Why Insua Deserves A Chance

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There seems to be a large number of supporters who simply do not like Insua, and they will all tell you he simply isn’t good enough. But is this actually true? or a very misinformed judgement?

Most who criticise Insua, don’t seem to take note that he is only 22 years old, and played most of his Liverpool first team games at the age of 20/21. That is a young age for a player to be thrust into the starting 11 of a team that is supposed to be challenging for top honours on multiple fronts. It also highlights just how big a problem the left back situation is at Liverpool.

His young age is a big factor, recently Glen Johnson signed a contract extension at Liverpool, and Damien Comolli was eager to point out that “His best years are yet to come.Very often defenders peak between 26-31, so he is just entering into those years where a maturity comes in and his knowledge of the game gets better and better. We are happy his long-term future is at Liverpool.” So the stats man thinks that clubs get the best out of defenders between the age of 26-31, Insua has another 4 years to go to hit this period in his career – so it could be that the young Argentine does have a future at the club.

To consider just how well Insua performs he needs to be compared with players in his own position, and increasingly we are told by the media, pundits etc that the best left backs in the Premier League are Ashley Cole (dubbed best LB in the world by many media outlets), Patrice Evra and the emerging Gareth Bale who is the same age as Insua and in my opinion over-hyped and over-rated, but still has the potential to be a great LB.

Both Cole and Evra are 30 years old, so if we believe the stats man they are in their prime as defenders and wont get much better than they are, but looking at their stats in comparison to their younger counterparts both have already peaked and could potentially be on the downward trail, with the two youngsters Insua and Bale often having better head to head stats.

As Insua was on loan all last season his stats are taken from his last season in English football (09/10) the season that promised much yet delivered nothing. The stats for Cole, Evra and Bale are from the 2010/2011 season.

And here are the stats:

As you can see all played over 75% of their clubs respective games, with Cole the only player to start all of his teams league games.

Time to break the stats down:

#1 Attacking:

By notching up 7 goals Bale is the highest scorer, self explanatory there, Insua and Cole failed to register any goals with Evra getting 1. Spurs tended to use Bale as a wing back or a straight left back in their games this season, this could account for the higher number of goals, but generally defenders are not expected to be scoring goals, merely preventing them and with regards to the wide players, creating the chances that lead to goals. And it is here where Bale excels again, 250 crosses with 54 of these being corners, out of the 4 players he is the only regular corner taker. Given that Insua, Cole and Evra’s crossing stats are so closely grouped, it would appear that Bale is over-performing in this area but also a lot of Spurs attacking movements were played through Bale on the left, so his crosses were required much more often. What is surprising though is that given the large number of crosses in general, Bale never once hit the byline and whipped a cross in, if you ask most journalists or pundits they would probably tell you that this is one of his strengths. In general the number of byline crosses from the other 3 is also not what you might expect. One other surprising thing is that it is Insua who was most eager to enter the opponents final third, with Bale being the least eager and also the least active on the ball with fewer touches than his fellow left backs. Bale also created the most chances, with Insua creating just as many chances for Liverpool as Evra did for Utd. Bale also fired in the most shots with 48, given the lower number of shots for the other players the importance of Bale to Spurs attacking force is further highlighted, Insua contributed 14 shots, more than Evra, less than Cole. What surprises even more is that Insua notched up the most assists!

In Fairness there was only going to be one player come out on top here and that was the attacking minded Bale, but Insua more than holds his own against much more experienced players.

