, I have compared them with Coutinho’s, as he completed the same amount of take-ons per game.
In reality I’m no closer to knowing if Lallana’s dribbling locations are good or not as one player is hardly much of a comparison, but the figures here suggest that the England international tends to glide past opponents in similar areas to Liverpool’s Brazilian maestro. I wonder if Liverpool’s team of transfer analysts look at similar things to this?
Obviously all successful take-ons are a good thing, as you’ve retained possession and taken an opponent out of the game, but clearly the closer to goal you are the better I would think. That said, I suspect on some occasions a defender would rather you went past him in the area instead of winning a penalty, which brings us on to…
Fouls. By suffering two per game, Adam Lallana was the joint-fourth most infringed player in the 2013/14 Premier League. Considering that Liverpool have been masters of the set piece this season, bringing in someone who can win a dead ball opportunity in a dangerous area would only be a good thing.
Except that fifty-four of the seventy-four fouls that Lallana won were outside the final third, and so would be unlikely to immediately lead to a set piece or direct free-kick opportunity. Still, that leaves twenty that were in the oppositions defensive third (for the record: one in the box, three in the central area outside the area, and sixteen elsewhere in the final third), so as Lallana featured in all thirty-eight games that means that he won a free-kick in a dangerous area every other game.
Once again, it’s impossible to know if this is a good rate or not thanks to a lack of widely available data. As Raheem Sterling was fouled almost as frequently as Lallana (with just 0.1 fouls per game less), I’ve compiled his figures to try to get a tiny bit of context on the Southampton man’s figures.
As with the Coutinho comparison, the figures are pretty similar, though as Sterling played fewer minutes, it should be noted that he won a free kick in the final third every 117 minutes compared to every 154 for Lallana. The overriding thing to take away though, is that the two players would appear to be fouled in similar areas of the pitch.
Is Adam Lallana worth the £20-25m price tag that’s being mooted? It’s not really for me to say, though that does seem a lot for a player with only two years of Premier League experience under his belt, and at 26 years of age, he’s unlikely to improve massively from here onwards. But the statistics suggest that he would be likely to slip into the Liverpool squad with a minimum of fuss and provide a similar output to the existing squad.
At least we know one thing: Lallana has combined with Sterling before assisting a goal for Daniel Sturridge already…