Part 1 of this piece focused on Charlie’s defending statistics for Liverpool. The formation that has been employed for much of the season so far has been a 4-4-2. In its typical sense, there is a strong requirement for two dynamic midfielders who are capable enough to attack and defend. Being box to box players also requires very good fitness and the ability to move around all game.
However, the 4-4-2 formation isn’t always implemented as described above. (There isn’t always a necessity to do so) As a result, the biggest variation of such a formation could essentially entail a hybrid formation of 4-1-3-2. In that situation a single defensive midfielder sits back while his central partner moves forward to attack.
Liverpool’s 4-4-2, with the defensive statistics analyzed in the previous part would suggest they implement the hybrid formation to an extent. (Lucas doesn’t venture forward in the typical fashion of a natural central midfielder.)
Before any analysis takes place, the following statistics should be looked at:
In the process of analyzing Liverpool’s midfield pairing, the clear fact is that Lucas is their midfield anchor. As seen in the heat maps in part 1, he stays within his own half for the most part. Additionally, his total passes are higher than that of Charlie Adam. In the 7 games that have been played, Charlie Adam has managed a total of 352 passes while Lucas has managed 403. In reality however, had Adam stayed on for the Tottenham game, the stats wouldn’t differ very much. Looking entirely at the stats though, Adam has only managed 72% pass completion. In comparison, Lucas has achieved 83.6% pass completion. Similarly, Adam’s open-play pass completion at 78% is out-shined by Lucas’ 84%.
Considering their respective duties within the formation implemented by the team, the stats can be explained. The following passing diagram from the Stoke game highlights some of the differences.
The first thing to note is that these diagrams include throw-ins and corners. However, it isn’t hard to distinguish where the corners/throw-ins take place in comparison to open play passes.
Lucas’ game involves holding onto possession and making short passes to keep the ball moving. He implements the pass and move philosophy well. However, his creativity when passing can be questioned. Adam’s diagram suggests a variety of passes within his game. They range from short 1-2s, mid-range passes & long passes to Liverpool’s attacking line. It’s safe to say his strength in this area is his versatility to play the pass and move game as well as take on an Alonso-like role and spray passes be it in the air or on the ground. With the latter, there is always a risk regarding the completion of the pass. As a result, his passing statistics are lower than those of his counterpart.
Moving on further to his passing directions, one might make note of the backward passes which measure at 11% while Lucas measures in at 9%. Once again, it can be explained. If both the midfielders played similar roles on the field direct comparisons could be made and easy conclusions could be drawn. That isn’t the case with Liverpool’s midfield though. With Charlie Adam moving forward as much as he does, he is bound to run into defenders more so than Lucas. Furthermore, Liverpool only plays two central midfielders and as a result, Adam’s presence in those forward positions is explained. Under Rafa, Liverpool implemented a 4-2-3-1 formation where Gerrard, for example, played in the hole. Under their current formation, there isn’t a set player to fill in that attacking midfielder position. In my opinion, formed through the observation of games and statistics, the attacking midfielder/creator duties are shared primarily among Adam and Suarez. (The likes of Kuyt and Downing to drift inside as well)
Ultimately, the above is meant to bring to light why some of Adam’s stats are a little lacklustre. Another interesting statistic is that both Lucas and Charlie Adam have 25% of their passes going right. The direction is just that, the direction. It doesn’t indicate which side of the pitch they typically play the ball to. However, in Lucas’ case, the above heat map gives an indication of his passing reach. He very rarely experiments or tries to reach the other side of the pitch. All this just goes to show who the creative force is within Liverpool’s midfield.
