James Maddison has been singled out by many as a long term Mesut Ozil replacement.
The Leicester City midfielder has had a good first season in the Premier League and is clearly a talent.
I first noticed him when playing for Coventry. I remember the commentary during a game that he had an unusual method in taking penalties and free kicks – striking the ball with the back of the inside of his foot to generate more power.
He then joined Norwich before signing for Leicester City in the summer of 2018 for around £20million.
Just 22-years-old, Maddison has a bright future in both the Premier League and for England. However a replacement for Mesut Ozil he is not.
A lot of people have jumped all over the “chances created” statistic to highlight that he would make an ideal replacement for Ozil as Arsenal’s creator in chief. The problem is “chances created” is flawed.
Back in 2011 Liverpool had a team that was struggling to create chances and score goals. The season before they scored just 59 goals. They went out into the market and recruited midfielder who, in 2010/11, had created a lot of chances. This led them to sign Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing.
On paper it looked a smart decision. They were adding 3 different style of players who all create a high number of chances. What they ignored, however, was that all 3 of those players were corner takers.
The problem with “chances created” as a raw statistic is it includes chances created from corners and free kicks. This means that a player who takes a corner has more of a chance of creating a chance than a player who does not.
Corner taken, header over the bar, “chance created.”
The problem Liverpool faced was that they have signed 3 corner takers, yet Steven Gerrard took all the corners. This resulted in no more chances created from open play and their goals scored dropped to just 47.
Whilst statistics are important, it is even more important that they are analysed correctly. By looking at chances created, Liverpool spent a lot of money on corner takers and it backfired.
Likewise this summer if you Arsenal were looking at a goal scoring midfielder to replace Aaron Ramsey, the dimpliest way to do it would be to just search “goals scored by midfielders.”
Coming out top is Paul Pogba with 13 Premier League goals from midfield. In second is Luka Milivojevic of Crystal Palace with 12. On paper, both would look like good options as goal scoring midfielders.
Yet 7 of Pogba’s 13 Premier League goals came from the penalty spot. And 10 of Milivojevic’s were penalties.
The less educated with think “Pogba has had a brilliant goal scoring season” yet he has scored the same amount of goals from open play in the league as Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Milivojevic would clearly not be a goal scoring midfielder if it was not for penalties.
So let’s go back to James Maddison.
He has created 100 chances in the Premier League this season, but he has taken 163 corners – the Premier League leader. Compare this to Mesut Ozil who has taken just 38 corners.
After corners, the second easiest way to “stat pad” the chances created statistic is through crosses.
Like with a corner, you swing in enough crosses over the course of the season, your chances create will go up.
Swing in corner + header off target = chance created.
James Maddison is 5th when it comes to “attempted crosses” in the Premier League with 205.
So he has taken 163 corners and crossed the ball 205 times. Those two put together give him 100 chances created.
Mesut Ozil does not take corners and rarely crosses the ball – just 42 crosses this season.
Combining the statistics; Maddison has swung 368 balls into the box from corners and crosses. Ozil just 80 balls slung into the box.
The types of chances both create are very different.
Maddison’s are very basic. Balls into the box giving a striker a headed chance – and a low chance of scoring. Ozil’s are more complex. Inch perfect passes from open play that lead to a better chance for a striker to score.
The way Arsenal play, the midfielders job is not to put crosses in. That is the job of the full backs. Were Maddison to join Arsenal, he would find that route to chances create dry up as he has to adapt to a different style of play.
Whilst in Maddison Arsenal would be recruiting a good corner taker, it is not taking corners that Arsenal would need to replace in Mesut Ozil. It is chances created from open play.
In summary, Maddison creates a lot of chances from corners or from out wide. What we need when looking for an Ozil replacement is someone who creates chances from the middle of the park.