I recently took a look at Adam Lallana’s statistics from 2013/14, to see how he might fit into Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool squad. I’ve now taken a look along similar lines at the form of Suso, to see what he might potentially bring to the Reds in 2014/15.
Due to the differing styles and fortunes of Almeria (where Suso has spent the campaign on loan) and Liverpool, it’s important to remember that the comparisons below are far from an exact science.
Whilst the Reds spent the last day of the season having an outside shot at the title, it took until the final day for Almeria to secure their stay in the Spanish top flight for another year.
The Rojiblancos predominantly played a 4-2-3-1 formation (in twenty-seven of their thirty-eight matches), with 19% of their 367 passes per match played long. By comparison, Rodgers’ men favoured a 4-3-3- most often (and that was only on fourteen occasions, illustrating a flexible approach), with just 10% of 547 passes going long.
It’s clear to see from these facts why any comparison will never be like-for-like, and rather than looking at Suso’s raw numbers, I think it’s more relevant to consider where on the pitch he did his work.
We’ll start with a look at how creative the on-loan Red was in Spain. Suso bagged seven assists this season, which for a struggling team is a very healthy return, and only nineteen players in La Liga set up more goals in 2013/14. As usual, here’s a reminder of the zones I use to try to assess the quality of chance created.
Here’s how he compares to his fellow Red men. I’ve left Lallana in there as both he and Suso might end up competing for a space in the Liverpool midfield next season. The figures shown here are for players who notched a minimum of one expected assist (which is calculated by using league average conversion rates for the six chance zones).
A very healthy proportion of the Spaniard’s open play chances were received by team mates in the centre of the box, and his tally of seven CBOs was not much worse than Liverpool’s midfielders (or even Daniel Sturridge), despite playing for an inferior team. He would be unlikely to replicate his set piece creativity at Anfield, with Steven Gerrard being in such fine form, but the figures illustrate that the young man is capable of picking a good pass in the final third.
Suso completed fifty-seven dribbles in La Liga this season, and only Suárez, Sterling and Coutinho from the Liverpool squad completed more. To continue the theme of the Lallana piece, here’s the location of Suso’s successful take-ons, compared to those for the Southampton man and the aforementioned Brazilian. At this point, due to an error with StatsZone, I have only been able to locate fifty-five of Suso’s take-ons.
This table is particularly interesting, as it shows that Suso was successful at going past an opponent as frequently as the other two players, and in better positions to boot. The on-loan Red completed the highest proportion in the penalty area, with the lowest percentage outside the final third. His figure for the central area outside the box is low, but as the chart below illustrates, he started most games in wider attacking areas.
Has Suso’s dribbling ability enabled him to win fouls in dangerous areas? It’s important to remember that referees allow a lot more to go unpunished in England (teams average 10.3 free kicks per game here compared to 13.1 in Spain) so there’s little point paying attention to the raw numbers; rather, let’s consider the locations. As per the Lallana piece, Raheem Sterling is the Liverpool player used for comparative purposes.
All three players won a similar proportion of fouls inside the final third, and Suso was brought down in the box for two penalties, which means he had a direct hand in 28% of Almeria’s forty-three goals this season: three goals himself, seven assists, and two penalties won, both of which were converted.
His one foul suffered in the central area outside the box proved very profitable, as he dusted himself down and lashed in the free kick to score the winner away at Espanyol near the end of the campaign.
Suso’s shooting was one area where he definitely could’ve improved last season though. He failed to score any of his thirteen shots from within the penalty area, putting just five of them on target, and only 34% of his shots in total troubled the opposition goalkeeper. The Spaniard has yet to score for Liverpool in his twenty appearances to date, and he would be unlikely to get many (if any) opportunities to strike from free-kicks when playing for the Reds either.
On the whole I would say it appears that Suso had a productive season on loan in Spain, and his creative and dribbling abilities could well be an asset to the Liverpool squad in 2014/15. Some shooting practice wouldn’t go amiss though…