The answer to the title of this article will probably make or break Liverpool’s season, and therefore determine if Brendan Rodgers can continue to remain in charge at Anfield. I’ve taken a look at the clear-cut chance stats to see what they suggest.
Opta define clear-cut chances (which are also known as ‘big’ chances) as “A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range”. It’s not an entirely popular stat, as there’s definite subjectivity involved, but equally it gives an indication of how many top quality chances a team has, rather than simply looking at shots or chances created (for instance), which include any old effort at goal.
Before we look at which players have been most involved in clear-cut chances, here is how Liverpool have fared both with and without Sturridge since the start of last season. I decided not to look back any further than that so that the impact of Suárez (who made these high quality chances happen for fun) would not make a difference.
We can see that the Reds have had clear-cut chances considerably more frequently when Sturridge has been on the pitch. It’s interesting that the ‘without Sturridge’ rate is very similar for last season (when it was one big chance every 82 minutes) and so far in this campaign (one every 90 minutes).
I thought it’d be interesting to see how many of the fifteen chances Sturridge was involved in directly himself, and the answer is eight. He created three (with one each for Sterling, Lallana, and Lambert), and was set up for four; it won’t surprise you to learn that Coutinho was responsible for three of these (making it Liverpool’s second top creator-shooter big chance combination in this period), with Sterling creating the other.
The fact that Sturridge created three clear-cut chances is worth a further note here. It may not be that many, but only three Liverpool players created more last season, and two of those (Sterling and Coutinho) only created three excluding those that they laid on for Sturridge himself.
The former Chelsea man created the Reds’ only big chances at Manchester City (which Lambert should’ve scored, but did result in the own goal) and at home to Manchester United (which Lallana REALLY should have buried), plus he also set up one of Liverpool’s two clear-cut chances at Swansea. The recipient of the other that night? Daniel Sturridge.
On top of this, Sturridge was fouled for a penalty against Tottenham at Anfield, and spot-kicks are obviously the biggest and most clear-cut of any chances. I don’t have penalty win info for all players unfortunately, but here’s a look at how current Liverpool players have fared in terms of frequency of creating or shooting big chances for the club in the last year.
We shouldn’t read too much into these figures, as there is a wide range of sample sizes of both time on the pitch and number of chances involved in. But on the face of it, here are some things that interested me…
- Sturridge is clearly the top man (assuming we exclude Ings who has barely played yet), and if we were to include his penalty win against Spurs then he’d be up to virtually one every ninety minutes on average.
- I was initially surprised to see that Lallana was involved almost twice as often as Coutinho was, though as he scored or assisted more frequently than the Brazilian last season, these figures shouldn’t be too much of a shock.
- Benteke has made an encouraging start; he has already equalled the big chance involvement of Lambert and Borini last season, and is only two behind Mario Balotelli. It’s also interesting that all three of his clear-cut chances have come from crosses… (read more on Benteke and crosses here).
It’s no surprise that Sturridge has made the difference over the last year or so; without him, Liverpool’s other strikers have not had the pace, movement and finishing ability that he brings which stretches and frightens opposition defences. In truth, it would’ve been nice if most of Liverpool’s recent strikers had one of those attributes, never mind three.
Sturridge appears to bring the best out of Coutinho, and Benteke has had a very encouraging start in clear-cut chance terms. Get those three fit and in the team, and Rodgers might just save his job yet. I’m signing off for a couple of weeks now, let’s hope there’s more positive things to write about when I next post!