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The science of Chance Creation

Andrew Beasley at Basstunedtored uses an innovative approach to value the attacking potential of the current team at Liverpool Football Club.

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In 2014 I hit upon an idea: a creativity combination heatmap that shows which players have linked up to create goalscoring opportunities most often, and how creative players have been overall. This season has just started but here's who has been linking up to create chances for Liverpool so far in 2015/16.

Note by LFChistory: This list will be updated throughout the season and we will revisit this later on. 

Let's take a look at the basic chance combinations for last season in the Premier League and the Champions League.


- Raheem Sterling both created the most chances and had the second most chances created for him. Around one in three of the Reds created chances featured Sterling, as he was involved in 159 of the 481 in total..

- Liverpool had 133 different combinations in their 38 league games in 2013/14; but they had 172 (with the addition of games in the Champions League) in 2014/15. This is surprising in part because the Reds used the same number of players in the league but my assumption is that the absence of Luis Suárez and then Daniel Sturridge lead to the chances being shared round more than they were when Liverpool finished second.

- The top two combinations involved Sterling and Coutinho with thirty-seven chances created as a duo. Although Sturridge didn’t play in many of these games, Sterling to Sturridge (with ten chances created) was still one of the most potent combos.


The main chance creators

Something else I devised 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 the odds on each particular chance to be converted.

Using this information I am able to see which chance creation combinations have created the most expected assists and also which players have created chances with the highest average quality (or in other words, closest proximity to goal). The Average Chance Quality score runs from zero to ten, with zero meaning that all of the chances were outside the final third, and ten being all of them in the centre of the box in open play. Included are games in the Premier League and the Champions League.


The Henderson to Sterling combination was the most valuable in the 2014/15 season, with Sterling to Coutinho not far behind. The stats certainly suggest that Sterling will be missed, following his big money move to Manchester City. 

I also compiled big chance combination information too. 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.


‘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 thirty-two big chances that Liverpool created directly, the Henderson and Sterling combination lead the way as they created six, and Sterling was involved in the most in total (eighteen). It’s interesting that Coutinho to Sturridge was one of the best combinations, as they barely played together.

The final thing I monitored here was assists. As this info was available for cup games too, the below contains the figures for all competitions in 2014/15:


This obviously has some correlation with the big chance figures, as for instance some of Henderson’s assists came when he has created such opportunities for Sterling, Lallana, Moreno, Gerrard and Borini. It’s also interesting to note that the Henderson and Sterling combination had nine assists, which is just one short of the ten that the much-vaunted Suárez and Sturridge duo bagged in 2013/14.

Here in comparison are stats from the 2013/14 campaign.


You can see the table change after each game.


This is the final image from the automated gif above and shows the totals for 2013/14.

So what can we see here?

- Liverpool had 133 different combinations in 2013/14.
- Suárez to Coutinho, with 23, is the top combination, and the duo have the best two-way total too, with 42.
- Although Suárez created the most chances (86) he only made opportunities for 14 different players; Coutinho and Gerrard have assisted shots for 17 different colleagues.
- However, Suárez’ 121 chances have been created for him by 15 different team-mates, which is the most of anyone in the squad.
- Lucas Leiva has created twelve chances and been set up for six himself. Eleven of the total of eighteen have been to or from Coutinho: the Brazilian connection!
 
Copyright - Andrew Beasley - first published at Basstunedtored.com
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