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Football News: Liverpool Senior Squad Regulars - A Statistical Analysis: Part 1: Goalkeepers and Defenders

There have a few articles posted up recently with some brilliant information, firstly I would like to say it is refreshing to see a non-bias assessment of our players along with detailed points most people don't catch, I find myself agreeing with things I've never noticed before about a squad I watch week in, week out, every year. I'm glad you guys have the time to write them as they are brilliant reads.

I have noticed that you guys tend to steer clear of statistics, which is probably because of the near impossible task of finding completely accurate data. Although stats cannot be applied to EVERY situation, they can also be very interesting for comparison purposes.

I thought I would give a go at writing a fairly basic statistical backed analysis of the current Senior squad. I have also left out quite a few players such as Solanke, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ward, Van Dijk etc. If a player is not on this list, its most likely because I feel they haven't played enough first team football to be judged fairly.

I have tried to find the most creditable accurate information I can, there may be slight differences in some of the figures I have provided to what you may find yourself but generally they should all be as close as I could manage. Every week these figures change so they will only be accurate up to the date I post this article anyway.

 


I am trying to avoid making this seem like praise of one player and damning of another, I'm purely posting stats I've gathered from various places and giving my opinion on how I feel these players have contributed to the team since the day they joined. Some players have been hugely successful and others not so successful. That's just the way football is.

I have provided some basic information such as positions played, age, date joined, appearances etc. Then I've given them my own overall grade based on things such as goals, assists, clean sheets, work rate, transfer price and their general contribution to the club. I would like to point out that any "money values" are not going to be completely accurate as I don't know where I would find out a complete breakdown of costs for each player so I have only given a general price of the transfer fee.

I will start with Goalkeepers and Defenders in part 1:

Simon Mignolet: Joined summer 2013
Age - 29
Positions - GK
Transfer Fee - £9.54m
PL Appearances - 155 / All competitions - 202
PL Goals Conceded - 189 / All competitions - 235
PL Clean Sheets - 51 / All competitions - 66
Work rate: Average

Mignolet is one of the longest serving players at the club and at 29 years old he should have already hit his peak, of the more regular players only Henderson and Sturridge have been given more time to prove their worth to the club. One is our captain and the other would have been one of the best strikers in the league were he not constantly plagued by injuries.

So, it begs the question, how has Mignolet managed to keep his place in the team at a top 6 side for so long?
When comparing him to other goalkeepers in the top 6 teams:
Mignolet (LIV) - 155 apps / 189 conceded / 51 clean sheets / 355 Saves / 14 errors leading to a goal

Courtois (CHE) - 114 apps / 103 conceded / 45 Clean Sheets / 254 Saves / 3 errors leading to a goal
De Gea (UTD) - 224 apps / 212 conceded / 89 Clean Sheets / 615 Saves / 6 errors leading to a goal
Lloris (TOT) - 192 apps / 206 conceded / 68 Clean Sheets / 472 Saves / 13 errors leading to a goal
Cech (ARS) - 93 apps / 99 conceded / 37 Clean Sheets / 274 Saves / 6 errors leading to a goal

The biggest thing that stands out is the amount of individual errors he has made leading directly to goals. Not being able to stop them going in is one thing, but being solely responsible for them is not something what you want from a goalkeeper. He has played 69 less games than De Gea (who for comparison purposes is arguably the best keeper) which is about 30% fewer games but has made 260 less saves in that time which is about 43% less. He has kept 38 fewer clean sheets which is also about 43% less than De Gea's total.

You would expect a goalkeeper playing behind a defence like Liverpool's to be making more saves due to the amount of times he is called into action so the fact he has saved considerably less than De Gea just goes to show the gap in ability. He does however have the second best penalty record in the history of the Premier League with 8 saves, only H. Gomes and R. Green have saved more at 9 saves each.

 

Despite any of the above, he is not anywhere near the level of the other top 6 team keepers other than Lloris. A Goalkeeper should be winning you games and other than a few penalty saves, Mignolet has contributed to dropping more points than winning them. He doesn't give players in front of him much in the way of confidence which also doesn't help as a collective defensive unit.
Overall grade: E

Loris Karius: Joined summer 2016
Age - 24
Positions - GK
Transfer Fee - £5.58m
PL Appearances - 15 / All competitions - 28
PL Goals Conceded - 17 / All competitions - 28
PL Clean Sheets - 5 / All competitions - 11
Work rate: Average

Karius barely makes it into this article because he has not had much in the way of game time. However, he is playing every Champions League game and now seems to be a starter for the premier league too. He seems to have potential but is still the unfinished article. Playing in the most elite competition in the world seems like a big step for a relatively young unproven keeper.

