As Jordan Henderson is the only Liverpool player who has appeared in every match in all competitions this season, Brendan Rodgers doesn’t have any recent experience of planning his match squad without the England international being available.
Henderson’s red card in the final minutes of Liverpool’s 3-2 win over Manchester City means that the Reds’ manager will have to plan for his absence for three of the final four games of the season. My assumption is that Joe Allen will take Henderson’s place, so I thought I’d take review the stats to see how the two players compare this season.
Looking at the stats is a very good example of the problem with taking WhoScored’s ‘per game’ stats at face value. Using their figures, Henderson and Allen appear to have similar performance levels in a defensive sense.
However, whereas Henderson had only missed twenty minutes of league football this season prior to his sending off (when he was withdrawn early against Norwich City at Anfield), Allen has completed ninety minutes in under half of his league appearances (nine out of twenty), and two of his appearances were under ten minutes long.
So here are the same stats per 90 minutes played. You’ll see that it measuring the figures this way makes quite a difference.
The exact same figures as used in the first table now illustrate that in fact Allen has been tackling and intercepting a lot more than Henderson (which probably explains why he fouls more often too), but also winning possession more frequently, which wasn’t the case in the table above.
I therefore think Allen can replace Henderson on a defensive level, but my initial concern was with the offensive side.
When looking at this through the ‘per 90 minutes’ prism as I did with the defensive figures, we can see that he still creates 1.8 chances (as he has played virtually every minute) whilst Allen averages just 0.8 per ninety. Could this drop off prove significant in the next three games?
Not necessarily. By looking at where the two players have created their chances, we can see that Allen has created an opportunity in the box every 224 minutes, compared to Henderson’s figure of one per 253 minutes.
Henderson creates chances in bulk, but many (79%) of them are received outside the box; to be fair, that’s probably a combined effect of where he plays on the pitch, and the fact that Liverpool are a good counter attacking side so don’t always make the assist pass within the penalty area. But the figures certainly suggest Allen has a little more creative ability than he perhaps is credited with.
Of course, as with all stats they need further context, and the players haven’t played the exact same position, which will have an impact on the numbers, and a lot of Henderson’s best work is done off the ball, which isn’t recorded numerically. The figures suggest that Allen is capable of stepping in without the team being affected too much though, so it’s up to him to prove the theory correct. Liverpool’s title challenge probably depends on it.