On the 6th December, Liverpool hosted Sunderland at Anfield, and laboured their way to a 0-0 draw in which they only had two shots on target. Rickie Lambert lead the line that day, with a threesome of Sterling, Lallana and Coutinho (can you see where SLiCk comes from now?!) behind him.
The match was Liverpool’s twenty-second of the season, yet it was only the sixth time that this trio had appeared on the pitch at the same time. Now that they’ve played together in the Reds’ last five games, with impressive results, I thought I’d take a quick look at the impact they have had and how well they have linked up.
Firstly, a few headline statistics. Philippe Coutinho had not created a single league or European assist prior to Christmas, yet he has fashioned two in the last two games; one for Sterling and one for Lallana. The latter only had one assist and two goals to his name for Liverpool before the last five matches, yet now he has a healthier three assists and four goals. Raheem Sterling may not have assisted either of his front-three colleagues in this recent spell, but he has been the recipient of goal-creating pass from each of them, and three (Opta-defined) big chances too.
Regular readers will know that I’m fascinated with how players interact to create shooting opportunities (and you can read far more about that here) so I thought I’d see how the Reds’ new look front three has performed in this regard since Brendan Rodgers dispensed with a conventional striker five games ago.
As they have been on the pitch for a total of 357 minutes together, this essentially means that one of these three players has created a chance for one of the others every twenty minutes, which is a very impressive return indeed.
A key thing to note here is the creative impact of Lallana in this system. Prior to this five game run, he had only created eleven chances in the league and in Europe this season, yet he has created ten in these recent matches, with Sterling and Coutinho being the recipients of nine of them (and his other was a point-saving assist for Martin Skrtel against Arsenal).
I thought it’d be interesting to see how many passes per chance the various combinations have posted in this run. The pass data is not available for the Bournemouth game (and I’ll explain why this is a shame shortly) so these figures cover the last four league games.
The much heralded Suárez and Sturridge duo created a chance for each other every 6.1 passes last season, yet we can see that Lallana has bettered that rate with both of his front line colleagues in this period.
Of course, the SaS did this over a whole season rather than four games, but the figures here bode well; in total, a chance has been created by SLiCk amongst themselves every 7.7 passes.
Adam Lallana also created three chances against Bournemouth; two for Sterling (including an assist) and one for Coutinho. This is why it’s unfortunate that we don’t have the pass data from this game, as unless he made a crazy number of passes to his two colleagues, then he has probably created a chance more often than every four passes in these five games for both of the other two forwards. I was confident in the summer that Lallana would fit well into the team, and I think we’re finally starting to see the best of him in a Liverpool shirt, particularly with regards to linking up with the Reds best available forward players.
With Sterling, Lallana and Coutinho linking up this well, it’s nigh on impossible to see a way back into the team for either Mario Balotelli or Rickie Lambert, but if Liverpool keep playing as well as they generally have in the last five games, then not one Kopite will complain about that.