Saturday, June 1, 2013

Who could fill the void left by Suarez’s imminent departure?

Luis Suarez has announced that he wants to leave England citing the constant media hounding as the reason for his decision. Liverpool has announced that they have not got any official intimation from Suarez or his agent and hence Suarez is not for sale. However, in case Suarez does leave, who would be the person to fill the void left by the Uruguayan?

My choice is the young Brazilian Philippe Coutinho. A lot of you may be surprised, but I am going to try and explain using some statistics (courtesy Squawka) from this season's Premier League   as to why I think this is a good choice.

Chances Created

Coutinho                                                                    Suarez 

Coutinho created 20 chances in 13 appearances i.e. 1.54 chances/appearance while Suarez created 89 chances in 33 apearances i.e. 2.69 chances/appearance. Similarly, if we consider the minutes played by the two players, both Coutinho (923 minutes played) and Suarez (2953 minutes played) create a chance every 46 minutes and 33 minutes they are on the pitch respectively. They also create chances from similar areas- Suarez creates 51.7% of his chances in the middle just outside the box while it is 55% for Coutinho. Suarez created 30.3% of his chances from inside the box compared to Coutinho's paltry 10%, but that was because he was playing as a lone striker for much of the first half of the season.

Goals Scored

Coutinho                                                                    Suarez 

Well, its a no-brainer here. Suarez with 23 Premier League goals  is more of a goal threat and Coutinho with only 3 Premier League goals will have to score more often or the goals will have to come for elsewhere if Coutinho is to play Suarez's role. Although Coutinho has the instinct to score, he doesn't get into the box often enough, and will have to improve in that aspect.

Shot Accuracy

Coutinho                                                                    Suarez 

Suarez attempted a total of 143 shots with an accuracy of 54% while Coutinho attempted 19 shots with an accuracy of 58%. Suarez attempts a shot every 20.35 minutes on the field while Coutinho attempts a shot every 48.57 minutes. With similar accuracy figures, the greater number of shots for Suarez means that he hits the target more often that Coutinho, but both of them have a similar conversion rate- Suarez with 16.1% conversion rate and Coutinho with 15.8%.

Pass Accuracy

Coutinho                                                                    Suarez 

Suarez attempted a total of 1196 passes with an average pass accuracy of 76% while Coutinho attempted 434 passes with a pass accuracy of 74%. If we break down the passes we see that 86% of Suarez passes are general passes while it is 89% for Coutinho. The most important statistic here is that when Coutinho has attempted a through ball, he has found his mark 71.4% of the time as compared to 54.2% for Suarez. Also, even more interestingly, Coutinho attempts a through ball every 65.9 minutes on the pitch while Suarez attempts one every 123.1 minutes, meaning that the Brazilian is more likely to create a chance for his team mates.

Duels Won

Coutinho                                                                    Suarez 

Apart from the headed duels, Coutinho leads Suarez on almost all other parameters. Coutinho has a greater success rate in challenges with 46% than Suarez with 37%, but the combative Uruguayan wins a challenge every 31.1 minutes as compared to the Brazilian's 54.3 minutes. Also, Coutinho commits less fouls than is fouled upon as compared to Suarez.

Defensive Actions

Coutinho                                                                    Suarez 

Suarez has contributed defensively 27 times this season with 18 interceptions, 6 clearances and 3 blocks, which equates to a defensive contribution every 109.4 minutes on the pitch. On the other hand, Coutinho has contributed defensively 23 times this season with 12 interceptions and 11 clearances, which equates to a defensive contribution every 40.1 minutes on the pitch. However, Coutinho made a defensive error which led to an attempt on goal. Suarez's discipline is questionable, and has collected 10 yellow cards compared to Coutinho's 0.

The Verdict

From the stats, it is quite clear that other than the goal scoring aspect and Suarez's ability to get a shot off by making space for himself, Coutinho has the ability to shoulder the burden of the role Suarez plays in the team.  Playing in the role Suarez played will allow Coutinho to play further up the pitch in a more central role where he can make an even greater mark on the outcome of the game. The question now is will Brendan Rodgers entrust the diminutive Brazilian with this responsibility?