His manager described him as ‘extraordinary’. The EPL Index this week called him ‘phenomenal’. And Everton fans have labelled him their player of the season – year after year after year. DAVID PRENTICE looks at the stats behind the star
ONLY two Premier League players have created more than 18 chances in the opening six weeks of the 2012/13 season.
One is, perhaps predictably, a Spanish winger who plays for a free-flowing, attack-minded Arsenal team – the extravagantly gifted Santi Cazorla.
The other is an Everton full-back.
Leighton Baines enjoyed outstanding 2010/11 and 2011/12 campaigns, but his performances so far this term are putting even those stellar displays in the shade.
Whatever categories you look at, Baines is one of the Premier League’s most valuable players.
The Blues defender actually heads the league’s ‘chances created’ charts, his 28 opportunities four more than Cazorla. And according to WhoScored.com, Baines is actually second across all the major European leagues, behind Wesley Sneijder of Inter Milan.
But it is not just bombing on and raining crosses in which confirms Leighton Baines’ value to Everton and England.
His defensive stats are robust.
The England left-back has a perfect 12 out of 12 winning tackles ratio this term.
If Ashley Cole is considered to be the standard bearer for world class left-backs – and regardless of people’s perceptions of Cashley’s personality, few would query his footballing class – Baines doesn’t just compare favourably with the Chelsea defender, he blows him out of the water.
Each player has completed 630 minutes of top flight football this term – and defensively there isn’t much to separate them.
But going forward Baines’ performances are significantly better. Ashley Cole scored his first goal for two years against Stoke City last month, while other missed chances give him a conversion rate of just 17%.
Baines has scored two – one from open play – with a 50% chance conversion rate, and only the width of a goalpost at Wigan Athletic prevented him improving that statistic.
Baines attempts three times as many crosses and while he concedes as few fouls as Cole, he draws in fouls upon himself more than twice as often as Cole.
Baines has been less efficient winning duels, winning 25 out of 46 (54%) of his ground duels and three out of six aerial duels (50%).
But it is not his ability to win a duel that keeps his name in David Moyes’ squad sheet, it is his remarkable contribution with the ball at his feet.
The 27-year-old has completed 271/322 (84%) of all passes and 16/26 long balls. He has made an incredible 66 final-third entries and has sent over 59 crosses, connecting with 41% (24/59).
Baines is highly efficient with the ball in his own end, completing 92/102 passes in the defensive half, and he is also proficient in the final third – completing 110/142 final-third passes.
The England international is clearly a unique player.
He routinely finishes in the Top 10 among all Premier League players in chances created — having finished eighth with 77 in 2009-10, ninth with 74 in 2010-11 and 11th with 67 in 2011-12 — while few other defenders manage to finish within the top 40.
And Baines is not a recent phenomenon.
He has been outperforming the excellent Cole for more than two seasons now.
Both players record impressive statistics in every category.
But over the past two seasons, Baines has been better in almost every division.
And that’s not a sign of Cole’s star on the wane – after all, he is still an integral part of the European champions and the current Premier League leaders, and so far this season has seen only four players make more tackles than him. It’s more a pointer to just how good Everton’s left-back is.
Defensively, Baines won a greater percentage of aerial duels, more tackles and more interceptions.
Of course it could be argued that Baines gets more opportunity to show off his defensive prowess at Everton, but he does so spectacularly.
The most striking revelation is the ‘dribbled past’ category.
Cole was dribbled past 67 times over this two-year stretch, a slightly below average return given figures posted by Patrice Evra (52) and Gael Clichy (48) record.
But the fact that Baines halves Cole’s tally, with a stingy 34, highlights just how sturdy his technique is when matched up one-on-one against the best in the top flight.
He may be renowned for his attacking prowess, but Leighton Baines can defend, too.
Going forward, though, is undoubtedly his forte.
Cole passes more in a team which often dominates possession in matches, but Baines triumphs in every other category, by a considerable margin.
He dribbles more, he crosses more, creates more chances and scores more goals.
And never having fired a tweet or an air-pistol in anger, has never given his manager an ounce of trouble.
Leighton Baines clearly lives up to his description as an ‘extraordinary phenomenon’.
Interceptions (2012/13): 13 for Cole, 12 for Baines
Duels won: 61% Cole, 50.9% Baines
Aerial duels won: 44.4% Cole, 50% Baines
Tackles attempted: 24 (79% won) for Cole, 12 (100% won) for Baines
Clearances: 12 for Cole, 14 for Baines
Blocks: 2 for Cole, 1 for Baines
Passing accuracy (2012/13): Cole 92%, Baines 84%
Passes per 90 minutes: Cole 48, Baines 54.
Crossing overall: 14 crosses attempted by Cole (7% success rate), 46 attempted by Baines (26% success rate)
Chances created: 5 created by Cole with 1 assist, 28 for Baines with 2 assists
Discipline: 5 fouls won and 5 conceded for Cole, 12 fouls won and 5 conceded for Baines
As one of the original founder members of the Football League, Everton are a club steeped in history and tradition and have played more seasons in the top flight of English football than any other club. Their association with the greatest cup competition in the world has thus conjured some wonderful moments, and this offering from Sport Media celebrates a century of memories since their first FA Cup success in 1906. Celebrate a century of memories with 'Everton's FA Cup 100'. Read