HomeOTHEREPL Index Statistical ComparisonsDoes Andy Carroll fit the Brendan Rodgers philosophy?

Does Andy Carroll fit the Brendan Rodgers philosophy?

Since Brendan Rodgers took over at Liverpool, there’s been a lot of speculation about Andy Carroll’s future, with Rodgers himself saying he’d have to “look at” the possibility of loaning out the striker.

Could Andy Carroll fit into the Rodgers style? Swansea’s passing game last season was well documented, so that’s where I started – with a comparison of passing quantity and quality for Liverpool’s and Swansea’s 2011/2012 line-ups. We’re interested in how Carroll might fit in, when set against the types of players that Rodgers assembled at Swansea.

A quick note on data here; I’ve filtered out players who played less than 500 minutes across the season and where a statistic is a quantity rather than a percentage (e.g. number of passes), then I’ve converted it into number per minute played. This deals with players having differing amounts of time on the pitch across a season and makes them comparable.

First up, number of passes played per minute (vertical axis) vs. passing accuracy (horizontal axis). Liverpool players in red and Swansea in blue.

Stats Comparison - Andy Carroll
Liverpool Vs Swansea: Passes per minute by Passing Accuracy - Click to enlarge

It’s immediately obvious that Carroll (bottom left hand corner of the chart) plays fewer passes per minute on the pitch and is less accurate with those passes than the majority of Swansea’s 2011/2012 team. Or for that matter, compared to his Liverpool team mates. The hypothesis that Rodgers favours a passing game also looks valid, with a cluster of Swansea players appearing in the top-right corner.

We can discount the two goalkeepers’ passing stats for this analysis, but Twitter provided some immediate and very interesting feed-back on other players who appear in the bottom-left of that first chart. On a purely passing analysis, Carroll looks potentially better than Swansea’s Danny Graham, who played under Rodgers, with Carroll playing more passes (0.35/min vs. 0.21/min) but being less accurate (64% vs. 77% accuracy). Maybe he could fit in a Rodgers team after all?

For me, it depends on how you view the Rodgers philosophy. A passing system could be looked at as favouring quality over quantity and in a “don’t give the ball away” approach, more passes and less accuracy would count significantly against a player. Carroll, on average, misplaced eleven passes per game, while Graham misplaced four.

By that measure, the players look much less similar and Carroll gives the ball away nearly three times as often as Graham.

Another point which jumped out from the first chart was that measured solely on passing accuracy and quantity, Suarez doesn’t look particularly good either, with only 75% pass accuracy and 0.42 passes per minute. If Carroll doesn’t fit, then maybe the same is true for Suarez?

It’s time to step outside passing stats and have a look at what else these players might add to a team. I’ve left passing accuracy on the horizontal axis, but now we have chances created per minute on the vertical and the size of the circles is shots on target per minute.

Stats Comparison - Andy Carroll
Liverpool Vs Swansea: Chances created per minute by Passing Accuracy - Click to enlarge

Suddenly, Suarez jumps to the top, with 0.023 chances created per minute and 0.019 shots on target. He’s less accurate with his passing than any player in Swansea’s 2011/2012 team (with the exception of Vorm, the goalkeeper), but valuable in terms of creating goal scoring chances.

Carroll also looks better in this second analysis and he created more chances per minute than any player who was under Rodgers at Swansea last season. As a side note, a few Twitter comments on the original passing analysis picked up that Jay Spearing scored well for passing, but he falls away badly here.

The question which Rodgers must be wrestling with, is how much he is willing to compromise a passing philosophy to generate more goal scoring chances, if at all? Carroll can undoubtedly do damage and create chances, but he will also give the ball away. He might well be an effective player, but is he an effective player of the type that Brendan Rodgers likes?  This analysis and some of the manager’s early comments, would suggest not.

To an extent – although  it’s possibly an unexpected result – Suarez presents the same problem (Editors note: Surely Suarez’s amount of shots and creativity show his value to the side?). He’s certainly a better player than Carroll, but his passing accuracy still falls short of the level set by Rodgers’ Swansea. Long term, are those goal scoring chances going to be worth the compromise?

All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.

Statistical analyst and econometrician, working for a large marketing agency. Football stats are much more interesting.
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