Liverpool are close to signing Alberto Moreno from Sevilla, according to reports, which all but confirms Brendan Rodgers is looking for an upgrade at left-back in order to improve on last season’s embarrassing defensive displays, which saw the Reds conceded 50 Premier League goals.
Liverpool, of course, finished second in the division, just behind Manchester City and were fantastic in attack, scoring 101 goals. It was the defence that ultimately cost them the title, though, and Rodgers has clearly set about improving that through signing centre back Dejan Lovren from Southampton. Meanwhile, the Reds are close to wrapping up deals for Atletico Madrid Javier Manquillo, as well as the aforementioned Moreno from Sevilla.
Manquillo, 20, will likely arrive on a two-year loan and could compete with naturally right-sided Jon Flanagan to address Glen Johnson’s alarming decline over the past 18 months, while Moreno will almost certainly start at left-back.
Moreno has been a regular for Sevilla over the past couple of years and playing a starring role in their Europa League triumph last season. He will cost the Reds around £16 million and should slot straight in at left-back on the opening weekend of the season against Southampton – should he sign before.
However, with Rodgers having spent heavily on improving the squad, and having chased Moreno for so long, is he right to look at the Spaniard while he already has a now match-fit Jose Enrique?
The Spaniard has declined, like Johnson, over the past year and only appeared eight times in the Premier League last season after a strange knee injury sidelined him for the vast majority of the campaign.
He wasn’t fantastic in his last full season in 2012-13, either, but having returned to full fitness, it is only fair to compare him to the player being bought in as his replacement.
So, how much of an improvement is Moreno on Enrique?
Moreno played 29 games in La Liga last season, the same number Enrique managed in England during 12/13 and their statistics are quite similar in some areas.
This is not the case in one particular area, though. The Defence Performance Score, averaged out over 90 minutes, is vastly greater in Enrique’s favour. He averaged 14.46 while Moreno was sat at a paltry 2.85 last season.
This could say a couple of things, though: either Moreno didn’t need to defend as much so scored fewer points, or his defending last season was poor. That Moreno transitioned from a winger to a full-back during his development could also represent a key factor.
One way to shed more light, though, could be to take a look at the rest of his defensive statistics.
Only Federico Fazio (88) performed more interceptions than Moreno (73) at Sevilla last season. Moreno’s figure is actually more than double Enrique’s (35) from the 2012-13 season.
Moreno actually cut out one more opposition pass than Sergio Ramos last season.
Enrique was stronger tackling in this comparison, though. He averaged 2.43 successful tackles in 12-13, much more than Moreno (1.42) and even won 75% of his tackles that season, compared to Moreno’s poor 40%.
He also failed in fewer tackles, averaging just 0.8 per 90 mins in that regard, while Moreno lost 2.16 in La Liga last season. However, in terms of aerial duels, Moreno came out on top despite his smaller stature. He won an average of 0.9 headed duels last season, while Enrique’s average stood at just 0.52.
One thing Enrique has always been criticised for is his lack of ability on the ball and moving forward. He plays the odd decent pass but Moreno’s passing accuracy of 79% is just better than the Liverpool man (76%).
The 22-year-old also completed more take-ons per 90 minutes last season, averaging 1.23 compared to Enrique’s 1.2.
In truth, there isn’t a lot to separate to the two players. Enrique was much better tackling, but Moreno dominated in interceptions, headed duels and just edged his fellow Spaniard out in terms of passing and take-ons.
It must be taken into account also that Enrique has declined since the 12-13 season and is not at the level he was then. Moreno would be a strong addition to the Liverpool side and could solve what is arguably the key issue within Liverpool’s squad. With age on his side, what’s more, Moreno can progress and improve under Brendan Rodgers.