22 August 2011

Midfield Partnerships vs Pairings

A quick note. Instead of the usual Guardian Chalkboards, there are links to the FourFourTwo StatsZone diagrams. Similar utilities, but StatsZone has a couple of features I like better, primarily the way they classify tackles, show passes in the final third, and its ease of use. If you have an iPhone, iPad, etc., I highly recommend it.

Against Sunderland, Lucas and Adam were a pairing. Two players playing in central midfield. Against Arsenal, they were a partnership.

Lucas is the more defensive of the two, but against Arsenal, the Brazilian was able to join the attack more than usual. Adam, the more play-making, sat notably deeper and was far better in the tackle.

Compare where each made tackles against Sunderland and Arsenal: Lucas and Adam. The combination contributed more than half of Liverpool's total successful tackles (13 of 24) on Saturday.

The better understanding allowed Lucas more influence. Adam didn't attempt to dominate proceedings and his partner benefited. Both alternated going forward to better effect – for example, Adam in the run-up to the Henderson chance in the 23rd minute or Lucas's role in Suarez's clinching goal. When one went forward, the other knew to sit, and it wasn't just Adam going forward willy nilly.

After the match, I posted a link to each's passes in the attacking third on Twitter, somewhat surprised that Lucas completed more than his partner. Again, both Lucas and Adam's output was dramatically better than against Sunderland – Lucas, Adam – despite the fact the latter was at home against a bottom-half side and the former was at a ground where Liverpool had never won. Lucas attempted and completed far more, Adam's came further forward and were more dangerous. The Scot only had two unsuccessful passes into the opposition's penalty area a week ago. On Saturday, Adam had three successful and four unsuccessful entering Arsenal's box.

Both Adam's and Lucas' passing wheels (see previous passing wheels for Lucas, Gerrard, and Henderson.) were unsurprising on the whole, typical of each's style.

The Guardian Chalkboards (there's that crutch) for each can be found here. As usual, only open play passes are included in the wheel, so two free kicks from Lucas and three free kicks, two corners, and one throw-in from Adam aren't included.

Each played his own game – Adam's passes were usually more ambitious, even sideways and backwards; Lucas had a higher completion percentage (86.0% to 82.3%) and looked for shorting, knitting passes. But countering some of the presumed beliefs, Lucas played fewer backward and had more going directly forward. In fact, the Brazilian's only unsuccessful passes came in the first quadrant.

You'd expect the two to better harmonize in their second game together. It takes time to make a central midfield partnership work; even Alonso and Mascherano took half a season to fully integrate. But Lucas and Adam's progression from a draw with Sunderland to a win at Arsenal was impressive, and bodes very well for the future, regardless of the opposition's current crises.

1 comment :

ricky said...

nice article how did you do the passing wheel I've never seen that before.