Leighton Baines v Ashley Cole: A Statistical Look

Scott Heavey

Yesterday we looked at Glen Johnson vs Kyle Walker, today we are going to focus on Leighton Baines v Ashley Cole. Who should start in the Brazil?

When I focused on Kyle Walker and Glen Johnson yesterday, I had a good idea who was going to come out on top after I investigated a little further into the statistics. However when it came to looking into the statistics of Chelsea's Ashley Cole and Everton's Leighton Baines, I had no idea what to expect.

Lets dive straight in, as this is sure to be a hotly disputed topic throughout the Winter:

As we did with Walker and Johnson, we are going to take the statistics from the entire 2012/13 season. Please keep in mind that Baines played in 7 more contests and significantly more minutes as a result.

Player Games Played Minutes Played
Ashley Cole 31 2790
Leighton Baines 38 3420

I love attacking full-backs, I think they can make the real difference when trying to turn defense into attack. However the primary duty of any defensive player is to defend, sound simple enough? it is. Sometimes people do forget that though. So lets dive straight into the defensive statistics for both players for last season.

Player Interceptions Blocked Shots Clearances
Ashley Cole 37 7 108
Leighton Baines 57 5 106

Everton conceded 40 goals last season and Chelsea 39, so defensively they were very similar in terms of defensive capability. For playing significantly less minutes, Ashley's defensive statistics here do stick out. Had they played the same amount of games you would expect Baines to lead in Interceptions still, Cole to lead in clearances and them to be around the same mark in blocked shots. Well that doesn't really help up decide which of these two players should be starting for England, so lets go to more detailed statistics.

Player % Of Tackles Won % Of Headers Won Cards Y/R
Ashley Cole 73% 53% 4/0
Leighton Baines 79% 39% 3/0

Neither player is good in the air, that's not exactly surprising. However Ashley Cole is more able to win the areal challenge than Baines. However Baines has a better tackle win percentage and they are both disciplined. So it seems as though we have hit another stalemate. Both players are very good defensively, that's hardly a surprise. I consider both of these players to be among the best left-backs in the world, so struggling to separate them has to be expected.

Player Defensive Mistakes Mistakes Leading to a Goal
Ashley Cole 2 1
Leighton Baines 2 1

Player Free-Kicks Given Free-Kicks Received
Ashley Cole 14 22
Leighton Baines 30 58

So Leighton Baines committed more fouls than Ashley Cole, but then he also received more free kicks than Ashley Cole.

It doesn't look as though we are going to be able to separate them with defensive statistics. So if they both defend well and can be trusted to do a job at the back. You then have to turn your attentions to their attacking ability. Ashley Cole used to bomb down the left hand-side, but as he has gotten older I haven't seen as much of that. Where as Leighton Baines doesn't exactly bomb down the left, he sneaks down the left....getting into good crossing positions and delivering those killer balls.

I very much expect Baines to come out on top in the attacking category. However we have to consider the players around the two when it comes to moving forward. Chelsea scored 75 goals last season in comparison to Everton's 55, so chances created will bear more influence on the decision than assists.

Player Successful Passes Pass Completion % Key Passes Assists
Ashley Cole 1143 89% 15 2
Leighton Baines 1324 83% 111 5

I will be asking Squawka to confirm their interpretation of a key pass, so watch this space for that. However this clearly shows that Leighton Baines is much more accomplished going forward. As far as I am aware at the moment, a key pass is a pass that exploited space, a pass that led to an important or key moment, that could be a chance, or a goal. However as mentioned, I'll be asking them to clarify this in the next day or so. There is a significant increase from 15 key passes to 111.

Player Chances Created Goals
Ashley Cole 17 1
Leighton Baines 116 5

Now I think that is pretty telling. Leighton Baines crosses are outstanding, but please remember that he takes all Everton's free kicks and corners, so it's only natural he would be creating more chances. He is also more likely to score. When Baines recently played for England I liked having all our attacking players in the box with Baines delivering the ball, his cross for Rooney was pinpoint and he put countless other balls into the box that were difficult to deal with.

I like Ashley Cole, I really do. I think we are spoilt having two excellent left-backs part of the national team. However at this stage in their careers, I have to say that Baines would be my choice.

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