The Case for Alberto Moreno

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It wasn’t too long ago that Alberto Moreno was plying his trade in his native homeland, winning battles on Sevilla’s left flank as they stormed their way to a Europa League championship. Highly regarded during season 2013/14, Brendan Rodgers’ most prominent, and important season at the helm of a Luis Suarez-less Liverpool FC would see Moreno arrive for approximately £16m from his native club in Sevilla, to the rumblings of a committee signing. Indeed, the promising young Spaniard held all the hallmarks of a committee signing; if Brendan had gotten his way Liverpool would’ve ended up with an industrious if ineffectual Ben Davies; Premier League proven through and through, and playing at Rodgers’s former club in Swansea. But alas, Moreno was handpicked by the committee and, in his first season, the signs were impressive.

The Case for Alberto Moreno

A sensational bursting run down Tottenham’s vulnerable right saw Moreno hit his first goal for the club; his left foot would become a trademark of his attacking flair; a John-Arne Riise-esque ability to hit the ball with ferocity means he’s always a danger when the ball comes to him outside the box, and his presence down the left hand flank when, throughout Rodgers’ entire tenure, the closest thing Liverpool had to a combative defensive midfielder was Lucas, and he didn’t afford much cover to either flank.

Yet, as Glen Johnson was shown up to be an ambition-less, mistake-ridden donkey of a right back, Moreno was full of boundless energy, enthusiasm, and adventure. Of course he got caught out of position here and then; an adventurous full back is bound to do that. A left full-back, when presented with space, will usually delve into it; and when Phil Coutinho or Adam Lallana were deployed upwards of Moreno, their tendencies to start more central meant Moreno was doing most of the wide grunt work.

The trends continued. Not only did Moreno endure a difficult season under an ineffectual manager and come out of it as one of the better products; however, as the rise of Joe Gomez took hold, he was dropped by the soon-to-be relieved Ulsterman as the defence began to leak goals. Gomez’s injury brought a second chance for Moreno, and he took it. As the manager departed, and Klopp’s meteoric rise set-in, Moreno found himself at the forefront of the Klopp revolution. A more technically gifted Marcel Schmelzer, he saw progress under the big German, he enjoyed hug after hug, he was even celebrated among the notorious Liverpool twitter as being one of Liverpool’s most improved outlets, offering width where Jurgen Klopp complained about a lack of wingers. Offering competence next to centre halves, opposite Nathanial Clyne, where once Liverpool had to suffer the torrid Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique.

By the 26th of January, he and Clyne had played every Premier League minute under Jurgen Klopp. Moreno was lauded for it.

Now? Twitter seems to have taken the comedic nickname of “Scouse Cafu” to heart and seems to believe Flanagan to be the second coming of the legendary Brazilian fullback. A player with no discernible technical skills other than a decent tackle, to which Raheem Sterling felt the full force on Flanagan’s return to Liverpool’s starting lineup.

Then, for some inconceivable reason, he was made captain of the starting eleven.

And Liverpool handed over a dominant 2-0 lead against Southampton, completely fading into nothingness in the second half at St. Mary’s.

As good as Jurgen Klopp’s been, this was a series of terrible decisions. Bringing on Martin Skrtel and sticking him next to someone with no real leadership qualities was always a recipe for disaster: especially – and this writer cannot possibly put a bigger emphasis on this – with no defensive midfielder. Emre Can and Joe Allen were superb in the first half, but Southampton’s midfield was non-existent. Then, when Jordy Clasie pushed up and navigated the pockets of space, and Sadio Mane got the chance to run at Liverpool’s moronic Slovakian, the entire defence seemed to fall apart.

It was nonsensical.

Flanagan, while not the lead culprit, was just as culpable.

Should Moreno have made such a colossal mistake as Flanagan did for Southampton’s first goal, Twitter would have exploded. Indeed, it did, when Moreno stupidly brought down Steven Naismith against Norwich. It was silly, and it wasn’t his first mistake. But then, Moreno directly contributed to a key pass for Firmino’s equaliser. And, of course, he was still slated.

He’s 23. He’s a tremendous footballer. Look at his technical ability, look at his delivery; he makes 2.7 key passes per game. He’s created the most chances of any defender in the Premier League. That includes Danny Rose, Cesar Azpilicueta, Aaron Cresswell and Aleksander Kolarov. He also averages 3 tackles per game.

Now, to the topic of, as this writer saw quoted on twitter, “giving it all for the shirt.” Which is slang for; “he’s scouse, of course he’s got the passion. We love him.” Alberto Moreno said in an interview, “I’m happy here, my family is happy here and I will keep on giving my all for Liverpool. I’m very focused.” So there you have it, the Spaniard says he gives his all for Liverpool. Because of course he does. Because Jurgen Klopp is the manager of one of the world’s most prestigious football clubs. Anyone who isn’t “giving it all for the shirt” (the aforementioned Glen Johnson) wouldn’t get in the side. It’s as ridiculous a statement as saying “we should sacrifice the technical ability of a footballer for someone who yells a lot and has passion.”

