When a player signs for a new club, it can more often that not take them a while to settle in. Sometimes players never find their feet with new teammates, with partnerships failing to form. Sometimes, though, players simply click, and form lethal duos in their new surroundings. More likely, however, is that two players will come to learn each other’s style of play in time and gel to make a winning formula.
However things fall into place, it is a great thing to see when two players form an effective partnership and combine time and again with positive results. WhoScored.com here takes a look at the most common combination of players in terms of goals scored and assists for that scorer, across each of Europe’s top 5 leagues.
La Liga – Alves to Messi
It is unsurprising to find that in an article focused on goalscorers, Barcelona, and in particular Lionel Messi, are first to feature. With a mammoth 50 goals in La Liga, Messi set record after record with his antics last season, and his goals were in no small part down to the work of the ever-attacking right-back Dani Alves. The Brazilian picked up 11 assists in league games last season, with 7 of those setting up strikes for the diminutive Argentine. The South American combination of Alves to Messi was thus the joint most common in Europe’s top 5 leagues last season.
Alves made 54 key passes over the course of the season, with 11 of those resulting in assists, giving him an impressive success rate with his key passes of 20.3% - just over 1 in 5. 7 of those 11 assists were for Messi, and while that is a vast proportion of Alves’ total assists (64%), it only accounts for just 14% of Messi’s goals.
With Alves more generally known for his bursts down the win and crosses into the box, it is somewhat surprising to find that 4 of his 7 assists for Messi were after through balls from the Brazilian. What is more, Alves only completed 8 accurate through balls all season, so for half of those to have set up goals at all, let alone just for Messi is extremely impressive.
Bundesliga – Mandzukic to Helmes
Mario Mandzukic’s performances at Wolfsburg last season and with Croatia at Euro 2012 won him a move to Bayern Munich over the summer. The partnership he built up front with Patrick Helmes for Wolfsburg was a formidable one, which provided a combined total of 24 league goals. Helmes’ 12 strikes came in just 16 appearances, with Mandzukic turning provider for 7 of those, putting the duo alongside Alves and Messi as Europe’s most prolific combination.
Mandzukic’s prowess in the air saw him win the second most aerial battles of all players in the Bundesliga last season, with 2 of his 7 assists for Helmes coming from headers into his strike partners’ path. Two more came from counter attacks by Wolfsburg, showing not only the whole teams’ versatility but also the Croation internationals’.
Helmes, meanwhile, reached his goal tally from just 42 shots on goal, giving him a lethal conversion rate of 28.6%, which is up there with the best in Europe – put into context, Messi’s conversion rate in league games last season was 24.8% whilst Ronaldo’s was 17.4%. The combination of a big striker and a clinical partner is a footballing classic, and one that Mandzukic and Helmes modelled extremely well at Wolsburg.
Premier League – Walcott to van Persie
Theo Walcott’s assist return of 8 last season is hardly something to shout from the rooftops about, particularly when supplying chances for the Premier League’s top scorer, Robin van Persie. However, the two combined to score on 6 occasions last season, making Walcott to van Persie the most common goalscoring combination in the English top flight. The fact that a massive 75% of Walcott’s assists were for van Persie, points more to the Dutchman’s conversion rather than Walcott’s input – the winger completed a meagre 13% of his attempted crosses all season. Further, only one of the for Southampton man’s assists for van Persie came from a cross. Robin van Persie was lethal in front of goal throughout the season, with the Walcott-assisted goals accounting for just 20% of his strikes.
Nonetheless, no other combination in the Premier League, and only the 2 aforementioned ones in Europe’s top 5 leagues were more successful than Walcott-van Persie last season, so they certainly both deserve credit for that. Walcott, like most involved with Arsenal, will be extremely keen for van Persie to remain at the Emirates.
Serie A – Armero to Di Natale
Antonio Di Natale was by far and away Udinese’s top scorer last season with 23 league goals, while Colombian midfielder Pablo Armero lead the club's assist charts, with 10. The two combined on 6 occasions for Di Natale to score, with 3 of those 6 goals coming following a ‘fastbreak’. Udinese lead Serie A in terms of goals from these quick breaks, scoring 10 such goals, and clearly, Armero and Di Natale lead that charge on countless occasions, with some success.
Armero supplied 45 accurate crosses throughout the season, and with a striker of the ilk of Di Natale constantly prowling the penalty area, one would possibly have exepceted that more than 1 of Armero’s assists for Di Natale would come from a cross. However, their tally of 6 goals made them the best goalscoring combination in Serie A last season.
Ligue 1 – Valbuena to Remy
With Marseille finishing a disappointing season in tenth place in the French top flight, after coming second the season before, Mathieu Valbuena and Loic Remy were arguably their two standout performers. Both players have attracted attention from across Europe with their attacking displays, as Valbuena picked up 13 assists and Remy scored 12 goals in the league.
6 of those goals came from Valbuena’s delivery to Remy, making them Ligue 1’s most effective combination. 5 of those 6 goals came from crosses from Valbuena, 4 of which came from deal ball situations. While the Mandzukic-Helmes combination was a varied one in terms of the types of goal they produced, Valbuena to Remy was a rather more one dimensional attacking force. Remy’s main threat is in the six-yard box, while Valbuena is prized for his crossing ability, so the duo certainly did well to focus on playing to their strengths, and with some result.