Football News

Reddit Reacts: Squawka answers Liverpool fans’ burning questions – Can TAA defend? Is Jota world class?

By Ben Green

Reddit Reacts: Squawka answers Liverpool fans' burning questions - Can TAA defend? Is Jota world class?

Published: 14:19, 29 March 2022 | Updated: 7:21, 31 March 2022

There’s not much we don’t know about Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool: Mohamed Salah is good at scoring goals, Alisson is good at stopping goals, James Milner is good at refusing to age and Diogo Jota is (weirdly) good at headers.

However, there are some question marks that remain over the Reds. And we decided to get to the bottom of those. So Squawka’s own Jake Entwistle took to took to Reddit to answer some of r/LiverpoolFC‘s burning questions about their squad.

First on the agenda was finding the most bonkers stat possible. Step forward, shirtless Roberto Firmino…

What are some of the most surprising stats you’ve learnt about a Liverpool player?

Squawka’s answer…

This might be a bit silly, but one of my favourite stats of all-time is about Roberto Firmino…

After scoring the winner against Stoke in April 2017, Roberto Firmino became the most booked player for ‘excessive celebrations’ in a top-five European league since 2012/13.

Unfortunately, we can no longer access with specific metric to get an updated tally but it will take some beating.

Then it got more serious. Liverpool fans were keen to find out whether Virgil van Dijk had dropped off…

Have you seen any statistical changes in Virgil’s game pre/post injury?

Squawka’s answer…

Short answer, not really.

VVD for Liverpool in the PL before injury

  • 74.4% duel success
  • 74.6% aerial duel success
  • 71.8% true tackle success

VVD for Liverpool in the PL this season

  • 72.1% duel success
  • 74.4% aerial duel success
  • 57.9% true tackle success

The volume of his clearances and tackles made per 90 have gone down, but that could be because Liverpool have got even better.

Using percentages helps highlight whether he is becoming less effective. And it doesn’t look like he is. His tackling numbers are so low this season (only 19 attempted in total) that it’s not worth focussing too much on that drop off.

Another serious one about who the most underrated player in the squad is…

Based on your stats, who’s the most underrated player in our squad at the moment?

Squawka’s answer…

Great question. I think the answer to this used to be Gini Wijnaldum, purely because he never gave the ball away but did not necessarily stand out in any particular metric.

Because of injuries – and the fact his partner is the best centre-back in the world – perhaps no one realises how good Joël Matip really is?

Here’s how they compare since VVD made his Premier League debut for Liverpool:

Matip vs VVD in the PL since 22-01-2018

  • Duel win rate: 68%-74%
  • Aerial Duel win rate: 73%-75%
  • True Tackle success rate: 66%-71%
  • Dribble success rate: 80%-68%
  • Tackles Made per 90: 1.7-0.75
  • Clearances per 90: 3.6-4.4
  • Interceptions per 90: 1.5-1.0
  • Passes into final third per 90: 7.3-7.6

Matip is more active in terms of the volume of defensive actions while being nearly as dominant in the duels.

Personally, I still think Diogo Jota is underrated – but only because I would argue he’s world-class and maybe some people feel that is a bit early.

Then the big one: can Trent Alexander-Arnold defend?

Thanks for your time, Jake. There’s been a lot of criticism from pundits towards Trent for his defensive side of the game. Klopp is adamant Trent is not a defensive liability. What do the stats say?

Squawka’s answer…

No problem at all, I love doing this.

For this, we’ll look at his tackling stats, specifically True Tackle Success. Warning: this will turn into a long message but I hope you find everything interesting and valuable.

This is different to what you will find on the Premier League website, for example. They use Tackles Won but there is something everyone needs to know about tackle definitions. They do not really make much sense. I’ve pasted the Opta explanation below, but more information can be found here.

A tackle won is deemed to be where the tackler or one of his team-mates regains possession as a result of the challenge, or that the ball goes out of play and is “safe”.

A tackle lost is where a tackle is made but the ball goes to an opposition player.

Both are deemed as successful tackles however, the outcome of the tackle (won or lost) is different based on where the ball goes after the tackle.

So, True Tackle Success is calculated by dividing Successful Tackles Made by Total Tackle Attempts.

A Successful Tackle is made up of Tackles Won + Tackles Lost. Total Tackle Attempts is actually made up of four different metrics: Tackles Won + Tackles Lost + Fouls from Attempted Tackles + Challenges Lost (a.k.a Times Dribbled Past).*

With all of that out of the way, here’s how TAA compares to AWB for all those tackling stats.

TAA vs AWB in the Premier League since 2018/19

  • Tackles Attempted per 90: 2.9-4.1
  • Successful Tackles Made per 90: 1.6-3.2
  • Fouls from Attempted Tackles per 90: 0.25-0.48
  • Times Dribbled Past per 90: 0.98-0.41
  • True Tackle Success Rate: 57%-78%

It’s important to note that AWB has made the most tackles and has the best tackle success rate of any full-back with 1,200 minutes in Europe’s top five leagues since 2018/19. So, TAA stacks up quite well.

And here is the True Tackle Success rate of some other full-backs in that time:

  • Andy Robertson = 58.3%
  • Achraf Hakimi = 57.1%
  • João Cancelo = 55.4%
  • Reece James = 53.8%
  • Kyle Walker = 53.6%

So while tackling is not the only metric you should use to measure someone’s defensive quality, to suggest Trent is below average in this regard is pretty silly.

And even if he was operating at 30%, he’s so good at what he is in the team to do that Jürgen Klopp probably wouldn’t care.

The subreddit also asked Jake if there’s a potential like-for-like replacement out there for Mohamed Salah…

Hi Jake, controversial question here, is there one on one replacement for Salah?

Squawka’s answer…

Hi there, before the signing of Luis Diaz, we put together a video on a potential long-term replacement plan for the entire front three. You can watch it here.

In the Salah section, we highlighted Kylian Mbappé as the only player that would be able to match his ridiculous output but we all know that’s very unlikely.

Raphinha and Jarrod Bowen are the other suggested players. Raphinha is perhaps more of a playmaker, but Salah was know for his dribbling and assists at Roma – the same evolution could be made.

Bowen is really interesting because although he is not close to Salah’s level now, his style of play is very similar. He also fits the Liverpool model of elevating ‘under-the-radar’ players into that world-class bracket. Just look at Diogo Jota.

And finally, Antonio Rudiger was recently revealed as the Premier League’s surprise player topping the speed charts, and one Reddit user wanted to know where Klopp would rank when in full tunnel-sprint mode…

Hi Jake, what’s the fastest recorded speed on Jurgen running down the tunnel?

Squawka’s answer…

You guys have come up with so many stats I wish we had the answer to. But if Mohamed Salah’s top speed in a PL game this season is 36.6hm/h, then I don’t think Kloppo will be far away from that.