Funny, because that excuse has also been touted.

The facts, the things that actually provide sense and reason to the argument? Until February, Alberto Moreno was Liverpool’s leading chance creator. He makes three tackles per game. In Jurgen Klopp’s first six weeks in charge, Moreno made the most high-intensity runs of any player in the Premier League (per the excellent Simon Brundish). Any player. In the exact same sample space, Moreno made 2.7 possession wins in the final third per game. That’s three bailouts in the box per game. Does he make 2.7 mistakes per game, leading to a chance?

No, funnily enough. But then he’s not scouse, is he? So it just seems like he does.

His recovery pace is phenomenal. He’s technically proficient. He offers width where we have none. He’s twice the defender Jon Flanagan is, and that’s a simple truth. Yes, he’s defensively suspect at times, but that’s got a lot to do with a very, very key thing missing from this squad.

A defensive midfielder.

If a shield is able to deflect play away from the space Moreno’s vacated, or better yet occupy that space, then Moreno is allowed the freedom to attack and make his sensational recovery tackles on the way back.

Make no mistake, if Alberto Moreno is no longer in Jurgen Klopp’s plans, then fair enough. But the perception that he shouldn’t be, that is false perception at its finest and confirmation bias as its most prudent.

This writer is fully prepared to face the brunt of backlash for forsaking the scouse lad who gives it his all for the defensive atrocity that is Alberto Moreno. Because that’s the narrative, and Liverpool fans love a narrative. Here’s the belief of this writer: the 23-year old Spaniard has a future, should he be allowed to get what very few Liverpool players seem to get these days.

A bit of patience.

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  1. Moreno is twice the defender Flanagan is? That’s your ‘opinion’, something unsubstantiated.
    Moreno is a decent attacking outlet, and a defender prone to mistakes, especially in and around the box.
    Flanagan is a decent defender (who’s still coming up to match fitness BTW) and less of an attacking outlet.
    Who do I prefer? Simple, Flanagan. Not because he’s Scouse, but because a defender should defend first and then provide an alternative outlet for attack. Period.

    • It is pertinent to mention that his work rate is excellent.Agreed,he is prone to mistakes but don’t forget that a holding midfielder is what Liverpool is lacking.Where there is a real one,such mistakes would hardly be noticed when Moreno makes the runs

    • This is extreamly bias.Flanagan is better full back who can actually play zonal marking and pressing. In constact, Moreno is only good playing in a pressing system

  2. Roy k u are spot on mate. For all the good foward play he provides he is a first an formost a defender .more defending means les likley to have to make last ditch tackles because his out of possision witch gives away free kiks or pens
    .id keep him but lfc has to buy another .jon flano flanagan is not the man at this moment to giv real compotison for morano.if clopp buys another center an full back it mybe curtains for mareno as gomez is still to come back an he is a real tallent that can play at left back as well as been a centerback

  3. I have never wished moreno left the club and never will,at least for the foreseeable future. The simple reason frankly is that he is still young;same age as flanno if i am not mistaking so he has loads of time to improve in areas of his weaknesses. What i have always subscribed to is that we should bring in someone who offers competition to moreno. Someone in the mould of Rodriguez of wolfsburg or Jonas Hector of fc koln. Let us not forget,flanagan can operate as a left back but he is naturally a right back. So if we are to make him an automatic starter over moreno who then offers competition/support to clyne? We shouldn’t forget how shaky Riise was in his early days at Liverpool but IMO,we haven’t really replaced him since he left and moreno might just be another gem in the making.

    • You’re spot on here mate, i think competition and time is what he needs. 23’s very young for a defender, let alone one exposed so much.

  4. He is only good at recovery tackles and that’s it. He can’t attack, anyone who says he can is wrong, his cross are never powered in low to cause havoc and he can’t lift it to anyone’s head if that’s required. For whatever reason he stands over the free kicks. He’s quick, but that’s it in that department. Now when he goes forward he doesn’t get into position which requires a “recovery” tackle. The sooner: mignolet, Moreno and Henderson are sold, the better. I’m tired of these fans trying to find optimism in shite, be fucking realistic. Players like him are why we’re in 7th as usual.

  5. Superb article, completely agree. Moreno has been slated and crucified for every mistake he makes while Flanagan gets a free pass because he is passionate and a Scouse.

  6. Moreno should be played as a winger or left CAM. Gomez playing the left side is plain stupidity as seen in the west ham game, the guy couldn’t make a cross. He should be played as a centerback and let flanno and smith battle it out for the left side.

  7. Carra wasn’t the greatest technical player but he could defend, DEFENDers need to be good at defending first everything after that is a bonus. Is Morgan at Leicester great technically ? Technical ability isn’t the most import attribute for a defender not leaking goals & being good at defending are.

    Even if Flanno never existed i’d want the lb position looked at, compare how many goals came down moreno’s side to how many came down clyne’s when they both played week in & week out. Compare how many goals have come from his mistakes or being switched off, compare flanno’s tackling to his kung fu style “tackles” or that back heel tackle thing he did in the cup final that 9 times out of 10 would have given them a pen.

