Lethal player combinations in the Premier League
Thierry Henry & Dennis Bergkamp, Cristiano Ronaldo & Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer & Chris Sutton. These are all legendary player combinations that have graced the Premier League. In one of our previous blogs we talked about a new module we created, called: Player Pair Contribution Rating. We analyzed the current three best player pairs in the Eredivisie based on the actions they perform together in matches. In this blog we are taking a look at the current best player pairs from three different Premier League teams, being: Manchester City, Liverpool FC and Norwich City.
The Player Pair Contribution Rating module assesses the combined impact of the actions that two players perform in matches together. The module uses three different metrics:
- Created Contribution player 1: The total contribution per 90 minutes of all actions (passes, crosses, corners, freekicks) from player 1 to player 2
- Created Contribution player 2: The total contribution per 90 minutes of all actions by player 2 following after player 2 received the ball from player 1
- Created Contribution together: The total contribution that these two players created when player 1 played the ball to player 2 (The sum of Created Contribution player 1 and Created Contribution player 2)
We use our module to assess a player pair not solely based on assists, but also based on their ability to put other teammates into the position to score. A player pair contribution of 0.36 means that those two players create approximately 0.36 goals per game (90 minutes). This doesn’t mean that when player 1 passes the ball to player 2, player 2 has to score the goal but he can also pass the ball to another teammate. The video below shows a perfect example of a player pair (in this case Wijnaldum & Mané) getting a high contribution rating for their passes, while their teammate did not score.
Video 1: In this case, the pass from Wijnaldum to Mané got a value of 0.0140 and the pass from Mané to Firmino got a value of 0.1143. This means that they created 0.1283 goals together.
Deadly forces in the Citizens’ attack
Belgian assist king Kevin de Bruyne and record-breaking Argentine Sergio Agüero are currently Manchester City’s best player pair, with a total created contribution of 0.42. With de Bruyne’s sublime passing technique, he always finds a way to put his teammates into the position the score. Sergio Agüero is the current all-time topscorer of the Premier League, and he is capable of scoring amazing goals. As shown in the video, Agüero makes sure he positions himself perfectly in front of the opposing goal while de Bruyne gives an accurate pass splitting through the defense.
Video 2: Deadly forces in the Citizen’s attack. Agüero positions himself in front of the opposing goal and de Bruyne gives an accurate pass splitting through the defense.
Next to fact that de Bruyne and Agüero are currently Manchester City’s best player pair, they are the current best player pair in the entire Premier League as well. Kevin de Bruyne is also the player with the most assists in the Premier League 2019-2020 season this far, with 14 assists. Agüero is the player with the second to most goals this season with 15 goals.
A lethal left flank for Liverpool FC
Andrew Robertson and Sadio Mané form Liverpool’s current best player pair with a total created contribution of 0.24.
A sprinting Robertson along the left flank of the field, a splitting pass towards the opponent’s box or a lay-off pass and a shot with great precision from Mané. It has become a common image within Liverpool’s current playstyle to create attacking danger, and it is one of the reasons for this year’s success. Sadio Mané is this year’s African player of the year, and he is known for his agility and creative dribbles. Utilizing his skills, he makes sure to get behind the last defending line when Robertson passes the ball into the space.
Video 3: A lethal left flank for Liverpool FC. Mané utilizes his skills to get behind the last defending line when Robertson passes the ball into the space.
Norwich City’s attacking formula
Emiliano Buendía and Teemu Pukki form Norwich City’s best player pair with a total created contribution of 0.24. With Buendía’s ability to accurately provide passes over a long distance and Pukki’s agility when he makes a run to get behind the last line, Norwich City has a perfect formula to become dangerous within the attack very rapidly. As shown in the video below, Teemu Pukki positions himself on the same line as the last defenders and he waits for the right time to make a run into the space.
Video 4: Norwich City’s attacking formula. Buendía provides an accurate pass over a long distance and enables Pukki to use his agility in getting behind the last line.
Finding your own lethal player combination
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