Stats Analysis: Midfield Trios and Life Without Lallana

Stats Analysis: Midfield Trios and Life Without Lallana

*The stats in the article are gathered manually from Squawka. Minutes include stoppage time. Offensive, Defensive and Net rating are the totals per 100 minutes. 

Last week I tried to analyse the performance of the different defensive lineups Jurgen Klopp has used this season. You can find the article here. With unfortunate events during the international break let’s have a look at how Liverpool’s midfield has done so far this season.

Consistency

There have been some injuries in midfield this season but unlike in defence Klopp has rarely had to go beyond the 4th player in line:

Player Minutes played Team goals scored Offensive rating Team goals conceded Defensive rating Net team gain Net rating
Wijnaldum 2297(83%) 49 2.13 31 1.35 18 0.78
Henderson 2254 (81%) 52 2.31 28 1.24 24 1.06
Lallana* 1794 (65%) 44 2.45 25 1.39 19 1.06
Can 1668 (60%) 33 1.97 22 1.32 11 0.66

Minutes played by Lallana in midfield. He also has 374 minutes played in attack.

AI Tees

Wijnaldum has played in 83% of all minutes – he is our mister reliable in midfield. Hendo has also had a pretty a good season in terms of availability given his injury history. Overall I don’t think we can complain about midfield players missing much time so far this season. Unfortunately that changed during the international break.

This table shows why Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana in midfield are the foundation of Liverpool’s success. We hammer teams with them on the pitch.

Team selection

Given the availability of the players it is not a surprise that there aren’t many midfield line ups that have logged significant minutes together:

Midfield three Minutes played Team goals scored Offensive rating Team goals conceded Defensive rating Net team gain Net rating
Wijnaldum , Henderson, Lallana 942 (32%) 24 2.55 13 1.38 11 1.17
Wijnaldum, Henderson, Can 713 (26%) 11 1.54 10 1.40 1 0.14
Wijnaldum, Lallana, Can 433 (16%) 8 1.85 7 1.62 1 0.23
Other 693 (22%) 18 2.6 6 0.87 12 1.73

By far our best midfield with sufficient sample size is Wijnaldum, Henderson, Lallana. Teams that featured a midfield of Wijnaldum, Can and one of Henderson and Lallana have only managed to outscore LFC’s opponents by one two for 1146 minutes.

Something interesting to note is that when Hendo and Lallana are on the pitch together in midfield (1313 minutes so far) we have outscored our opponents by 19 goals (1.45 per 100 minutes), while scoring the whopping 36 goals (2.93 per 100 minutes).

How have we done without Lallana

Minutes Team goals scored Offensive rating Team goals conceded Defensive rating Team net gain Net rating
With Lallana 2168 49 2.26 32 1.47 17 0.78
Without Lallana 613 12 1.96 4 0.65 8 1.31

The sample size is small so lets break it down:

  • Missed matches – 2 times
    • 2-0 win vs Sunderland at Anfield
    • 0-0 at Southampton
  • Subbed on – 2 times
    • 4-3 loss at Bournemouth (Came on with LFC leading 3-1), played 26 minutes
    • 0-0 vs Man United at Anfield, played 25 minutes
  • Subbed off – 15 times. 281 minutes, 7 goals scored, 3 conceded

The numbers say that the team is doing just fine without Lallana on the pitch. With him being a natural attacking player  Liverpool scores slightly less when he doesn’t play while our defence does better on paper. However if you look at the matches he missed – both Man United and Southampton had the bus parked in those matches and weren’t really looking to score, so the defensive rating is very misleading.

Looking at lineups in which Lallana played in midfield paints a totally different picture:

Minutes Team goals scored Offensive rating Team goals conceded Defensive rating Team net gain Net rating
With Lallana in midfield 1794 44 2.45 25 1.39 19 1.06
Without Lallana in midfield* 987 17 1.72 11 1.11 6 0.61

Clearly the team does better when Lallana is playing in midfield. To a degree this also proves he is better in midfield than on the wing.

Coping with Lallana

Jurgen Klopp will have some food for thought over the next month or so. It’s the make or break time of season and we lost one of our most influential players. There are several things Klopp can do:

  • Play a midfield 3 of Hendo, Gini and Can: As shown above the results so far have not been particularly encouraging when these 3 play together. This midfield configuration lacks a bit of attacking flair.
  • Play Coutinho in the number 8 role: We have seen Phil in that role before – mainly on the left side of the Brandon Rogers diamond. He has played a few matches in that position this season also. For me this is the best option. That would give Origi and maybe even Sturridge or Woodburn  some much desired game time and would allow us to create chances from midfield. Also I think the little magician would benefit from touching the ball more, maybe that would be the cure for his recent dip in form. This way Klopp can also monitor Hendo’s fitness and not risk him if it is not required.
  • A more unpopular idea would be to give a chance to Grujic and/or Ejaria. Both have looked good in the little time they have played and we have a solid example of a youngster coming in and doing a solid job in Trent Alexander-Arnold at Old Trafford.
  • Start Lucas if Henderson is not healthy. I love Lucas but I would prefer to see Grujic or Ejaria start instead of him. Father time is undefeated and it is catching up on the Brazilian,

Busy summer ahead

In midfield the case is very similar to defence – the starters have looked solid when playing but there is no one to come in once 2 players get injured at the same time. There is certainly a need for another number 8 but even if the club doesn’t buy a new one we have several players who can play in that position and Grujic may come of age next season. Sites like Unibet have many odds on who will be joining Liverpool’s midfield this summer, it remains to be seen who it is that joins.

In my opinion the most important position that needs to be addressed in midfield is the deepest lying midfielder position. Henderson has done a fantastic job but I don’t think he can handle a full season with European football without being some cover. There are several problems with relying on Emre Can. His contract situation – we may need to sell him. The inconsistency of his performance – the deepest lying midfielder needs to have solid games, no need to be a world beater all the time, just solid. Emre either looks like a starter on the German national team or a player on his way to revive his career at Newcastle. Getting an additional number 6 may open new possibilities for Klopp such as the double pivot, which doesn’t work very will with the current squad.