The Big Three’s Big Chances

The title of this article is not my attempt to reposition Liverpool as part of a three-team elite alongside the financially doped blue titans of Manchester City and Chelsea; rather, I have decided to follow up my recent piece on Liverpool’s record with big chances with a look at the tallies for their title rivals.

As they both still have to visit Anfield this season, I was very interested to check out their form with regards to top quality goalscoring opportunities.

An obvious place to start is the total number of big chances that the three teams have created in attack, and allowed in defence. This simple graph can tell us quite a bit about how the teams set out their stalls.

Big 3 CCC FADWe can see that whilst Chelsea appear to value defensive solidity at the cost of being less creative themselves, the other teams focus more upon out-gunning their opponents.

From a Liverpool perspective, it’s very encouraging to see that the Reds have the best big chance difference of the three teams. But these figures just illustrate the totals for the season; which club is in the best form, big chance-wise?

This graph shows how the teams’ big chance ratio has progressed over the 2013/14 season. To calculate the ratio, we divide a team’s attacking big chances, by the total of big chances (so for and against) that have occurred in their games.

Big 3 CCC TrendThis chart also makes for positive reading from a Liverpool point of view. Whilst Manchester City have had 66% of the big chances in their matches, and Chelsea 67%, Liverpool have been above that level for the last thirteen games and counting, and in total have had 73%. Another sizeable tick for Brendan Rodgers and co.

From a blue perspective, whilst Chelsea have levelled off recently, City have at least improved over the last thirteen games or so, from 60% to 66%, so they perhaps have the edge in terms of form.

Let’s take a look at how many chances have been scored, saved and put off target by each team at both ends of the pitch, starting with league leaders Liverpool.

LFC CCCWe can see two very important things here. Liverpool have scored more chances than they’ve allowed in total, and also that the conversion percentage at each end of the pitch favours them too. How about Chelsea?

CFC CCCIt’s a very similar story to Liverpool, albeit the conversion percentages are even more in Chelsea’s favour. Finally, let’s take a look at Manchester City’s charts.

MCFC CCCThe obvious thing to notice is that City have only converted 50% of their clear-cut opportunities, but we can compare all of the percentages more easily in this table.

Big 3 CCC PercentagesPerhaps the most interesting thing for me here is that the proportion of big chances that are saved is consistent across all three teams both for and against. However, that’s as proportion of the total, not in terms of saving the big chances that are put on target.

I noted in my Liverpool-specific piece that Simon Mignolet hadn’t saved a big chance for a long time, so how is his record at saving them compared to these teams and their opponents?

CCC Save Percentages Liverpool’s Belgian goalkeeper has saved a lower proportion of big chances than Petr Cech, and the combined efforts of Joe Hart and Costel Pantilimon, though he has at least very slightly out-performed the overall average of 31.95%.

With the two remaining games between these three teams both taking place at Anfield, I thought it would be good to finish with a look at how many big chances Liverpool create and allow at home, compared to the Blue teams’ form on the road.

Big 3 CCC AnfieldWhilst past form often counts for little in a one-off game, the above figures clearly demonstrate that Liverpool are perhaps likely to create more big chances than they allow in the forthcoming titanic encounters at Anfield. I think if they can repeat these figures then the Reds stand a decent chance of overcoming both of the billion pound Blues.

Update 2nd April:

After posting this piece on reddit, I received a very interesting piece of feedback. Sink257 suggested I make of graph of the big chance data when the teams have faced other members of the top seven. It turns out it makes for fascinating reading.

CCC Top 7Remarkably, Liverpool have created more big chances and given away fewer against the better teams than against the league’s lesser lights.

I have two theories as to why this is; one for attack and one for defence:

  1. Attack – Whereas the smaller teams will defend and defend deeply, the bigger boys are more willing to open up in pursuit of victory. This allows Liverpool more space in which to run and counter attack, which is right up their street.
  2. Defence – The better teams tend to be less reliant upon set pieces and crosses to try to create chances, and this is where the Reds have struggled defensively this season. This could be why the bottom dwellers have created more big chances against Brendan Rodgers’ team.

Yet again though, the main thing to note is that Liverpool appear to be the best team with regards to big chances, whichever way you slice the data.

Please check out my other articles, and follow me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Scroll down to see the related posts for this article. Thanks.

6 thoughts on “The Big Three’s Big Chances

  1. Hey Andrew

    What is really striking to me is looking at Liverpool’s overall big chance number and comparing them with their home big chance numbers. Are you sure that you didn’t make a mistake here because those numbers look identical.

    • Well spotted!

      It might seem hard to believe, but Liverpool have had 47 big chances in 16 home games, and 48 chances in 16 away games!

      It’s virtually identical, hence why there’s basically no difference between the home and total tallies.

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