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…
Firstly, as the Reds are competing in the Champions League, we will have extra games to take account of. The gif below is correct up-to-and-including Liverpool’s away match against Basle, and will be updated after every match wherever possible.
You hear a lot about whether or not teams need to gel when players come and go between seasons, and the above suggests that in Liverpool’s case, they definitely need to gel at the moment.
In last season’s heatmap, the top five combinations all featured Luis Suárez; no surprise there. But the next most frequent link up was Sterling to Sturridge (with fifteen), and we can see here that this has been the top combination for Liverpool so far this season (with six already), even though the injury-prone England striker has only played in three of the eight games so far. This certainly suggests that the Reds’ struggles with creativity may lessen once Sturridge returns. It’s worth noting that Balotelli has already been set up for chances by twelve of his colleagues though, so he clearly appears to be linking up pretty well with his new teammates.
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). You will need to click on the image to get a better look at it.
At the time of writing, the most valuable combination has been Henderson to Sterling; more evidence that it’s Liverpool’s players from last season who are having the biggest say creatively in this campaign too. Jordan Henderson also currently leads the way on total expected assists too.
I will also be compiling 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”. This won’t be a gif as there is little development from game-to-game. Here are the figures to date.
‘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 eight big chances that Liverpool have created directly, Henderson leads the way as he has created three, and Sterling has been involved in the most overall with four.
The final thing I will monitor here is assists; again there is not a gif as there are rarely very many. Sadly for Liverpool, that’s definitely the case so far in 2014/15.
Just four of Liverpool’s ten goals in the league and in Europe so far this season have been assisted. For the record, the other six consist of two penalties, one free-kick, one own-goal, Sterling’s goal at West Ham (where he seized upon a blocked Balotelli shot) and Moreno’s fabulous goal at Spurs, where he robbed the ball from Andros Townsend.
I will update these as the season goes along… watch this space!