Last season I hit upon an idea: a creativity combination heatmap (which you can see here). It shows which players have linked up to create goalscoring opportunities most often, and how creative players have been overall.
Well, it’s back for 2014/15, except with a few enhancements. For starters, as the Reds were in the Champions League, we have six extra games to take account of.
Firstly, here are the basic chance combinations for the season as a whole.
What stands out here for you? I’ve noticed the following:
- Raheem Sterling both created the most chances and had the second most chances created for him. Around one in three of the Reds created chances featured Sterling, as he was involved in 159 of the 481 in total. This helps to explain why he is one half of six of the eight combinations that got into double figures this season.
- Liverpool had 133 different combinations in their 38 league games in 2013/14; they had 172 (including in the Champions League) this season. This is surprising in part because the Reds used the same number of players in the league in this campaign as they did the year before, and that’s whilst using an extra goalkeeper than in 2013/14 too. My assumption is that the absence of Suárez and then Sturridge has lead to the chances being shared round more than they were when Liverpool finished second.
- The top two combinations involved Sterling and Coutinho, and so they have the top combination in total with thirty-seven chances created as a duo.
- Although Sturridge didn’t play in many of these games, Sterling to Sturridge (with ten chances created) was still one of the most potent combos. I explored this in more depth here.
Now for the aforementioned enhancements. Something else I devised last season was the concept of chance quality, which in turn lead to expected assists. Based on the area of the pitch that a key pass is received, I can calculate what the average chance is that each particular chance will be converted.
Using this information I am able to see which chance creation combinations have created the most expected assists this season, and also which players have created chances with the highest average quality (or in other words, closest proximity to goal). The Average Chance Quality score runs from zero to ten, with zero meaning that all of the chances were outside the final third, and ten being all of them in the centre of the box in open play.
The Henderson to Sterling combination has been the most valuable so far this season, with Sterling to Coutinho not far behind. The stats certainly suggest that Sterling will be missed, following his big money move to Manchester City.
I also compiled big chance combination information too. In case you’re not aware, big chances are defined by Opta as “A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range”. Here are the figures:
‘Others’ are defined as anything not directly created by a Liverpool player; for instance, Balotelli had one against Spurs following a poor clearance by Hugo Lloris, and Markovic had one against Basel when he seized upon a rebound following a save.
Of the thirty-two big chances that Liverpool created directly, the Henderson and Sterling combination lead the way as they created six, and Sterling was involved in the most in total (eighteen). It’s interesting that Coutinho to Sturridge was one of the best combinations, as they barely played together, certainly when compared to the likes of Sterling and Henderson.
The final thing I monitored here was assists. As this info was available for cup games too, the below contains the figures for all competitions in 2014/15:
This obviously has some correlation with the big chance figures, as for instance some of Henderson’s assists came when he has created such opportunities for Sterling, Lallana, Moreno, Gerrard and Borini. It’s also interesting to note that the (heavily mentioned) Henderson and Sterling combination had nine assists, which is just one short of the ten that the much-vaunted Suárez and Sturridge duo bagged in 2013/14.
I will continue to monitor these in 2015/16… please let me know any interesting things you have spotted here in the comments below.