The Statistical Development of Lucas

Julian Finney

Liverpool is deep in a reinvention process as Brendan Rodgers ushers the team into a new tactical era. Lucas, a remnant of the Rafa Benitez days, is still around and, rather than becoming obsolete in the new system, has taken his game to a whole new level. Let's look at the numbers.

A key comparison to be made is the production of pre-Rodgers and pre-injury Lucas of 2010/11 (a breakout year for him) with the most recent version of the Brazilian. Did injuries in the 2011/12 season decline his play, change his style, or have little to no effect? And how did Brendan Rodgers change the way Lucas plays? Has Lucas become a better or worse player?

Defending
STAT 2010/11 2012/13
Ground 50/50 Win % 59% 57%
Mins per Ground 50/50 7.33 7.81
Aerial 50/50 Win % 52% 52%
Mins per Aerial 50/50 23.23 21.69
Tackle Success % 64.53% 73.17%
Mins per Tackle 17 16
Mins per Defensive Error 2,857 488

Most of these stats are remarkably similar. Lucas has maintained the same level of aggressiveness in his challenges and is winning 50/50 plays at the same rate as his breakout year. There are two noticeable differences however. Lucas actually became a better tackler this past year, increasing his success by 9%. Increased tackling success is a sure mark of a maturing player because it shows that Lucas is improving his decision making of when to go in for a challenge and when to hold back, and furthermore, it shows that he has improved his timing and technique when he goes for the ball. Tackling skill is vital to a defensive midfielder and it is wonderful to see that Lucas has actually taken a step forward in this department. This past season however, Lucas made four defensive errors while making only one over more playing time back in 2010/11. I'm willing to dismiss this however as he still remained mostly immune to errors compared to the rest of the league. Also, the defensive error stat seems like the type of stat that would undergo natural fluctuation as I imagine its recording is a bit arbitrary.

Passing
STAT 2010/11 2012/13
Open Play Pass (OPP) Completion % 83% 88%
Passes Per Minute 1 1
OPP Forwards % 66% 43%
OPP Backwards % 8% 9%
OPP Left % 5% 23%
OPP Right % 21% 24%
Total Pass Completion % (inc Throws) 82.37% 87.54%

Lucas has improved his passing percentages significantly, and a lot of this can be attributed to the system that Brendan Rodgers has implemented. The Rodgers philosophy has led Lucas to look for more side to side passes instead of playing it directly forward. These side to side passes are easier passes to complete, which has improved his overall passing percentages. I like that Lucas has become more of a horizontal passer because a big weakness of his is in his direct passing. He isn't too creative or incisive which made it so that his forward passes often messed up potential breaks. Now Lucas is getting the ball to the wings more where there are players more suited to cutting through a defense.

Passing Zones
STAT 2010/11 2012/13
Defensive Zone Pass Completion % 87% 91%
Attacking Zone Pass Completion % 79% 84%
Final 3rd Pass Completion % 74% 78%

This is the most convincing evidence of Lucas' development as a player. In every passing zone he upped his passing accuracy by at least 4%. Once again those numbers show an improvement in decision making and overall ability. A side like Liverpool need to maintain possession and control of the game so it is vital to have a defensive midfielder who can accurately distribute the ball.

Overall, Lucas has not only become more valuable but also quite different from the player we'd seen in the past. He has actually dramatically improved from a season that was hailed as his breakout year. The changes that Lucas underwent have two potential causes. The most obvious one is that Brendan Rodgers' new style has forced him to play differently and has highlighted his strengths and covered his weaknesses (direct passing). But another less apparent cause is that the time off allowed him to develop a new mental perspective on the game. This new perspective would account for his bettered decision making and perhaps focus in his tackling and passing.

The next step for Lucas is to become more consistent. While he was excellent on the whole this past year, there were some individual performances where he wasn't good enough. As he furthers himself from his injury haunted past, hopefully consistency will return and we'll have a stud in the center of the park for years to come.

Stats via EPL Index

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