I’m back and as nerdy as ever baby! I took a brief leave of absence but haven’t stopped watching the boys and my goodness, have they been absolutely amazing. One key thing I didn’t get to talk about that I definitely want to discuss now is the new and rising superstar, Luis Diaz.
Liverpool’s recruiting department has been one of the best in the world and the production line has just continued. Luis Diaz came to Liverpool this winter for 45mm euros. Since he has come in, he has absolutely hit the ground running. To be clear, most of the data I’m going to look at is from a very small sample size. While looking at his career at Porto is beneficial, we know that it won’t relate exactly to the premier league. So I fully understand that what we are doing is extrapolating from a small sample size – something data folks should never do. But he’s been so good that I felt it was worth looking under the hood to see what is happening, what he brings to the table, and how he is making Liverpool so much better.
Luis Diaz and His EPL Impact
Since joining LFC, in the league, he has played in 10 games and started 8 of them. A forward is brought in to score and assist. In that time, he has 3 goals and 2 assists which means he is getting a goal or assist every other game. While that’s not a Mohamed Salah-type return, that’s an excellent return for someone who is brand new.
It’s only been 7.9 90s but in that limited time, he’s averaging 0.44 xG per 90 and 0.19 xA per 90. This means in a very short period of time, he’s already averaging 0.64 xGA per 90 and fit completely into this front 3. For comparison purposes, Salah is in a class by himself with 1.05. That means on average, if Salah plays a full 90 minutes, Liverpool will score 1 goal just via a Salah goal or a Salah assist. So he’s just different. But Sadio Mane is at 0.69xGA per 90, Diogo Jota is 0.87 xGA per 90 and Roberto Firmino is 0.68 xGA per 90. So in this short period of time, with very little time to gel with the team, he’s slotted right in as a highly effective forward within the very fluid front three.
So we can see that he is scoring. But where he absolutely excels is in some other areas that are different than what the other guys bring.
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First Let’s Look at Diaz’s Passing
One place where he excels is at shot-creating attempts. A shot-creating attempt (SCA) is defined as the two offensive actions directly leading to a shot, such as passes, dribbles, and drawing fouls. In this, Diaz is already among the best around. For every 90 minutes he plays, he’s averaging 4.71 shot-creating attempts. For comparison, Salah is averaging 4.33, Mane is averaging 2.97. LFC’s primary playmakers in this current system are Trent Alexander Arnold and Andy Robertson. Trent averages 4.77 and Robbo averages 3.40. What that means is that Diaz is essentially on the left side creating almost as many shots as Trent creates from the right.
What’s different though is how he creates those shots. Diaz not only has about 3 passes per game that directly lead to shots (leading the team among players with more than 7 90s), but he creates 1 shot a game via dribbling, also leading the team. He averages 0.9 SCA per 90 minutes. Salah of course is next with 0.69 but what that means is on average, Diaz is averaging a bit more quality in his dribbles.
But Can Diaz Dribble?
Speaking of dribbles, this is something that he’s absolutely world-class at. And I don’t use that term lightly when I say world-class but he is. There’s a reason many on Twitter call him “Mr. Out Ball”. Because when things are tough, get it to him, he’ll dribble past guys and at least ease all pressure if not create havoc for the opponent.
In his 8 90’s so far, he is averaging 4.05 dribbles per game. The only player who averages more is Salah at 4.43. This is where Diaz is excelling. We all know Salah is a world-class dribbler. Well, so far, Diaz is better. He’s successful on 62.5% of his dribbles. This is why he’s being called Mr. Out Ball. In the entire premier league so far, among players with 10 appearances or more, the only player with more than 4 dribbles per game doing it more successfully is Adama Traore. And we know that he may be the best dribbler in the world. His game unfortunately is only that but he’s the only guy who is more successful than Diaz in the Premier League so far dribbling the ball. He also averages running past 2.78 players per game – which again would be more than Salah and leading Liverpool.
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Finally, Who is a Good Luis Diaz Comp?
Finally, let me show you something from one of my favorite data sites. They use a large variety of metrics to show who the most similar players are to the player in question during a 365-day period. First, take all bias off. The bias of how much you hate a team, how much he dives, whatever, and try to be neutral. Then look at this list.
It’s a who’s who of superstar players across the globe. Yes, I don’t like Sterling and think he dives. Yes, I can’t stand Mahrez. But put them in neutral colors and watch them on the field and well, Diaz is as good as these guys.
And that’s over the last year.
We are blessed to be living during maybe one of the best runs in Liverpool club history – which is saying something. But on top of that, we are watching maybe the best global recruiting department in the world. And Luis Diaz is yet another player that just popped off the production line and is turning into a superstar.