For most, Charlie Adam had his best game in a Liverpool shirt against Chelsea, and so before moving on completely from Sunday's match it only seems right to at the very least acknowledge that. And considering this blog's fondness for statistics—not to mention the role stats play in the approach of Fenway Sports Group and Damien Comolli—an obvious point of interest seems clear: Is there anything obvious in Adam's numbers from the weekend that help to separate Sunday from most of what came before?
A widely held belief is that this summer's new midfield arrivals—Adam, Jordan Henderson, and Stewart Downing—were all chosen with an eye firmly focused on chance creation, but if it's chance creation that speaks to whether Charlie Adam is at the top of his game, then on the weekend he was far from it. In fact, in the twelve league games he's played so far for Liverpool, there have been six matches in which Adam's chances created have totalled one or none. And against Chelsea he had one—the one that Glen Johnson stuck in the back of the net to win Liverpool the match. It was a quality pass, but it hardly reflected the totality of Adam's game.
In fact, when it came to his entire passing game, it doesn't seem a stretch to say that by the numbers Adam actually had a bit of an off day, completing only 73% of his passes from open play. Rather surprisingly, the only time he's had a worse completion rate was against Tottenham—at least until a second yellow card saw him sent off before the end of the first half.
Not only that, but on Sunday he attempted a fairly low number of total passes. It seems a fairly self-evident statistic for a midfielder tasked with creating, but for Adam, the matches in which he makes an impact—for good or ill—tend to be the ones in which he attempts more than fifty passes. Attempting only 48 on Sunday, and then only completing 35 of them, doesn't suggest a player having much of an influence on proceedings. If anything, his passing totals seem closer to early season outings against Bolton and Wolves when he was generally invisible, even if against the former he managed one moment of magic that ended in the back of the Wanderers' net.
Perhaps, then, the biggest difference can be found in defensive statistics—ones that would reflect an increased workrate. And here, perhaps, there is something to be found, as his three successful tackles on four attempts only trails his top performance at Arsenal while only twice has he attempted more challenges on the ground than he did on Sunday. Still, there's nothing to be found anywhere in the numbers that really reflects just how much better Adam seemed to perform on Sunday, leaving one to wonder if in fact the glow of a well-earned victory is covering up that his overall game wasn't quite so good as many remember. Or maybe it's simply a reminder that while statistics remain a useful tool, one that can help illuminate and tell the story, alone they don't necessarily tell the entire story. Probably it's a bit of both.
If you do approach Adam's statistics with an eye to casting a bit of light on the larger story, there are indeed some illuminating—and encouraging—trends. In fact, looking at the season to date there seems a rather stark dividing line, with Wolves on one side and Everton on the other. Following futility and a red card against Tottenham with an entirely invisible display at Wolves both with and without the ball summed up all the worst aspects of Charlie Adam in a painful pair of games, but it also capped an inconsistent beginning that often seemed more bad than good. Outside of a performance at the Emirates that is arguably, when considering all of the numbers, his best statistical showing of the season, he never completed more than 79% of his passes. Meanwhile, four of the six games in which he created a single chance or none at all come from that opening stretch.
On the other side of that divide he's only fallen below 80% in the passing game once, registered 18 of his 25 chances created to date, and had more consistently high tackle totals. It hasn't been a perfect stretch, either going by the numbers or based on just watching the games, with West Bromwich Albion representing a glaring numerical blip and events like his being caught in possession against Norwich leading to the newly promoted side's equalising goal obvious blemishes. Still, for those suggesting Adam has been getting better of late—and despite that there are still many questions that seem far from being fully answered—at least there's a glimmer of hope to be found in the numbers now.