Liverpool were recently linked to Ryan Bertrand, though as I wrote here there was nothing in his numbers that could explain why particularly. The latest left back to be rumoured to be in Brendan Rodgers’ sights is Ben Davies of Swansea City, and as his raw numbers looked more favourable, I thought I’d dig a little deeper.
To begin, a quick comparison of Davies, Bertrand and Flanagan’s figures from their whole Premier League careers.
We can see that Davies is not the worst player in any of the six categories identified above, and it’s worth bearing in mind that he has only played 279 fewer Premier League minutes than Flanagan and Bertrand have combined, so we can have a bit more faith that his form can be maintained and won’t be a flash in the pan.
Perhaps the only issue is the frequency with which Davies has been dribbled past, though equally an argument could be made that this is balanced out by how rarely he commits a foul; as set piece crosses are more accurate than open play ones on average, perhaps it’s better to be dribbled past than to foul an opponent? That’s a debate for another day, but for the record, the combined minutes per foul and dribbled past are 29 for Flanagan, 42 for Davies, and 62 for Bertrand; perhaps I was too quick to write the latter off…
We’ve established that Davies appears to be a better bet than Bertrand overall though, so let’s look closer. I also wrote recently about Alberto Moreno (here) so the following tables will feature the Sevilla man alongside the left backs that Liverpool fielded in 2013/14, and the numbers are for league games last season.
I’ll start with interceptions, as this was probably Moreno’s main selling point.
Moreno still has the edge, though as I noted in his article, interceptions are far more common in Spain than England for whatever reason. We can also see that Davies bettered the efforts of the Liverpool trio, and higher up the pitch on average than Cissokho and Enrique too. Here are the figures for ball recoveries.
Davies’ figures aren’t particularly outstanding, though he did at least make the highest proportion of recoveries in the front two thirds of the pitch, which suggests he may be the best at pressing the opposition. We also shouldn’t forget that Swansea averaged a higher possession tally than Liverpool (57.3% to 55.8%) so the Welshman would’ve had fewer chances to recover the ball.
We can see in the table to the left here that Davies is not particularly error prone, and as Liverpool as a team most definitely are, this is perhaps a minor selling point for the Swansea man. He only made one error in 2012/13 too, so he has only averaged one every 2,962 minutes across his top flight career to date.
Neither of the errors lead to a goal against either, though as the one in 2013/14 (against Southampton at St Mary’s) was in the penalty box he was probably lucky that it didn’t cost his side a goal.
Now let’s move on to some attacking stats. It seems that dribbling is not one of Davies’ strengths…
To be fair to Davies, although he didn’t go past an opponent too frequently, neither did he boost his figures with completed take-ons in less dangerous areas of the pitch outside the final third as Flanagan did, for example. The Liverpool trio played 711 minutes more than Davies in total, yet only completed two more dribbles in the final third than the Swansea man did.
We’ll finish with a look at the creativity stats, as they probably show Davies in the best light. To explain the ‘average chance quality’ below, it is the percentage chance that the opportunities created by a player would (on average) be scored, so clearly the higher the figure the better.
Swansea created 108 fewer chances than Liverpool in 2013/14, which was almost a quarter (actually 22%) of the Reds’ creative tally, so to post these figures is very heartening; bear in mind that the chances that Sturridge created were only worth 2.3 expected assists this season, so Davies’ can be very proud of his creative contribution for a much less potent side.
Overall I would say that Moreno still has the edge from the targets that Liverpool have been linked to, but that said, as the Twitter debate here suggests, is it worth paying over the odds on a full back? Moreno would cost around twice as much as Davies or Bertrand, and the stats here imply that he wouldn’t provide twice the output. So perhaps Davies is the answer at left back after all, in that he appears to offer more than the Liverpool’s existing options, whilst not breaking the bank either.