Creating the most chances of any Premier League player this season, much has been made of Leighton Baines’ attacking prowess. Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Swansea highlighted his creative talents with the visitors employing an extra right back in a bid to halt his forays forward. In fairness to Michael Laudrup, the plan worked to an extent with Baines not quite at his best. However, in spite the shackles placed on him, Baines (7) still managed to create more chances than the entire Swansea team (4). Given his performances this season, other managers may begin to adopt the approach used by Swansea, with Everton overly reliant on their left side at present.
Constantly working in tandem with Steven Pienaar, the pair accounted for 11 of the 16 chances created by Everton on Saturday. Between them, the pair have created 126 chances and the remainder of the Everton squad have contributed just 162 chances. Upon closer inspection, the creativity of Baines is astounding with his 76 chances created higher than any player in Ligue 1, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga.
Whilst known for his attacking ability, it is not the only string in Baines’ bow and the Everton man is defensively sound as well. Improving in almost every area within the past few months, there has never been a stronger case for Baines to become England’s first choice left back. At long last, the rest of the football world appears to be realising just how good this former Wigan player is.
This season, Baines is attempting more tackles but the leaky nature of Everton’s defence is sure to be a contributing factor. Attempting a tackle every 44 minutes, up from one every 52 minutes last season, Baines defensive output is increasing. More involved due to the extra pressure on the defence, the most pleasing aspect is the increase in the tackle success rate. Rising from 71.93% to 80%, Baines is tackling with greater accuracy this season.
On the ball, Baines is often dribbling at pace which increases his chances of conceding possession; his attacking full back style is a break from the norm in this division. Despite that, his minutes per loss of possession ratio has dropped from 106 minutes to 104 minutes. Leighton Baines is also winning possession back more often now – now winning the ball back every 21 mins as opposed to every 23 mins.
As the team improves around him, Baines has become more measured in his passing ; the statistics reflect his growing intelligence in possession with a 7% accuracy increase on last season. After comparing the passing zones, the improvement in Baines’ passing is abundantly clear. In his own half, completion rises from 81% to 88% with a 5% rise in the opposing half and an increase from 72% to 78% in the final third.
Playing as a left back, Baines’ primary duty is to defend and that makes his passing statistics all the more impressive. Tied with Steven Pienaar (912), no Everton player has attempted more passes in the opposing half. Attempting 73% of his passes in the opposition half, a figure that some of Everton’s attacking players cannot better, Baines often ends matches with an average position beyond the midfield.
Creativity is the final section and it sets Baines apart from the rest of the Premier League and even the European leagues. Attempting a staggering 205 crosses – no Premier League player can top that figure – Baines’ crossing accuracy has risen from 28% to 32% and only Nicky Shorey (3.1) has completed more accurate crosses per match (3.0). Already equalling last season’s assist tally of 2, only profligate Everton finishing has prevented Baines from surpassing that figure.
Creating 67 chances in the whole of last season, Baines has bypassed that total with 76 chances in 22 matches this season. Well clear of the rest of the league – Steven Gerrard is second on 60 chances – the Everton left back is on track to break the 100 chances barrier with 16 games remaining. Averaging a chance every half in 2011/12, Baines is now creating chances at a rate of one every 26 minutes this season – his rate is exactly 26.05 minutes and it is the best ratio within the Premier League
His 11 clear-cut chances created is also the best in the league with David Silva, Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez all trailing Baines on 10. In keeping with the trend of improvement, the time between clear-cut chances has dropped from one every three games to one every two this season.
Improving in almost every category, Baines is in the form of his life with the left back on course for his best season, statistically. With their left back in such fine form, it is no surprise to see Everton fighting it out in the upper reaches of the Premier League. On the cusp of Champions League form, Baines could be the man to lead Everton past that winning European post.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.