Jarell Quansah Set for Liverpool Test

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Matip’s Season-Ending Injury Thrusts Quansah into Limelight

At the start of last summer, there is no doubt Liverpool were looking into buying a centre-back. While the focus was on midfield recruitment, the club were exploring defensive options as well. But then came an unprecedented window, with twists and turns and the sudden emergence of a new market in Saudi Arabia – which forced Liverpool to shift its strategy.

In the end, the window didn’t quite turn out as Liverpool would have hoped. Though for one man this would prove to his benefit.

Before the start of last summer’s pre-season, Jarell Quansah hadn’t even played a single senior minute for Liverpool’s first team. He’d been on the periphery of the team, and made a few matchday squads, but he’d never even been properly involved in a full pre-season with Jürgen Klopp’s side. His experience at senior level was a mere six months at Bristol Rovers in League One the season prior.

But without a new centre-back, Quansah got an opportunity to shine over the course of pre-season, and he seized that chance with both hands.

Photo by IMAGO

Quansah’s rise

Fast-forward a few months, and Quansah’s stock has risen to even greater heights. He is now considered a regular member of the first team squad. He’s started games in the Premier League and the Europa League. And last month, Klopp speaking to Sky Sports’ Vinny O’Connor went as far as to laud Quansah as ‘Virgil 2.0. Reloaded.’

To many Quansah’s rapid rise to the first team has been a surprise. But in reality, he has long been regarded as a top-prospect at academy level. Having captained the U18 and U19 sides, Quansah also won the European Championships with England at U19 level, and has always stood-out for his ball playing ability.

It is now that ability which also distinguishes him in the Reds’ first team set-up.

Quansah on the ball

Impressively, in his last four starts for Liverpool, Quansah has completed the most passes in every single game. He recorded 60 completed passes against LASK, 88 against Toulouse, 85 against Bournemouth and 100 against Union SG.

But Quansah’s composure on the ball hasn’t just stood-out among his own teammates. As per Wyscout, in the Europa League, Quansah ranks among the top five centre-backs for passes per 90 minutes. The Liverpool defenders comes in at fourth place averaging 78.37 passes behind Jonathan Tah (84.73), Edmond Tapsoba (86.57) and Lewis Dunk (96.68). Among the top ten centre-backs in the metric, Quansah is the youngest at 20 years old.

Quansah’s coolness in possession has definitely helped in earning Klopp’s trust. The young Liverpool centre-back rarely losses the ball completing 93.29% of his passes. However, at 20 years old, he still has room to evolve as well. In Klopp’s system a centre-back doesn’t just need to retain possession, but must also instigate chances.

Room for improvement

So far Quansah has shown glimpses of his offensive threat, most notably with his assist against Leicester City in the EFL Cup. However, at times in possession he still has a tendency to make ‘safer’ passes, rather than trying to penetrate opposition lines.

If we are looking Quansah’s progressive passing, he averages just 4.71 passes per 90 into the opposition’s final third, which ranks him outside the top 50 centre-backs in the Europa League and isn’t quite up to the standard of how Klopp wants his defenders to play. For example, Ibrahima Konaté averages 7.94 passes into the opposition’s final third in the Europa League and Joël Matip 7.68 – both rank among the top 20 defenders in the competition.

On average, a Liverpool defender is expected to at least make 7 passes into the opposition’s final third per game. As he grows, Quansah needs to make the most of his time in possession. His composure gives him an important foundation. The ability to not lose the ball is essential for a centre-back, but if he can build on that and also work on making his passes more effective in starting offensive transitions, he will turn himself from an exciting prospect into an elite one.

Photo by IMAGO

Quansah’s defending

Away from his composure on the ball, another aspect worth highlighting about Quansah is his reading of the game. Quansah has the ability to anticipate situations and make vital defensive blocks, reading opposition runs and passes. As per FBref, no one has averaged more interceptions (1.82 per 90) for Liverpool this season than Quansah. And in the Europa League, among his U21 peers, Quansah ranks in third place for possession-adjusted interceptions per 90 (8). As per Wyscout, only Union SG’s Noah Sadiki (9.29) and Liverpool’s very own Ryan Gravenberch (9.6) rank above him.

Overall, he has won 71.4 per cent of his defensive duels in a Liverpool shirt so far this season, which is a pretty solid output for a centre-back. Quansah has shown himself to be quite effective in winning ground duels and making decisive blocks and tackles.

Where he perhaps has room for improvement is in the aerial department, Quansah has won just 52% of his aerial duels for Liverpool, which in comparison to Virgil van Dijk (78%) or Matip (70.8%) is a bit below what is expected of a Liverpool defender. However, given Quansah’s body is still developing, and aerial duels are often based on strength and how well one is able to use their body, this is an area where improvement can definitely be gained on the training ground, and isn’t necessary a cause for concern.

A golden chance

Both on and off the ball, there is a lot to admire about the Liverpool centre-back. Quansah has taken his opportunities well and he is definitely the most exciting centre-back to emerge from the club’s academy for at least the last decade. Although admittedly, that list is sparse.

However, his real test is just about to begin. Given’s Liverpool’s busy festive period and Matip’s long-term injury, Quansah is bound to be given even more opportunities in the coming month. There are already murmurs of Liverpool looking to invest in a defender with the January window looming, and you feel the Reds’ winter transfer activity may well depend on how well Quansah lives up to the challenge ahead of him over the next few weeks.

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