Liverpool’s Convincing Victory
Liverpool put in a convincing performance as they came out comfortable 2-0 winners against Sheffield United on Wednesday night. Goals from Virgil Van Dijk and Dominik Szoboszlai were enough to secure a crucial three points on the road. The victory puts the Reds just one point off Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, but four points above Manchester City after they dropped points yet again at Aston Villa.
There were a number of standout performances for Jurgen Klopp’s side, but today we’re going to be taking a closer look at Wataru Endo’s impressive performance.
Wataru the Warrior
After his fantastic impact off the bench in Liverpool’s 4-3 victory over Fulham on Sunday, Endo was handed a rare Premier League start. The 30-year-old put in a really commanding defensive display at the base of Jurgen Klopp’s midfield.
Commanding Defensive Display
Endo won four ground duels and five aerial duels throughout the 90 minutes, which was the second most amount of total duels won on the pitch. Only Ibou Konate won more duels than the Japan captain, with an astonishing 20 total duels won (14/14 aerial duels). Endo also managed two tackles, two clearances, and one interception on the night.
Although these numbers have also regularly been produced by Alexis Mac Allister at the base of the midfield, there was one key difference. Endo’s ability to track the opposition’s runs from midfield is slightly better than the Argentine’s.
A Safe Pair of Feet
When Liverpool first signed Endo in the summer, many expected him to become a pure enforcer in Klopp’s midfield. However, although Endo has proven he is capable of that, I actually think Endo’s best qualities lie elsewhere in his game.
The midfielder’s ability to receive the ball under pressure comfortably is perhaps his most underrated quality. Even better, most of the time he produces a progressive pass between the lines to contribute to the transitional play of Klopp’s side.
Contributing to Transitional Play
Endo had 80 touches of the ball tonight, completing 56 passes in the process. The progressive nature of Endo’s play was proven at times, as he completed eight passes into the final third.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Endo should be Liverpool’s starting defensive midfielder but the veteran has certainly proved himself as a trustworthy member of Klopp’s squad.
With Alexis Mac Allister supposedly picking up a slight knock tonight, I expect to see Endo start at the base of Klopp’s midfield against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Impact on Transfer Plans
Endo’s reliable performances, along with the long-term injuries to both Andy Robertson and Joel Matip, may have changed Liverpool’s transfer plans for the upcoming January transfer window. I now believe that Liverpool’s priority in the January transfer window is to sign a versatile left-footed defender, like Gonçalo Incacio, rather than a defensive midfielder. Both would be ideal, but a defender suddenly seems more necessary.