The player ratings for the loss at Old Trafford have already been published and certainly few, if any, members of Brendan Rodgers’ squad earned glowing reviews. As the Boss himself has pointed out, he is not managing a fantasy EPL side, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rate the Reds’ performance based on their fantasy returns. Ahead of a now vital clash with Bounemouth at Goldsands Stadium in the Capital One Cup, Liverpool must take stock of their available talent and select a side that is capable of seeing the Reds through to the semi-finals. We humbly support the premise that Rodgers’ must start the two best players in his squad if Liverpool is to capture silverware this term.
The best Liverpool performer this season has unquestionably been Raheem Sterling. The now 20-year-old (Happy Birthday, Raheem!) England international has been every bit as good as advertised. While Rodgers’ side has not matched expectation, very little of that is down to Sterling’s pristine efforts. This season he has scored three goals and added four assists. But those numbers belie the true value that Sterling has contributed to this side. While he has scored just three goals, no Premier League midfielder has recorded more shots on target than Sterling’s 15. He had four shots on target against United (failing to score).
Sterling has, of course, done well with the ball at his feet as his 50 successful dribbles trails only Eden Hazard (73) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (52) this season. In the loss to United, Sterling had three successful dribbles. And finally, but no less importantly, Sterling’s 43 chances created trail only Cesc Fabregas (61), Gylfi Sigurdsson (54), Dusan Tadic and Stewart Downing (53) and Alexis Sanchez (52) – the English wunderkind created four chances but saw his efforts squandered by a squad which kicked-off without a recognized striker on the pitch. Brendan does have one thing right – no fantasy soccer manager would ever start a side without a single striker.
While there is no competition for best player of the season, the race for second is a hotly-contested affair. Arguably, the second best player has been Sterling’s compatriot in both the England and Liverpool midfield: Jordan Henderson. Hendo started on the right side of the middle four in the 3-4-3 starting line-up, and dutifully played the wing. The 24-year-old showed considerable aplomb with a handful of long balls which helped open the Untied’s defenses. Interestingly, Henderson only attempted 39 passes in the match, completing 29. His final third passing was even more muted – he completed 10/15 with several of those entries coming from the LFC half – and being relegated to the wing may have negatively impacted his defensive value. While Henderson is a quality player going forward (31 chances created) he has provided much needed cover for the Reds’ back four. With 16 interceptions to date (one against United) and 29 tackles won (none against United), Jordan has led all Reds’ midfielders in the former and paces the entire squad in the latter.
By far the least inspiring performance on the day was Joe Allen. The Welsh international posted a negative return (-5 points) in Togga this weekend as he was cautioned and dispossessed five times. A quick look at Stats Zone only serves to pile on Allen’s poor outing. Despite playing the full 90′, the Welsh international attempted a paltry 45 passes (completing 80%), and was 6/10 in the attacking third with four of his completed passes short possession plays along the left sideline. At 24 Allen certainly has time to grow as a player, but in his 28 months at Liverpool he has yet to break through to the next level. This game highlighted his ineffective play in the currently mandated tactics and it appears unlikely that Allen will flourish at Anfield.
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*All statistics courtesy of Opta