Players with added ability and specialist skills can transform football teams with Leighton Baines falling into that category. These players have the capacity to change an average side into a good one, a good one into a very good one and so on. For a number of years, Baines has added another dimension to the Everton setup and his partnership with Steven Pienaar is among the best left-sided pairings in Europe. Potentially the finest attacking left back since Roberto Carlos, Baines is Everton’s Mr Consistent and his performances are putting serious pressure on Ashley Cole and his England place.
Everton’s left back is the first player, in any of Europe’s five major leagues, to create 50 chances this season. Presently, Baines is easily ahead of nearest rival Santi Cazorla and has created twice as many chances as Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon. Defending is Baines’ primary role but he remains Everton’s main creative threat with his crossing ability proving invaluable. Creating a chance every 21.6 minutes, Baines is just ahead of Manchester City’s David Silva on 22.93 minutes but the pair are comfortably ahead of the rest in the minutes: chance ratio. Reinforcing Baines’ creative knack, the nearest defenders are much further adrift on the list – Nicky Shorey (24), Kyle Walker (16) and Jean Beausejour (15). The effectiveness of the Baines – Pienaar combination shines through again with the pair accounting for 83 chances between them.
Not content with showing up the Premier League’s finest, Baines has the edge over the rest of Europe on chances created as well. There is clear daylight between Baines and his competition in both creative lists and the former Wigan man is the only defender to feature in either list with midfielders and forwards dominant. Creating 50 chances in just 12 appearances, Baines looks set to surpass last season’s 67 with alarming ease. When last season ended, the left back’s 67 chances were created at an average of one every 44 minutes; this season’s 50 coming at a rate of one every 22 minutes. Having matched his two assists in 2011/12, Baines’s next target is goals. Given his set piece expertise, Baines could better last season’s tally of four with two goals to his name already this season.
Exploiting the space created by Steven Pienaar, Baines marauds down the Everton left with frightening regularity. Registering 49 accurate crosses, Baines is 19 ahead of Reading’s Nicky Shorey and only Aston Villa’s Barry Bannan (48%) boasts a higher crossing accuracy. Attempting 128 crosses with 38% accuracy, Baines is already improving on last season’s return of 242 crosses with 28% accuracy. Crossing with greater accuracy and increasing regularity, Baines continues to progress creatively and Evertonians will hope he continues in this manner.
Analysis of the Premier League’s top passers supports the attacking influence of Leighton Baines. The Everton man is ninth on the list with 734 passes attempted this season. Midfielders dominate the list, as expected, but Baines and Swansea’s Angel Rangel have forced their way into the Top 10. After Baines and Rangel, the next defenders are Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker (661) in 14th and Maynor Figueroa (642) in 16th.
Making over 500 passes in the opposition half; Baines leads the way for David Moyes’ men and finds himself sixth on the Premier League list. Once again, Baines is the only defender in a list dominated by midfielders. His partner in crime, Steven Pienaar, also features on the list and it shows their influence on Everton’s football. The final third table paints a similar picture and Baines is the only defender in the Top 10 with 281 passes. Once more, Steven Pienaar also features in the list and the statistics continue to point out the pair’s creative impact on Everton.
Leighton Baines is revelling in the best form of his career and the statistics reveal his value and contribution to Everton. Cranking up the pressure on Ashley Cole, Roy Hodgson has a real dilemma on his hands for England with Baines surpassing Cole in the eyes of many. In spite of his defensive duties, Baines is likely to net career highs in both the chances and crossing categories. Leading the way on all creative fronts, Leighton Baines is proving indispensable with Everton primed to push for a European place.