Sturridge and Suárez: An Equal Partnership?

Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge continue to score and score and score some more. The duo have scored twenty-five goals in the fifteen league matches they’ve appeared in together this season, with Arsenal the only team to shut out them both out, at the Emirates in November. The Reds have scored every twenty-eight minutes that both of the players have been on the pitch in the league this season; quite simply, they are a phenomenon.

Accusations regarding selfishness follow them around though, both pro and anti; Sturridge most notably could have played Suárez in for an almost certain goal during Liverpool’s 4-0 Merseyside derby win, and Suárez perhaps could have benefitted by being more single-minded in the Reds’ 3-0 victory over Southampton last time out.

But what’s the true picture? Does one snub the other too often? And how creative are they as a partnership?

Here’s the breakdown of their relationship in the Premier League in 2013/14. I have compiled how many passes they have made to each other (excluding when they kick off), how many chances they have created, and how many have resulted in assists. Which player do you think passes to the other more often than they receive one in return?

ImageWho did you think was the more selfish player? There’s very little in it, is there? I expected that Suárez, as the player who averages more passes (38 to 26) and creates more chances (2.9 vs 1.2) per game would have played the most partnership passes of the duo, and whilst he has, it’s not by enough to prove anything.

It’s interesting to note that Sturridge is actually the more creative of the two within this partnership, and from fewer passes too, though of course his numbers could be boosted by Suárez’ willingness to shoot from anywhere. But the numbers suggest that the former Chelsea man might be a little less selfish than his Uruguayan counterpart is. Of course, the similarity in their figures could just mean that they’re equally selfish!

Fifty percent of the goalscoring opportunities that Sturridge has provided in total this season have gone to Suárez; I would be surprised if there’s a higher proportion than that anywhere in the Liverpool squad, and I endeavour to find out for a future article.

What’s truly remarkable is their combined level of creativity as a partnership. Consider the following: the duo creates a goalscoring opportunity every 5.2 passes on average, with 26.1% of the chances being converted.

Stoke-v-Liverpool-Luis-Suarez-of-Liverpool-ce_3065561Liverpool, the league’s second most creative team at the time of writing, create a chance every 9.9 final third passes, with 13.4% of these finding the back of the net. The strike duo are essentially twice as efficient as the team as a whole.

When you consider that on average, just 8.5% of chances in the Premier League are converted, you can see that the Sturridge and Suárez partnership are operating at a very high level indeed.

It’s little surprise that they’re so effective in this regard, when you realise that they create a chance in the centre of the box every eighty-one minutes. There are six teams in the league (all of whom are in the bottom half) who are less than twice as creative as that in that area, and that’s using eleven players instead of two!

Even if you discount their goalkeeper and defence, as most teams play with a midfield and attack composed of six players, they have thirty different pass combinations who can create chances in the centre of the box, yet some teams can’t double the contribution that Liverpool get from Sturridge and Suárez alone (albeit the rest of the Reds’ team have to get the ball to one of them in the first place of course).

As with all statistical analyses, further (sadly unavailable) information for context would be hugely beneficial. I don’t know how many times one of the pair should have passed to the other but did not, for instance, and I considered factoring in how many other shots they had, but there’s no way to know (without watching every match again) if the other player was available for a pass instead.

So few teams play with a pair of top strikers that it’s nigh on impossible to compare them to any other strike pairing either. But it is clear from these figures that Suárez and Sturridge are a formidable attacking duo, and one which will surely fire Liverpool to numerous victories in the months and years ahead.

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