One of the summer's main talking points was "chances created," a fairly new statistic meant to replace assists. Assists take two to tango, reliant on the goal scorer actually scoring the goal. LiverpoolFC.tv clarifies the stat by renaming it "shot assists," a name I actually prefer, although I'll stick with Opta's nomenclature since I'm using FourFourTwo's StatsZone stats throughout this piece. The official site also has slightly different numbers than StatsZone, crediting Adam with two fewer shot assists than StatsZone credits chances created.
After the summer signings, Liverpool fans couldn't wait to pass around a chart showing Adam, Downing, and Henderson in the Top 10 for chances created in the league last year. Anfield Index featured multiple articles on the stat. Given how Liverpool struggled for goals last season, most notably under Hodgson, adding players who set up goal-scoring opportunities seemed crucial.
Well, Liverpool are creating more chances. They're simply not taking them. And Charlie Adam tops the list of those creating said chances.
After 11 games, Adam's created 26 chances, more than any other in the Liverpool squad. Suarez and Enrique on 20, Downing with 17, and Lucas with 10 are the only other players in double figures. Adam played 35 games last season; currently averaging 2.36 chances created per game, Adam's on pace for 83 chances created this season if he plays the same number of matches. Which is 19 more than his total for Blackpool last season. And with Downing, Suarez, Henderson and (sometimes) Gerrard involved, he's not taking every set play either.
Adam created eight against Swansea, five more than the next closest player (Downing) and the most in any Liverpool match this season. Four came from set plays and four came from open play. There were chips and crosses to Suarez, corners to Agger, and layoffs and throughballs to Downing. Probability more than suggests at least one should have led to an assist and Liverpool winner.
In total, Liverpool have created 137 chances through this season's 11 matches. The side created 121 in Hodgson's first 11 matches and 120 in Dalglish's first 11 matches as "caretaker manager." Liverpool scored 12 goals in Hodgson's first 11 games, 18 in Dalglish's first 11 games, and 14 through this season's 11 games. This season's chances created-per-goal ratio (9.79) is far closer to Hodgson's mark (10.08) than that from Dalglish's first 11 matches (6.67). Again, creation isn't the problem. Conversion is.
Admittedly, Adam has multiple faults. Fitness is usually the first mentioned: how he tends to tire after the hour mark, with skepticism exacerbated by his less-than-ideal physique. He tends towards the spectacular and over-ambitious when Liverpool might be better served by keeping it simple. He's also more than questionable defensively: in positions he takes up, in his frequently rash tackling, in his recovery speed. And, yes, he's seemingly better in a three-man midfield, which Liverpool rarely uses.
All players have faults; it's balancing the good against the bad. As long as the positives outweigh the negatives in the manager's mind.
We can argue whether Liverpool would be better in a different formation, with support from two other "orthodox" central midfielders rather than the 4-2-2-2/4-3-3 half measure that has Henderson often coming inside. Or whether Spearing's a better partner for Lucas in the formation Liverpool's using. Those are questions for management. However hesitant I am (and you should be) to criticize Dalglish's evolutionary team after less than a third of the campaign gone, they're valid debates.
But the main reason Liverpool bought Adam from Blackpool was to create chances. And Charlie Adam creates chances.