Whenever Liverpool get linked to a player, it’s usually the case that I haven’t seen them play too often. I’ll go to their page on Whoscored, see what their strengths and weaknesses are and have a look at the stats, and then delve a little deeper using StatsZone.
Normally, a quick look at a player’s numbers makes it clear why a team might be interested in signing them, but with Ryan Bertrand (who Liverpool are reportedly looking to sign) that doesn’t appear to be the case at all. What’s the attraction?
I thought it would be interesting to compare Bertrand’s stats to those of Jon Flanagan, as the two players tend to occupy left-back berths and have played a comparable amount of time in the Premier League; Bertrand has just 415 minutes worth of pitch time more than ‘the Scouse Cafu’, which is less than five full games. Let’s see how they match up defensively.
When I was filling in these figures in a spreadsheet, I started with Bertrand and then added Flanagan. Before I had input Flanagan’s interceptions, he was already ahead of Bertrand’s rates for tackles AND interceptions from his tackles alone, as he averages one every twenty-nine minutes.
This is where Bertrand definitely has an edge. To be fair to Flanagan, his minutes per foul rate in 2013/14 was seventy-six, so broadly similar to the Chelsea/Villa man’s tally overall, but it was fifty in his previous appearances in the Dalglish era, when he was far more rash than he is now. It’s clear that Flanagan has improved on this front, probably through experience as much as anything.
The ‘dribbled past’ difference could be a minor factor in the pursuit of Bertrand, as Liverpool are well-known to struggle at dealing with crosses into their box, and so having their full back being regularly beaten by opposing players is far from ideal. Here are the figures for going forward:
The attacking figures are all broadly similar, as you can see. My main concern with all of these stats is that if we accept that Flanagan is good enough for a place in the Liverpool squad, and I think most Kopites would, then there doesn’t appear to be any major performance gain to be had with Bertrand. Why spend (a reported) £8m when there’s someone who can play to the same level at the club already?
It could be argued that if Brendan Rodgers can bring Flanagan up to the level that he has, then maybe he can push Bertrand up to a higher level than Flanno could ever achieve; the Ulsterman has amply proved his coaching ability at Anfield, after all. If Bertrand does move to Liverpool then I’ll do a more thorough analysis as this simplistic piece only scratches at the surface; perhaps something remarkable lurks beneath the headline statistics?
But there’s nothing in the above numbers that makes me think that Liverpool should be going after Bertrand when they’ve already got Flanagan on board, especially when you consider that the Scouser would be more likely to be satisfied with a squad place as he’s a born-and-bred Red. I’ll support Ryan Bertrand if he comes to Liverpool, but at present I can’t support a transfer bid for him in the first place.