We shall see what happens if we get past Porto and draw somebody like Barcelona, PSG or Manchester City but for now I would say he looks like a safer option. He has hardly made the position his own but its hard not to look good when the direct rival for your spot is playing so badly. The difference between Karius and Mignolet is that he is young and has time to learn from these mistakes.

He averages out at 1 goal conceded every game but is also 3 short of having clean sheets in half of the games he has played. Admittedly in several of these games (for example Maribor in the group stages) he has been stood about watching as the midfield and forwards dominate possession with little resistance.

Its early days for this player but the potential is there and soon he could be playing every game for us, if somebody else is bought in the summer then he still has age on his side. Remember, David De Gea had a terrible start to his UTD career before he became one of the best keepers in the world. He just needs to work on the occasional errors he is allowing such as the Sane goal in the Citeh game.
Overall grade: C

Nathaniel Clyne: Joined summer 2015
Age - 25
Positions - RB, RWB
Transfer Fee - £15.93m
PL Appearances - 70 / All competitions - 93
PL Goals - 1 / All competitions - 2
PL Assists - 2 / All competitions - 5
Work rate: High

Clyne had a promising feeling about him when first signed, he had just finished a fairly decent season with Southampton with some above average defensive stats to back it up. 61% successful tackle rate winning 180 duels out of 293 in the premier league. The attacking side of his game lacked a little though with stats such as 2 goals, 0 assists and a 16% cross accuracy in 35 games which was not very impressive.

However, he was only 22 and had yet to reach his best.
In his first season at Liverpool he continued to defend averagely with a 60% successful tackle rate winning 153 out of 255 duels and maintained this level again last year but the attacking side of his game has never improved. He rarely takes on players (which fullbacks are generally asked to) and his crossing accuracy has still been awful peaking at 19% accuracy. He is fast, energetic and can spend all day running up and down the wings but with very little in the way of end product.

Fast forward 3 seasons and he has managed 1 goal and 2 assists in 70 premier league games. When comparing him to some of the better right backs in their first 3 full seasons in the premier league it seems as though his attacking presence is pretty non-existent.

Clyne (LIV) - 70 appearances / 1 goal / 2 assists
Valenica (MNU) - 71 appearances / 10 goals / 23 assists
Walker (TOT) - 99 appearances / 3 goals / 9 assists
Bellerin (ARS) - 89 appearances / 4 goals / 10 assists
Bertrand (SOU) - 82 appearances / 5 goals / 12 assists
Although he fills a spot at right back defensively, he is wasting what could be a position filled by somebody who can both attack and defend. That players seems to be emerging at Liverpool already in the form of Trent Alexander Arnold. To say that Clyne has been average would be unfair to players who have actually been average.
Overall grade: D

 

Trent Alexander Arnold: Joined summer 2015
Age - 19
Positions - RB, RWB
Transfer Fee - Youth prospect
PL Appearances - 15 / All competitions - 28
PL Goals - 1 / All competitions - 3
PL Assists - 0 / All competitions - 2
Work rate: High

Alexander Arnold has so far had a great start for a player so young. In just under a third of the games played by Clyne, he has nearly matched his attacking contribution to the team already and looks like he can defend well too, this can only get better with experience. He has already scored in 2 champions league games and looks to be quite good at set pieces and crossing. He also looks very assured on the ball with confidence beyond his years.

His ability to pass a player makes him a real attacking threat and something Liverpool have lacked in a right back for a long time. The last 4 players to consistently play right back for Liverpool were Clyne, Johnson, Flanagan and Kelly. Its been a problem position for quite a while and the club has been desperate for a player like TAA to come through the ranks. Flanagan and Kelly came through the ranks as promising youngsters but unfortunately neither turned out to be as successful as first thought.