# Defending:

Ultimately these players are defenders and it is here that they come under greater scrutiny. As far as tackling goes, whilst Cole attempted the most tackles, his success rate is the lowest, it is actually Insua who comes off best just ahead of Evra in this area, whilst Bale also has a 78% success rate he attempted almost 40 tackles less so it is unclear if he would retain such a high success rate had he attempted significantly more tackles. Bale gives away the least number of fouls but again, he is much less defensively involved, Evra gave away the most fouls, possibly a sign that he is finding it hard to to keep up with the pace of the game at this level?? Insua gave away 29 fouls in 30 games, so just under one a game. The most alert to what is going on is Evra, notching up 85 interceptions, with Insua not far behind, could be evidence that he is quite adept at reading the game. In terms of possession duels our man Insua comes off best again, successfully winning the ball more times that other players, but in terms of aerial duels he comes off second best to Evra, but importantly still won more aerial duels than he lost. In terms of clearances he also comes off second best to Evra but the gulf between Insua/Evra and Cole/Bale in this area shows the difference in mentality between them, Insua/Evra are much more defensively involved in the game, whilst Cole/Bale are much more offensively involved. But when you consider headed clearances Insua is top dog in the air  Where Insua does need to pick his game up is dealing with crosses before they are delivered, put simply he needs to stop more crosses getting over.

Here Evra just edges it, but Insua isn’t far behind at all.

#3 Everything else

Ok not a great title for #3 but basically looking at everything else about their game. No messing around here, Cole is hands down best passer, with Evra just edging it ahead of Insua but Bale is lacking in this area in comparison to the others. Discipline wise, all 4 are pretty much well disciplined, even Cole with 4 yellows from 38 games, you have to say its quite low for a defender these days, not much in it, all four have a good temperament – on the field at least. As far as errors go, all 4 make very few, with Evra making none at all and Cole the only one to give away a goal directly from a mistake.

No winners here, but Bale certainly needing to improve his passing.

#4 Head To Head

Wouldn’t be a comparison if they didn’t go head to head now would it. Based on everything covered the following table I feel best illustrates who would come off better in a direct comparison:

This is of course by no means conclusive, and takes into account their all round game, but doesn’t consider the external factors such as who they play for, how opposition teams line up against them etc. For example, teams tend to sit back more against Utd and Chelsea, putting less pressure on the defenders, whereas teams are usually a bit more adventurous against Spurs and to a lesser extent against Liverpool meaning that the defenders are quite often a bit busier.

#5 Conclusion

The easy bit. What is apparent from these stats is that it is easy to tell what each players playing mentality is. Evra’s mentality is much more balanced between attack and defence, which for a left back is a good thing, you know he will get forward to support attacks but will also be on hand to carry out his defensive duties. Insua seems to be developing into a balanced left back, he already has a decent balance between attack and defence, which with the right training and guidance will only improve and at the age of 22, a bit of patience and hard work could see him becoming one of the best left backs in the country. Cole seems to be much more attacking minded, not ultra attacking, but he certainly doesn’t have a 50/50 balance between attack and defence. Bale you could argue is definitely a much more attacking minded left back, almost more of a left midfielder really, much less active in the defensive third and not entirely convincing when he is.

Interestingly, Insua has more assists, a better passing ability, a better tackling ability, a better battling ability in terms of player v player duels both on the ground and in the air, a better defensive ability all round, and is seemingly able to read the game better than Gareth Bale – who in this comparison and probably the league, is the best player to compare him to. Take into account that the stats for Insua are from the season before last – he could already have improved on these to some extent.

I think that allowing him to leave on a season long loan was just another bizarre Hodgson decision, Insua has his critics but he deserves a chance to show what he can do, and based on the stats at least, he is not a bad option to have, he is certainly better than Roys mate Paul and with Aurelio an almost ever present on the treatment table, he was our best option going into last season. Konchesky flopped, Fabio was crocked, and we resorted to playing right backs and centre backs at left back – not an ideal situation.

You ask me, Insua deserves a chance.


As requested, Insua’s stats compared to Baines.

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  1. One of the things that people are very critical of with Insua is the number of goals conceded from our left hand side (surely some of this blame can lie with the left CH anyway), but I’d like to see those stats.

    Nobody allowed for a learning curve with Insua when – through sheer necessity – he was thrown in at the deep en and massively overused in a struggling team full of under-performers. Let’s hope those same people show a bit more sense with Robinson and Flanagan.

    I sincerely hope he gets another chance.

