I recently received some compliments for my chance creation combination work (with specific regard to this season’s figures, which you can see here) so I thought I’d dig a little deeper and expand upon the data for the most frequent link ups to see which duos have actually been the most potent in 2014/15.
As a quick reminder, here are the figures for Liverpool’s matches in the Premier League and Champions League so far this season.
There’s clearly two duos who have had the most impact on the Reds’ creativity; Coutinho and Sterling lead the way, from Henderson and Sterling. I realised that these players have been on the pitch more than most though, and have seen a higher amount of game time than any of the club’s other midfielders or forwards. How do the figures look when we factor in how much time the duos have spent on the pitch together?
Raheem Sterling remains at the top end of the table (and I examined his link up with Sturridge here) but it’s interesting to see Mario Balotelli moves in to two of the top four positions. This is probably in part because the Italian is willing to shoot from anywhere, and so his colleagues can ‘create’ chances by default simply by passing him the ball a long way from goal, but it also demonstrates that Balotelli does make himself available and isn’t entirely on his own wavelength either.
We can measure which combination has created chances closest to goal by using an expected assists system. In simple terms, a key pass received in the centre of the penalty box is worth far more than one outside the final third, as the former has a much greater chance of resulting in a goal; approximately five times as much chance, in case you’re wondering.
We can calculate which duo have created the most expected assists, but also which duo has (on average) created chances closest to the opposition goal. Rather than expressing the latter as a percentage on an unusual scale (don’t ask!) I’ve translated it into an Average Chance Score scale from 0 to 100. A score of 0 would involve all chances being created outside the final third, with 100 meaning all of the chances were in the centre of the box. Here are the figures.
We can see that Coutinho-Sterling has created the highest number of expected assists (1.081), but their average chance score is fairly low as they generally fashion chances a long way from goal; only two of the seventeen chances have been received in the centre of the opposition box.
It also becomes clear why Sterling and Henderson are the only Reds combination with more than two assists this season, and that applies in both directions. They create a lot of chances for each other and they set each other up close to goal too; a winning combination, and no mistake. It’s interesting to look back at the ‘minutes per chance’ table at this point, as it shows that Henderson and Sterling don’t link up that often compared to most of the other combos, but their general proximity to goal when they do means that they have been more likely to generate goals.
For the record, Liverpool have thirty combinations with an Average Chance Score of 100 this season, but as you can imagine they have all only created one or two chances. If you want a lot of chances close to goal, then Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling are the guys you need.