One of Adam’s most-talked about playing characteristic has been his crossing ability. For those of us who do watch him play regularly, there isn’t a doubt in his ability to deliver the ball well. The receiving player and the defender marking him play a role in the completion of the cross as well. So if a cross is deemed unsuccessful, it wouldn’t always be down to the inability of the player crossing. (I know it sounds like I’m creating an excuse for him before I’ve even discussed the stats.) With that said though, his statistics aren’t very bad. We can’t compare him to Lucas who doesn’t venture forward as much and never takes corners. With a total of 38 crosses, Charlie Adam has achieved a success rate of 29%. On the scale of 100% it sounds low, but in relative terms, it is a decent statistic. Ashley Young, for example, has attempted 48 crosses with a success rate of 17%. There are players who ultimately perform better at this statistic and it is a slight let down. With that said though, he has two assists from his set play delivery.
Charlie has created a total of 11 chances in 7 games including assists. Lucas, in comparison has created 7 chances and has no assists. This further solidifies Adam’s role as the creative central midfielder in the Liverpool line-up. The final statistic cannot be used as much of a comparison as Lucas sits back more than Charlie Adam. Adam has a total of 11 shots with an accuracy of 36%. Lucas has 3 shots, all of which have been off target. Adam has also scored a single goal which puts his conversion rate at 9%.
Adam’s shots could use some practice though. Lampard for example, has only 8 shots with 63% accuracy and a 50% conversion rate. Lampard seemingly plays a similar role as that of Adam.
Wrapping it up
Digging deeper into Adam’s performances and stats has been interesting. I doubt anyone who looks into it would be very surprised by some of the stats though. Charlie Adam isn’t the type of world class player where a team can be formed around him. He is not a Gerrard. With that said though, there is some definite room for improvement. With some refinement and discipline, I believe he could be a lot better for us.
His defensive game is just not up to par. Even though he isn’t the defensive anchor in midfield, supporters who watch the games will notice he tends to move around a little lethargically and isn’t great in terms of tackling. Furthermore, he just doesn’t have the composure of a top player. He can lose possession easily and doesn’t work hard enough to regain it. (Late challenges, etc.)
In terms of his attacking game, he is a lot better. Seeing how his duties probably revolve around Liverpool’s forward play, it makes sense then. His versatility to pass the ball is great. He does lack some consistency in this area. However, a lot of the team is new and young, thus requiring time to gel. He creates chances and can dribble past players.
I do believe the formation implemented doesn’t work well to bring out his strengths though. Most notably, the central attacking midfielder/ the hole position. Charlie Adam tends to play there a good amount, though the likes of Downing, Kuyt and Henderson do drift in a good amount as well. Adam has freedom when he moves forward, but I feel he doesn’t fit extremely well into that kind of a role. I honestly believe if he were to be implemented in an Alonso-type role in a 4-2-3-1 position, we could see the best of him.
What I’m ultimately saying is this: neither Lucas, nor Adam slot in well into a 4-4-2 formation. Lucas, since his arrival has been developed into a defensive midfielder with a lot of discipline and positional sense. Adam, if sat back, could do well in controlling the game and supporting Gerrard (or any other CAM) in the hole. His main strength is his passing versatility. He has good vision and creativity and with a little more support from a central position has the ability to link Liverpool’s midfield well with their attack.
As mentioned in part 1 on and on again, central midfielders in a 4-4-2 formation (be it the basic or a hybrid implementation), need to be dynamic. They need to be able to adjust to each other’s position on the field. That means they have to be all-rounders. Both parts of this analysis have highlighted how Lucas and Charlie Adam don’t possess all the qualities to make this work then.
To end, I will say this. Charlie Adam has had a decent start with Liverpool. It’s hard for supporters not to make comparisons to Steven Gerrard or Xabi Alonso. As such, it is understandable if many of them are rather underwhelmed with him thus far. However, I have faith in Kenny to bring out the best in everyone. Football has seemingly gone down this path of instant gratification be it player performances or managerial results. He needs time to settle in, as do the players around him. In the course of a year and a half, Liverpool has gone from Rafa’s playing style, to Hodgson’s and now to Kenny’s. Additionally, they have brought in a number of players with varying extents of experience.
As is the case with many of Liverpool’s new players, supporters need to give them time to develop and settle.