Solving The Reds’ Six Problem
Liverpool are reportedly set to rival Brighton for the signing of LOSC Lille midfielder, Carlos Baleba, after missing out on the acquisitions of Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia.
With Chelsea completing the signings of Caicedo and Lavia for a combined fee of around £180million, both clubs are making the signing of a defensive midfielder their priority between now and the end of the transfer window.
Following the departures of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho earlier in the window, Liverpool are left with no fit natural defensive midfielders in the squad.
Even with a fully fit squad, Klopp would be relying on 18-year-od Stefan Bajcetic as the only defensive midfielder.
This has led to the Reds considering an approach for Baleba in a change of plan from the bigger names that have been linked so far this summer.
Who is Carlos Baleba?
Carlos Baleba is a 19-year-old central midfielder, currently playing for LOSC Lille in the French first division, Ligue 1.
The Cameroonian featured 25 times for Lile across the 2022/23 season, as well as making an appearance in their opening league game of the 2023/24 season last week.
The teenager is quite a versatile player in the middle of the park, capable of playing as a defensive midfielder and as a more advanced playmaker.
Lille fans seem to label Baleba as more of a box-to-box midfielder, due to his well-rounded attributes making him heavily effective at both ends of the pitch.
Transfermarkt currently value the midfielder at just £5million, however the French side are expected to demand a fee of between £10-£15million and a sell-on clause for his services.
Now we’re going to compare Baleba’s statistics from last season to Romeo Lavia, who Liverpool had been pursuing heavily before the 19-year-old opted for a move to Chelsea a couple of days ago.
First of all, we’re going to compare the two player’s numbers when in posession of the football per 90 minutes.
Touches per 90- 73.39 (1st)
Passes completed per 90- 47.97 (1st)
Pass completion %- 83.7% (2nd)
Key passes per 90- 0.34 (2nd)
Passes into final third per 90- 6.44 (1st)
Progressive passes per 90- 5.93 (1st)
Successful take-ons per 90- 2.54 (1st)
Carries per 90- 57.63 (1st)
Progressive carries per 90- 2.88 (1st)
Touches per 90- 52.43 (2nd)
Passes completed per 90- 34.70 (2nd)
Pass completion %- 85.7% (1st)
Key passes per 90- 0.66 (1st)
Passes into final third per 90- 3.79 (2nd)
Progressive passes per 90- 4.01 (2nd)
Succesful take-ons per 90- 1.15 (2nd)
Carries per 90- 32.76 (2nd)
Progressive carries per 90- 0.97 (2nd)
Based on the statistics, Baleba appears to be a much more comfortable player with the ball at his feet which is expected from a player capable of playing further up the pitch.
His progressiveness is clear to see through the numbers, naturally wanting to drive forward with the ball or look forward with it to pick out the forwards.
However, the main thing that Liverpool are in desperate need of is a physical defensive presence in the middle of the park.
Here is a comparison of the two players’ defensive numbers from the 2022/23 season.
Tackles per 90- 2.88 (1st)
Dribblers challenged per 90- 3.05 (1st)
% of dribblers tackled per 90- 66.7% (1st)
Blocks per 90- 2.20 (1st)
Interceptions per 90- 0.51 (2nd)
Ball recoveries per 90- 6.61 (2nd)
Aerials won per 90- 1.19 (1st)
Tackles per 90- 2.56 (2nd)
Dribblers challenged per 90- 2.20 (2nd)
% of dribblers tackled per 90- 38.0% (2nd)
Blocks per 90- 1.94 (2nd)
Interceptions per 90- 1.23 (1st)
Ball recoveries per 90- 7.28 (1st)
Aerials won per 90- 0.26 (2nd)
You can also see that Baleba is just as capable as a defensive option as Romeo Lavia, even whilst playing in a team that isn’t tasked with as much defensive responsibility.
He makes more tackles per 90 minutes, challenges more dribblers per 90 minutes and also is much more dominant in the air than Romeo Lavia.
All of this can be available to the Reds for a quarter of the price that Romeo Lavia could’ve cost, which could make this deal a n0-brainer for the hierarchy at Anfield.
However, either way this can’t be the end of Liverpool’s transfer activity this summer and another midfielder would still be needed on top of the addition of Baleba.
The Reds have also been looking at potential defensive improvements as well, so there is still plenty to be done before the end of the transfer window.