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Coutinho, Lallana or Matip: Who is Liverpool’s most influential player?

Liverpool

Coutinho, Lallana or Matip: Who is Liverpool’s most influential player?

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have taken the Premier League by storm this season. Their high pressing, high energy style has seen them win plenty of fans, plaudits and points, with the team sitting second in the standings on Christmas Day.

Plenty of analysis has been done trying to establish exactly what makes Liverpool tick. The Reds are a fluid, brutal attacking force, profiting from the exceptional form of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana.

At the back, they are generally considered to be disorganised and full of mistakes, but 20 goals conceded puts them joint seventh in the defensive charts, level with Manchester City and just one goal behind the usually stingy Arsenal. All of this with goalkeeper troubles and several niggling injuries. Joel Matip has been given plenty of praise for his role in steadying the defensive ship.

Unfortunately for Reds fans, Lallana, Coutinho and Matip have all been struck down with niggling injuries this season with each player missing a handful of games each. However, because they have all missed several games each, it is possible to analyse Liverpool’s results with and without their key trio and establish which player is most vital to their success.

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Starting with Coutinho, who is currently sidelined with a foot injury picked up in a tough tackle with Sunderland’s Didier N’Dong at the end of November. In the time he has been missing, the Reds have fallen to defeat at Bournemouth and disappointingly drew with West Ham, but overall, his absence has not had a particularly negative impact on the team’s overall form.

Liverpool Form P W D L F A GD Pts Pts Per Game Goals Per Game Conceded Per Game
With Coutinho* 12 8 3 1 28 13 15 27 2.25 2.33 1.08
Without Coutinho* 5 3 1 1 13 7 6 10 2 2.6 1.4

As the table shows, when Liverpool start with Coutinho in the side, they do win more points. The Brazilian has helped them win 27 points from 12 matches at a rate of 2.25 points per game, while without him, Liverpool have a slightly reduced rate of 2 points per game, dropping results against Bournemouth and West Ham in his absence.

What is surprising, though, is that Liverpool have actually improved up front in Coutinho’s absence. They have scored 2.6 goals per game without him in their side, but are limited to a slightly less impressive 2.33 with him.

In fact, the reason Liverpool have dropped points without the little magician in their side is not due to a lack of goals, but because their defence has coincidentally let them down when Coutinho has been injured.

The statistics actually show that the key cog in Liverpool’s attacking machine is Adam Lallana. The former Southampton man has missed one less game from the start than Coutinho has, but the impact of losing him has been much greater.

Liverpool Form P W D L F A GD Pts Pts Per Game Goals Per Game Conceded Per Game
With Lallana* 13 10 2 1 36 16 20 32 2.46 2.77 1.23
Without Lallana* 4 1 2 1 5 4 1 5 1.25 1.25 1.00

 

Liverpool have only scored five goals without Lallana’s influence, at a rate of 1.25 goals per game, which has won them a meagre 1.25 points per game. The Reds have also scored 2.77 goals per game with Lallana, at a rate of 2.46 points per game, both of which are higher than the ratios seen with Coutinho on the pitch (2.33 goals & 2.25 points.)

 

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Going forward, Liverpool are clearly much worse off for losing Adam Lallana than they are when Philippe Coutinho has been absent.

But what about in defence? Liverpool have conceded more goals when Lallana and Coutinho have been on the pitch, but the Reds do have a centre back who exerts a very positive influence over the defence. That man is Joel Matip.

Liverpool Form P W D L F A GD Pts Pts Per Game Goals Per Game Conceded Per Game
With Matip* 12 8 4 0 30 11 19 28 2.33 2.50 0.92
Without Matip* 5 3 0 2 11 9 2 9 1.80 2.20 1.80

One thing notable about Matip’s impact is that Liverpool are yet to suffer defeat with him in the side, showcasing the huge impact of the free signing from Schalke. Both defeats came in away games to unfashionable clubs where the coolness of the Cameroonian was crucially missed.

Matip’s impact on Liverpool’s points tally is a shade higher than Coutinho’s but lower than Lallana’s tally, but what is most important is the comparison in defensive statistics with and without their star defender. The Reds have conceded nine goals in five games with him out of the team, but 11 goals in 12 games with him.

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Not only does this mean that Liverpool concede half as often when Matip is in the team, but the goals conceded ratio of 0.92 goals per game would actually be the third best defending ratio in the league behind Chelsea and Tottenham. He doesn’t just improve Liverpool’s defence, he turns a back four that is widely lambasted and the supposed hubris in a title bid into one of the best back fours in the league.

Overall, it is clear to see that Liverpool have not missed Philippe Coutinho as much as first feared, but struggle an awful lot when they are missing Adam Lallana and Joel Matip, who both have a massive impact offensively and defensively. If they can stay fit for the rest of the season, the Reds may just have a chance of overhauling Chelsea by the time the season ends in May.

*Stats are taken from games in which players started

Featured Image: All Rights reserved by Anfield BR

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