Having looked up how much Champions League experience that Liverpool’s squad has previously had, I’m beginning to get a little concerned that there is a distinct lack of it.
There’s nothing to say that this will definitely be an issue of course, but having compiled the data I thought I’d share it here.
The figures here do not include qualifying rounds for any of the European competitions. I have sorted the players by minutes played in the Champions League, but included their Europa League minutes too purely out of interest. The ‘games’ figures are not appearances, but how many chunks of ninety minutes they have amassed.
Had Liverpool bought Loïc Remy, and based on my analysis I wish that they had, he’d have been fifth on this table, with 1,237 minutes. Only eight of the Reds’ squad have more than seven games worth of pitch time in the Champions League and I would imagine that Toure, Reina, Agger and Lucas are unlikely to be in the starting XI too often this season either; Gerrard, Skrtel, Johnson and Lovren probably will though I’d have thought.
A large chunk of Brendan Rodgers’ starting eleven (Sturridge, Coutinho, Henderson, Sterling, Mignolet, Lallana… perhaps Can, Flanagan and Lambert too) have no more than ten games worth of European experience in total, never mind in the Champions League.
Let’s say Liverpool face Barcelona (which, according to this, is about a one in six shot) next season. If we assume that Reina and Toure are unlikely to feature, then Xavi will have played 2,638 minutes more than the Reds’ squad bar Gerrard on his own.
Perhaps more importantly than the players, Brendan Rodgers has only eight games in the Europa League proper under his belt to date, and these were mostly against lesser sides than he will face this season. To use an obvious example, Rafa Benitez had managed thirty-seven European games (and more importantly, won the UEFA Cup) when he pitched up at Anfield and began the journey to Istanbul.
If the lack of appearances doesn’t worry you, the lack of Champions League goals and assists in the Liverpool squad might.
Steven Gerrard has bagged nineteen goals and eleven assists in Europe’s top club competition, but beyond him Kolo Toure is the club’s joint-top career scorer!
Liverpool’s squad excluding Gerrard has just seven goals and seven assists in the Champions League, and considering where the skipper plays now compared to his heyday when the Reds were last in Europe’s top competition, it’s safe to assume that he won’t weigh in with too many goal contributions (aside from set pieces and penalties) this term.
If we look at just the last five seasons, it gets even worse. Coutinho has an assist against Spurs, Dejan Lovren scored a goal against Benfica, and Sturridge has two goals against the might of MSK Zilina, and an assist against Leverkusen (plus Gerrard has an assist against Fiorentina). But otherwise, that’s your lot. Kolo Toure last contributed towards a goal in the 2006 semi-final, and Agger repeated the trick in the 2007 semi- and final. All a long time ago…
Further to my earlier Xavi point, Liverpool could easily face the current European champions Real Madrid in the group stage. Cristiano Ronaldo has sixty-seven goals and twenty-six assists in the Champions League, and so has plenty more on his own than the entire Reds squad combined.
I therefore can’t help thinking that Liverpool need some more players who have been there and done it in the Champions League before. Of course, unbeknownst to me the Reds’ transfer committee might be frantically scouring the continent for such players whilst you’re reading this; Remy fitted this particular bill, after all.
In fairness to the club, they do seem to be addressing the lack of experience to a mild extent by playing against tough teams in pre-season. Last summer, the Reds battered some poor teams to build confidence ahead of the campaign, but this time they’re going up against a few Champions League regulars, presumably to get a feel for their style.
As I said at the start, I have no idea if this lack of experience matters per se, but it feels to me like it’s an area where Liverpool might be a little lacking… any thoughts anyone? Please feel free to comment below.