Within the last five to ten years there has been a movement towards attempting to better quantify team performance and player contributions on the soccer pitch that goes beyond goals, assists, and clean sheets. One of the newer statistics is key passes.
A key pass is the final pass that leads to an attempt on goal by a team that does not result in a goal (This avoids passes that count as an assist being counted twice). So, essentially the key pass statistic informs us which players are setting up opportunities for their teammates to take shots.
The key pass statistic does have some limitations. For example, it does not tell us the quality of the shots that are being generated.
A pass that puts a teammate in alone on the keeper that leads to a shot where the teammate scuffs one right at the goalie, and a pass to a teammate who takes a crack from 25 yards out and puts it over the crossbar both count as a key pass. So, the numbers do have to be taken with a grain of salt.
However, key passes do inform us which players are setting up their team’s offense.
For the Bolton Wanderers, there are three players who stand out when looking at Key Passes per 90 minutes (for players who have played in at least 756 minutes, which is 20% of Bolton’s total minutes through Saturday): Andre Mortiz, Chung-Yong Lee, and Chris Eagles.
If one is just looking at the total number of Key Passes generated over the season Chungy and Jay Spearing stand head and shoulders above the rest of the team. This is due largely to the high number of minutes both have played.
Looking at the data, we see a little bit why Moritz has been such an excellent offensive sub on many occasions this season. The man has an eye for the final pass, and setting up chances for his teammates to score. The data also shows that despite his seemingly somewhat up and down nature, that Chungy has been the Whites’ most consistent creator this season.
The South Korean international ranks second in Key Passes per 90 and first in total Key passes.
Another interesting distinction that can be drawn from the data is the apparent creative abilities of players who largely occupy similar spaces on the field. Take a look at Jay Spearing and Medo Kamara, both central midfielders, who are often more thought of for their defensive tenacity. We can see a distinct difference in how often each player is providing that final pass for a shot on goal.
Spearing’s Key Passes per 90 rate is almost double Medo’s at 1.5 to 0.8. In addition, Spearing ranks second in total key passes at 62, which is almost triple the total number that Medo has provided.
As far as true strikers currently on the squad go, Lukas Jutkiewicz is leading the Key Passes per 90 race providing 1.3 key passes to teammates per 90 minutes. This, in addition to Jute’s goal scoring record, helps to emphasize just how valuable he has been to Bolton’s attack since his arrival.
While the following lineup might not hold up defensively over 90 minutes, an attacking set-up that include Jutkiewicz, Mortiz, Lee, Eagles, Spearing, and Davies might really be able to knock the ball around and create opportunities for each other.