When Is A Chance Not Really A Chance (Or Even A Shot)?

This Thursday sees the inaugural Opta Pro Analytics Forum, an event which will see lots of top football analysts meet up to share their work, and I have been fortunate enough to be invited to attend.

As chance would have it, whilst compiling data for my Chance Quality project earlier today, I noticed a curious anomaly that I had not come across before, and a request for clarification on Twitter lead to an eye-opening debate.

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Liverpool FC 2011/12 In Stats: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 20th May 2012. Statistics are for Premier League games only, and were sourced from EPLIndex and WhoScored.

Has there ever been a more confusing season for fans of Liverpool FC than this one? The match statistics have generally been positive, performances mixed, and results all over the place, so every fan you ask has differing views on whether Dalglish deserved to have his contract terminated.

I will be presenting the numbers for different aspects of play, to try to establish who has performed well in which areas, and how the team as a whole performed in 2011/12. I’m sure you will have read quite a few of these stats before, but this is an attempt to flesh out the story of the season through all of the numbers available. To start, some interesting stats about the season as a whole: Continue reading

Is Charlie Adam The Right Man For Liverpool?

The longest running (and therefore dullest) transfer story of the past six months or so has been the likely transfer of Charlie Adam from Blackpool to Liverpool.

But is he the right man for Liverpool?

Liverpool are crying out for a left footed midfielder. The passing statistics for last season (which will be covered in much greater depth in a future post) illustrated that the Reds passed the ball to the right wing significantly more than they did to the left. This lop-sidedness was presumably down to a dearth of options for left midfield.

Charlie Adam (who will be 26 in December) scored 12 goals in the Premier League last season, all with his left foot, so it’s safe to say he fits the bill on that front at least.

I have recently looked at the top chance creators in the Premier League last season (see here for more info), of which Adam is one. As an additional study, I have looked at the top ten players for key passes, and what percentage of their passes this constitutes:

Name             Chances     Passes       Passes Per Chance

Malouda            113           1661                  14.70

Young                 68            1141                   16.78

Brunt                   77            1365                   17.73

Downing              78            1487                   19.06

Davies                 86            1661                    19.31

Henderson          78           1643                    21.06

Barton                 72           1617                      22.46

Silva                    66             1552                   23.52

Adam                  64             1883                    29.42

Modric                64             2001                  31.27

Adam was 9th on the list of chance creators, and maintains that placing for this measure too. Ashley Young is the big mover here, going from 7th in the table of key passes to 2nd here, so it looks like United may have bagged themselves a good deal. See here for a closer look at the merits of Young and Downing.

Of course, with this kind of thing ‘it takes two to tango’. By playing with a lower standard of players, Adam may be on a different wavelength than his colleagues, and so a failed pass may not entirely be his fault.

How does he compare to the top ten chance creators on passing accuracy?

Name              Passes        Pass Completed        % success

Silva                  1552                  1334                      85.95%

Modric             2001                   1717                      85.81%

Malouda           1661                   1305                    78.57%

Henderson      1643                   1279                      77.85%

Downing           1487                  1074                      72.23%

Brunt               1365                    980                       71.79%

Barton             1617                    1128                       69.76%

Adam              1883                     1311                      69.62%

Young             1141                       741                       64.94%

Davies            1661                        915                       55.09%

Again, a fairly lowly placing for the Scotsman, though again, the fact he played with effectively Championship quality players could easily be used to defend him.

The thing that struck me when looking at the above information is that West Bromwich Albion’s Chris Brunt is ahead of him on both charts.

In his Premiership career (across two seasons), Brunt has scored 12 goals, 11 of which were left footed strikes and one header. He would therefore appear to fulfill the ‘left footed midfielder required’ criteria.

He will have played with a similar standard of player as Adam, and yet has out performed him on these two measures.

It’s interesting to note how he also outperformed other Liverpool targets and transfers (such as Henderson and Downing) on the passes per chance ratio.

Turning 27 in December may put him outside FSG’s targeted age bracket, but I would imagine he would be cheaper than Adam, and not a huge expense that requires a decent sell-on value for it to be good business.

Whether or not former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson would want to sell one of his top players to the Anfield club could of course be a major stumbling block.

But if the Adam transfer saga drags on much longer, I think Liverpool could do a lot worse than try for Brunt instead.

Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.