    • a total reliance on statistics can always mean that any picture can be painted. Errors leading to goal for instance is far too generalised – Insua is caught out positionally an awful lot, and these instances clearly arent included here. And he simply does not have the pace to play full back in the modern game, he;s not just slow, he is painfully slow. Regarding Robinson and Flanagan, both have already shown far more potential than Insua ever has. Of course defenders peak at around 27 or 28, but hes nowhere near the level of the likes of Cole at the same age. He’s definately not going to get quicker so ultimately he will never be good enough.

  2. people splitting hairs here, Bale is a left back, regardless of whether spurs played him out of position or not, hes a left back, so he played alot of games out of position, he is a left back

  3. You could argue though that Bale’s stats are those of a winger, not a fullback since he only played a handful of games in his ‘rightful’ position. Either way, a good read.

    As for the comments on pace, Carra has never had any at all and was a brilliant defender because (after so many people said he wasn’t good enough) he learnt to read the game so well and had good positional awareness which would all be learnt with experience.

    People either forget or don’t know that Insua never played leftback untill he came to our club. He started off as a winger and had about a season as a centrehalf at Boca before moving here. Would be interesting to see how he faired deployed more like Bale actually. He’s certainly got the attacking ability in my opinion.

    • I’d rather have Insua as back up than Konchesky, and unlike Aurelio at least he can be relied on to be fit when called upon. Or would you rather we ruined Robinson?

  4. So, if a player was completely out of position or skinned for pace and gets nowhere near the ball gifting the opposition an easy goal, how would that show up in these statistics? Of course the answer is, that it wouldn’t. Maybe he does this once or twice every game costing the team point after point, yet the figures would remain the same.

    By definition most of a teams defensive work is done without the ball and this also is very difficult to measure statisticly. As is so often the case this type of analysis raises plenty of interesting questions whilst revealing very little.

    • Paul – aren’t you completely missing the point that in the role he played for Rafa he was required to go forward to offer attacking width.
      I’m sorry but you can be Usain Bolt’s faster brother and still not be able to be in 2 positions at once. This whole, too slow and doesn’t know what he’s doing defensively crap was spouted about Johnson that same season (and the start of last season)…
      In a 4-2-3-1 formation the full-backs generally bomb forward and the “double pivot” midfielders are required to move wide when their respective full back goes forward. It’s called fluidity, something Hodgson couldn’t get his head around either!!

  5. Personally I find stats a somewhat unreliable source for making calls like this, that said, I agree with you that Insua deserves a chance. I remember back a few years ago he performed superbly against Arsenal, in one of his first games ever. He does however have a habit of appearing invisible at times and maybe a bit uneven. Still, he’s still very young and deserves a shot.

  6. To me,Insua should be given a chance next season,becos he proved himself under Benitez,and i’m sure dat had it been it was Benitez,he would have been a descent LB now…Just hope KD would give him a nod this season.YNWA

  7. I read a couple complaining that Insua gets out of position, well when you do take a run up the field, then it’s the defensive midfielder and the wingers responsibility to cover for you – or even the centerback – at that time it was either Lucas, Benayoun, Maxi, Skrtel, who should have covered the spot behind – but nobody of these mentioned did it – so after Insua had run about 50-60yards up – he found himself alone and had to run back to cover, that probably was one of the reasons why Benitez started to play with both Lucas and Mascherano to cover up and that also didn’t really work, because now we didn’t have anyone giving balls in midfield to SG and Torres… so the whole system started to fail – hence the failure of season 09/10.

    I don’t blame Insua for this, I rather blame the system and the collective effort, question would be interesting if Benitez would had limited Insuas offensive runs up the pitch and only played with a single def.midfielder? That was the reason why people was criticize Lucas for not being the “new” Alonso, since he got that role even if it was not really suitable to fill his boots – The team and system failed because we did have two major clowns at charge and we didn’t have the right players we needed to optimize this playing system.

    Thank GOD Almighty that FSG is now involved and that we have King Kenny back – but Insua deserves a proper chance to show that he deserves to wear the Red Shirt!!! Let’s get behind the team this year!


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