There is a question on what position he will end up playing as many people see him as a future player further up the field in RM/ RW but for now he is more valuable learning his trade as a RB/ RWB, the only person challenging his position is Gomez who is also desperately needed as a CB. Due to Clyne's injury he has been given valuable time on the pitch but this remains to be seen when Clyne returns as TAA is still quite young.
Overall grade: B

Dejan Lovren: Joined summer 2014
Age - 28
Positions - CB
Transfer Fee - £25.30m
PL Appearances - 97 / All competitions - 134
PL Goals - 3 / All competitions - 5
PL Assists - 2 / All competitions - 2
Work rate: High

Lovren has been quite the hit or miss player since his move from Southampton. He came with a fairly high price tag at the time. On average the price for players has almost doubled in the last 3 and a half years but when he was purchased in 2014, £25 million seemed like quite a lot for a defender.

The fans would have had high hopes for him though as he came off the back of a good season with Southampton. He made 31 appearances and helped keep 12 clean sheets in the premier league that season boasting a 79% tackle success rate and (believe it or not) made just 1 error leading to a goal during his time at Southampton.

He was partnered by Jose Fonte who could also boast an equally impressive record and it seemed as though that pairing of players worked well. Southampton only conceded 46 goals in 2013/ 14 which was 6th best behind Chelsea, City, Everton, Arsenal and Utd. Most of you will remember Liverpool came 2nd that season and conceded 50 in total.

It's a different picture we see at Liverpool when it comes to Lovren. He is prone to making rash tackles and being caught out of position which is very costly and sometimes the simplest of clearances go wrong. He has been directly responsible for conceding 6 goals in the premier league which seems quite high for a top 6 team central defender.

Lovren - 97 PL appearances / 6 errors
Ferdinand - 504 PL appearances / 2 errors
Azpiliqueta - 182 PL appearances / 0 errors
Carragher - 508 PL appearances / 1 error
Alderweireld - 104 PL appearances - 1 error
Kompany - 240 PL appearances - 2 errors

In my personal opinion I believe Lovren does better when paired with somebody who can take control of the defence. Hopefully this will be the case with Van Dijk because I don't see Lovren being replaced any time soon.
Overall grade: C

Joe Gomez: Joined summer 2015
Age - 20
Positions - RB, CB
Transfer Fee - £4.9m
PL Appearances - 24 / All competitions - 35
PL Goals - 0 / All competitions - 0
PL Assists - 3 / All competitions - 3
Work rate: High

Joe Gomez, quite like Alexander-Arnold, has not played a huge amount of first team games yet but is showing very promising signs for such a young player. At only 20 years old he has seemingly solidified his place as first choice right back for Liverpool and can also play quite competently in the centre back role too. He is comfortable on the ball and shows confidence beyond his years. He has played in 4 champions league games now too which is invaluable experience for youngsters such as Gomez and Alexander-Arnold.

He is still prone to a few mistakes now and then but these are to be expected from a younger player playing regularly at such a high level. Things like the second yellow card in the 2-2 draw against Sevilla less than a minute before full-time was called could have been avoided. A more level headed, experienced defender would have known when to stop.

Another thing people have noticed is that his ability to read the flight of the ball has caught him out a few times recently. This is quite an important part of being a defender as balls will always be lofted up the pitch or into the box, and it's the defender's responsibility to get to the ball first.

Another thing in common with Alexander-Arnold is a question on what best position to play him in, the majority of his games have been played as a Right Back (22 RB/ 7 LB / 5 CB) but most people would agree that the club would benefit from a more central role. With the vocal leadership and stability of a player such as Van Dijk, Gomez could flourish and learn lots from the Dutchman.

Liverpool's defensive frailties are well known but this could be the fix the fans have been crying out for. Its too early to tell whether it will work for the long term but all the signs are there for the fans to finally be content with what has been inconsistent centre back pairings since Carragher and Hyypia.
Overall grade: B

Ragnar Klavan: Joined summer 2016
Age - 32
Positions - CB
Transfer Fee - £5m
PL Appearances - 35 / All competitions - 45
PL Goals - 1 / All competitions - 2
PL Assists - 0 / All competitions - 0
Work rate: Average

Klavan has had a fairly successful season and a half at Liverpool. He was bought in as a squad player and has filled that role well. He seems a true professional and puts in either an average or good performance every time he is called upon. Out of 35 premier league games he has helped the team to 22 wins, 10 draws and only 3 losses. He has only made 1 error directly leading to a goal and has also scored a goal of his own.

In my opinion you can't ask for more from a squad player, he was never likely to improve the squad but has overachieved. Because of the poor form of the other defenders at Liverpool his performances stand out and as a result he has been called upon a lot more than he probably expected. Lovren has made 18 Premier league appearances this season, Matip has made 17 and Klavan has made 15.

