Bridging the LFC Skill Gap

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While we are in the midst of the summer transfer window I thought I'd delve into the most obvious, but little understood problem at Liverpool FC, our lack of depth.  

Being linked with players like Salah, Van Dijk, Naby Keita bodes well for us as fans as we feel they would almost always be certain starters in our current squad. The problem here however is that our starting XI has proven to be able to dominate our closest rivals in league games, quite considerably in fact. So, why fix something that isn't broken?  

The obvious answer here is that our starting XI can't play 90mins of 40-60 games per season, so what's going wrong?

Let's first start by analysing Klopp's most used substitutions throughout the year:

Most Subbed On Players: 

Divock Origi - 47 times in the squad, played 43 times, subbed on 22 times

Daniel Sturridge - 34 times in the squad, played 27 times, subbed on 16 times

Lucas Leiva - 43 times in the squad, played 31 times, subbed on 12 times

Alberto Moreno - 47 times in the squad, played 18 times, subbed on 10 times

Emre Can - 41 times in the squad, played 40 times, subbed on 9 times

Gini Wijnaldum - 44 times in the squad, played 42 times, subbed on 5 times

 

Most Subbed Off Players: 

Philippe Coutinho - 36 times in the squad, played 36 times, subbed off 22 times

Adam Lallana - 36 times in the squad, played 35 times, subbed off 18 times

Divock Origi - 47 times in the squad, played 43 times, subbed off 12 times

Sadio Mane - 31 times in the squad, played 29 times, subbed off 12 times

Roberto Firmino - 41 times in the squad, played 41 times, subbed off 11 times

Gini Wijnaldum - 44 times in the squad, played 42 times, subbed off 10 times

 

Conclusions from the data:  

* Despite Origi's lack of form this season, Klopp is willing to give him as much as time as possible on the pitch with 43 appearances (23 as a sub). 

* Klopp rates Coutinho and Firmino as his star assets (only 2 players to play in every single game where they have been on the team sheet). 

* Klopp is equally protective of Coutinho's fitness, subbing him off 22 times throughout the season. With his end of season form, you can see that this paid great dividends. 

* Despite being subbed on 10 times, Alberto Moreno clearly doesn't have the trust of Klopp as he was included in the team 47 times, starting only 8 of those. 

 * Most noticeably, the lack of substitutions that Klopp has made, with his top players being Emre Can and Wijnaldum coming on only 9 and 5 times respectively. This points to a serious lack of rotation in the squad.

 

Let's now take a look at the most obvious starting XI and reserves:

 Starting XI

Coutinho - Firmino - Mane

Lallana - Wijnaldum - Henderson/Can (fitness depending) 

Milner - Lovren - Matip - Clyne

Mignolet

 

Reseres in order of "On team sheet/appearances"

Karius (43/16 appearances)

Moreno (47/18 appearances)

Leiva (43/31 appearances) 

Klavan (42/25 appearances) 

Sturridge (34/27 appearances)

Alexander-Arnold (28/12 appearances) 

Ben Woodburn (23/9 appearances) 

 

With the exception of Can & Henderson (both are seen as equally valuable to Klopp based on stats) , the only player who can make a significant impact on a game is Daniel Sturridge (in my opinion) and we all know how his injury record is. 

Let's compare this to the 2016/17 Premier League Champions, Chelsea FC: 

Starting XI: 

Eden Hazard - Costa - Pedro

Matic - Fabregas - Kante

Alonso - Cahill - Luiz - Azpilicueta - Moses

Courtois

 

Most Subbed On Players:

Batshuayi - 46 times in the squad, 28 appearances, subbed on 21 times  

Willian - 42 times in the squad, 41 appearances, subbed on 20 times

Fabregas - 42 times in the squad, 37 appearances, subbed on 19 times

Pedro - 46 times in the squad, 43 appearances, subbed on 10 times

Chalobah - 37 times in the squad, 15 appearances, subbed on 10 times

Ivanovic - 22 times in the squad, 16 appearances, subbed on 8 times

 

Without being too disrespectful to our players, but having a bench of the above (plus Begovic as the reserve goalkeeper), and interchanging players such as Willian with Pedro, Batshuayi with Costa, Fabregas with Matic etc, are game-changing decisions. 

 

So What? 

If we are to win the Premier League title, our squad needs to move in this direction, where our current favourite players may be forced to sit on the bench because we're bringing in fantastic talent. We all know that our current starting XI may not be the right squad mix to break down deep-lying defences, however Klopp doesn't have many options.

We need to be in a position where we are able to rest the likes of Coutinho, Mane, Wijnaldum & Matip and not feel such a dramatic drop in our quality.

For instance, if we picked up Salah, Van Dijk, Keita, Lacazette and Mendy (as examples, not saying it's possible), our squad could look like this: 

 Starting XI:

Coutinho - Lacazette - Mane

Lallana - Keita - Can

Mendy - Van Dijk - Matip - Clyne

Mignolet

 

Reserves: 

Karius

Lovren

Henderson

Wijnaldum

Salah

Firmino

Sturridge

 

This is where Liverpool needs to get to. 

 

Let me know your thoughts on my article. Do you agree or disagree?

Contact me on Twitter @PodcastingCouch

Thanks, Nish