There is an exclusive Premier League players group, of which Liverpool currently possess two of the fourteen members.
I am referring to men who have played at least one hundred key passes in total across the last two seasons.
The good news for Brendan Rodgers is that in terms of the frequency with which they fashion opportunities, the Reds currently employ two of the top nine. The potentially bad news is that they both look set to leave Liverpool before the end of the summer.The following table reveals that Luis Suárez and Stewart Downing are the two Red men to feature in the aforementioned group:
Obviously Suárez’ desire to leave Anfield has been well documented this summer, but news broke this week that Newcastle may be willing to take Downing off Liverpool’s hands for just £5m.
Whilst I fully appreciate that Downing can frustrate supporters, and will never be more than a ‘steady Eddie’ player, the fact remains that he is consistently creative.
He ranked tenth in the Premier League in 2012/13 for key passes per game (with 2.1), and even more impressively, was joint seventh the season before for clear-cut chances created, with eleven.
Presumably his high wages (which are rumoured to be around £80,000 per week) mean that, much like Pepe Reina, if he is not going to be first choice for Liverpool then he is far too expensive to have warming the bench.
Whilst I have no problem with that on a business level, my concern is whether or not the Reds will suffer from losing their two top creative talents of recent times.
The minutes per chance created statistics from last season for other Liverpool players certainly offer hope:
The above players showed glimpses of creative talent last season, either in small bursts or in other countries. Can they sustain this for a full season in the Premier League to drive Liverpool forward?
The three Liverpool players from last season amassed just under forty-two games of total pitch time between them, whereas they will be required to play as close to thirty-eight games each as they can (especially Sturridge and Coutinho) in 2013/14.
Daniel Sturridge will be expected to primarily bag the goals rather than create chances, Aspas is unproven in the Premier League (though he has looked impressive in pre-season with three goals and three assists so far), and Coutinho (who is just twenty years old) and Sterling (eighteen) are at an age where a performance dip wouldn’t be too surprising, despite their very obvious ability.
My hope for this season is that Liverpool create better chances rather than more of them; after all, the Reds did create more chances than any other team in Europe last season, though as I explained in a previous article (here), they did not fashion enough top quality opportunities.
In truth, I suspect that the likes of Coutinho will improve overall rather than regress, but if Liverpool struggle to break teams down in 2013/14, then the above information may suggest why.
Key Pass stats taken from WhoScored. Related articles you might enjoy:
The Coutinho Conundrum – There is a quirk in the Brazilian’s stats that may be of concern ahead of 2013/14…
The Creative Impact of Coutinho – The Brazilian is outperforming the Premier League’s elite level creative talents right now.
Stewart Drowning In Expectation – The stats show Downing has ability, so why hasn’t his first season at Anfield been a success?
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The problem with Downing, Beez, is that he only had 5 assists in the league last season, level with Sterling. Now, yes, questionable finishing may have robbed him of more, but it seems more likely that the quality of chances he creates simply isn’t high enough for average consumption. More chances is a good thing, but better chances tend to win games.
Yeah, no surprise Downing has a lot of key passes, because Liverpool led the Premier League in missed shots by a pretty wide margin. Giving him a “chance created” because he passed to Suarez for a wild 25 yarder doesn’t tell us much.
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