Of the 3 I wholeheartedly believe he should be playing alongside Van Dijk and Gomez because he is the more consistent defender. Unfortunately due to his age I would expect him to be here for 1 more season at most.
Overall grade: B

 


Joel Matip: Joined summer 2016
Age - 26
Positions - CB
Transfer Fee - Free Transfer
PL Appearances - 47 / All competitions - 58
PL Goals - 2 / All competitions - 2
PL Assists - 0 / All competitions - 0
Work rate: Low

Matip has had a very underwhelming time at Liverpool. He was bought in on a free transfer from Schalke off the back of a fairly stop start season due to change in management. He made 41 appearances in all competitions and scored 4 goals. He was part of a defence that conceded 49 goals which ranked quite low at 11th out of 18.

As a free transfer though, at first it seemed like quite a steal. A 25 year old experienced defender playing for one of the better German clubs alongside players like Sane, Goretzka, Meyer, Draxler, Boateng, Howedes, Kolasinac and Huntelaar. He hasn't been much of a hit at Liverpool and has been given plenty of appearances to prove doubters wrong but seems to be happy picking up a wage every week for minimal effort. He seems to be getting as much time as Lovren and even more than Klavan who both put in 10 times more effort.

He is quite woeful in the air and if you need an example of this, look at the goal scored by Van Dijk against Everton. Matip is near enough unchallenged as he jumps and flaps at the ball whereas Van Dijk is between 2 defenders and a goal keeper and still manages to get to the ball first.

You have to show commitment to get to the ball even if it means getting an elbow to the face. Matip's biggest problem is lack of effort when it comes to things like tracking back, getting back into shape, busting a gut to get to the by-line, chasing down attackers and committing to 50/ 50 challenges. These are all things that will endear you to the Liverpool fans and he has done very little of this since day one.
Overall grade: D

Alberto Moreno: Joined summer 2014
Age - 25
Positions - LB, LWB
Transfer Fee - £18m
PL Appearances - 84 / All competitions - 130
PL Goals - 3 / All competitions - 3
PL Assists - 5 / All competitions - 11
Work rate: High

Personally, I like Moreno but he is very much like marmite. He is another player who is prone to making mistakes that directly lead to conceding goals and although he can be quite effective in an attacking role, he is not the best of defenders. His time at Liverpool started quite poorly and last season he was replaced at Left back by Milner (a fairly average midfielder) . He has had a fairly long layoff this season which has seen him replaced by Robertson.

With 3 goals and 11 assists in 130 appearances in all competitions he has the best attacking left back record since John Arne Riise. But the defensive side of his game needed huge improvement, right up until his injury layoff he was starting to show signs of this improvement. His decision making was a lot better, choosing the right time to take on a player or make a pass but there are still a few signs of the old Moreno. The one thing that swings is his favour is he has shown that he wants to improve and came back strong from a long period on the bench.

If he can smooth over the lapses in consistency then we will have a fairly competent left back who is under pressure to stay at the top of his game with the recent acquisition of Robertson (who also seems to be a fairly competent left back) . Another aspect of Moreno's game that goes unnoticed quite often is his ability to shoot. Although not always as accurate as it could be, he has quite a rocket on him and on many occasions has come close to scoring from quite far out. A little more accuracy and one of these days they will start flying in.
Overall grade: C

Jon Flanagan: Joined summer 2015
Age - 25
Positions - RB, LB
Transfer Fee - Youth prospect
PL Appearances - 40 / All competitions - 51
PL Goals - 1 / All competitions - 1
PL Assists - 3 / All competitions - 5
Work rate: High

Not really much to say about Flanagan as I doubt he will be at the club much longer following the recent outcome of his court case. I'm not going to go into it as people will have different opinions on what was right or wrong. Even if the club turns a blind eye to this, he is 4th choice as a right back behind Gomez, Alexander Arnold and Clyne.

His time at Liverpool looked promising once upon a time and the 2013/ 14 season was probably his peak in a Liverpool shirt (scoring against Spurs was a good moment) . The "Scouse Cafu" replaced Johnson and at the time it looked like we had a home-grown successor for many years to come but after injuries and surgeries in 2014/ 15 and 16 he never managed to get back into the rhythm he found in 2013/ 14.
Overall grade: D

Written by Josh Gilbert.

Written by Josh Gilbert January 29 2018 16:20:17