    For all of his supposed attacking prowess how many actually convert into goals or assists? Fickle doesnt even begin to describe some of the contributors on here, how quickly we forget how good flanno was in both fullback slots during our title challenge. Him being scouse is just a cherry on top, those of us who prefer him to moreno do so because he is better at defending end of.

  8. I agree with the writer on Klopp’s very bad decision to put in Skrtel. That decision is surprising to me coming from a manager of Klopp’s experience.

    I totaly disagree with the writer on Moreno. He is often caught out of position, is all over the place and has been the direct result of goals scored against us. I’m going with Carragher’s assessment of Moreno, he’s not good enough. He should be sitting on the bench.

    • I agree with you & Carra. His attacking contrition is overhyped, 39 appearances so far this season & only 3 assists & zero goals! he aint Riise, the young this is over done as well ,people acting like he is ojo’s age he is 24 in the summer.

  9. I agree that as a whole package, Moreno is a way more competent player. I think Flanno’s defensive skills are slightly better at the moment but he’s fragilities get shaded more because he doesn’t attack as much as Alberto does. I also think Moreno has way more potential and could become a great LB and be a mainstay in our XI for many years. We just have to accept that he will still be making mistakes while he’s learning.

    Other topic is I completely disagree with your assessment of us needing an DM. Emre Can IS A DM, yes he’s more of a box to box hybrid but he lacks way to much in the attacking and creative department to be a CM. He doesn’t create enough chances for himself or his teammates to be considered a CM. We should hone his defensive skills more. Also were is Leicester’s ‘DM’ they are basically using the same strategy we have been using under Klopp. Two very intensive high energetic midfielders who can cover and join in attack.

    • You’re not wrong at all, i think Can in a two would be certainly enough protection, i do think he is tasked with doing a bit too much right now to concentrate on defending the space. Put someone next to him who can pass and control tempo, and let Can be the one who roams and destroys, like Schneiderlin was at Southampton. My pick would be Xhaka because they can alternate pushing forward and both are monsters in the tackle. But again, your assessments are accurate

  10. Great article. Moreno may have some defensive weakness but its also because of all the work he does contributing to our attacking play. He is still young and can improve on his defensive game but boy..he is great going forward and Klopp better keep him or even convert him to a Gareth Bale. As for Flanno he can still stick around as a squad player, he is scouse

  11. “In Klopp we trust” or so it goes.

    If Moreno is caught out of position more than a few times and he continues to play then either Klopp doesn’t know what he’s doing by letting this continue or this is the style of play he is developing and he is telling Moreno to push forward.

    You don’t develop a style of play by saying “I want an attacking full back who pushes forward into the space, but don’t attack for a few months until everyone is used to and fully familiar with their new roles”. If you’re going to do it you do it. This style of play needs to have a destroyer/shield DM to work and I believe Klopp will bring one in… We’re looking at our LB playing this role with a B2B covering DM.

    Flanagan is an excellent utility man, he’ll be with us for a long time and can cover both full back roles to a good standard. Is he at Clyne or Moreno’s level… No.

    Also Gomez is a CB, a right sided, right footed CB. He should only be used at full back in a back up capacity which he did admirably earlier this season. He will be a great CB one day (maybe WC… we will see)

    For me moving forward our defence needs stability with Clyne, Lovern, Sakho, and Moreno playing together as much as possible. Next season we need a new man behind them and a new defensive man in front of them with Matip, Gomez and any other current or future LFC defenders working hard to earn a place.

    Finally… We have a side lacking in one attribute more than any other… Pace. Moreno has it in spades. YNWA

    • Nail on the head here mate, you’re spot on. Thanks for reading, and cheers for the comment.

  12. RoyK “… because a defender should defend first and then provide an alternative outlet …” let’s look at this point with regards to Flanagan using the only data available … his “glorious 2013-2014” season where he played a substantial number of games (PL: 22 games) where a true assessment can be made of his capabilities … Flanagan achieved that season … the unenviable title of “being the most dribbled passed player in the Premier League”

    Let that sink in for a second … that is he managed to achieve that amazing accolade … playing less than other PL players … including players in relegation fighting sides … who managed to play the full 38 games in a season … that is an astounding 16 games less !!!

    And what is Flanagan’s job … if it wasn’t for him being scouse … would Gerrard, Carragher or other scouses sings his praise so loudly … while avoiding the obvious ??

    We couldn’t sell him in the summer of 2013 … not a single Championship let alone PL side were interested … we even tried to loan him out and failed !!!

    That should tell you everything you need to know … if we are being true and honest … than we need to remove our rose tinted glasses … and see the player … any player for what he is !!

    Even his moniker “Scouse Cafu” … was made up by a scouser no less … as an insult at his ability … which has morphed into something completely improbable and insane … that it beggars belief anyone who has ever seen the real Cafu … would laugh at the comparison !!!


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