Liverpool rated – Loss in Belgrade is a dampener but Reds remain on track for club record

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By ‘The Don’ – @donkopleone

A recent 2-0 loss in Belgrade appeared to send LFC Twitter into full on meltdown. It seemed that this was a club in crisis, with the Reds’ lack of midfield creativity highlighted as a key reason as to why we are not ready to challenge Manchester City for the title.

However, just five days later a 2-0 home victory over Fulham took Jurgen Klopp’s men to thirty points from twelve games. Quite how good is that return? It puts Liverpool 2018/19 on track for the joint second-highest points total in Premier League history (95), behind only Pep Guardiola’s men who reached three-figures during the 17/18 campaign.

While Liverpool’s football has not been as pleasing on the eye as it was last season- Klopp ditching his heavy metal style for a more balanced and measured melody- the first few months of the season have undeniably offered great encouragement for fans.

Of course, it is our defence which has most impressed, and an incredibly impressive five goals conceded is more than four-times fewer than Manchester United, who boasted the best defensive record last season.

As you know by now, I have been tracking all the players’ individual performances on a semi-mythical spreadsheet. I will remind you now that the total average rating is adapted so that if a player plays the last thirty minutes of a match, his average rating is affected by one third of what it would be if he had played the full ninety.

The advantage to this is that efficient, but cameos of little note will not skew results, the disadvantage is that it nullifies the importance of substitutes who come on the pitch to change a game, and hence *spoiler alert* Daniel Sturridge’s score is much lower than it could be, if we were to consider each individual appearance, rather than on-pitch minute. It is not perfect, but the best possible system, I believe.

Got that? Let’s crack on.

1. Joe Gomez (CB)

Average rating: 7.66 (↓0.07 since last article)
Best Performance: 8.5 (LEI A, PSG H)
Worst Performance: 6.5 (RSB A)

It is beginning to feel as though the title of ‘Don Kopleone’s Player of the Season’ is a straight shootout between Joe Gomez and his central defensive partner, Virgil van Dijk- not that that will be of the highest importance to either.

This season, Gomez has become a regular for both club and country, an incredible achievement for a central defender so young. With van Dijk known as the Rolls Royce of Liverpool’s back line, young Joe may well be our Lamborghini.

2. Virgil van Dijk (CB)

Average rating: 7.63 (↓0.14)
Best Performance: 8.5 (PSG H, SOU H, CHE A, ARS A)
Worst Performance: 6 (RSB A)

Van Dijk probably drops below Gomez purely as a result of featuring for the full 90 minutes of Liverpool’s disastrous trip to Serbia. The less said about that night the better. The rest of the season Van Dijk has commandeered Liverpool’s defensive to heights which most would have thought unthinkable even twelve months ago, and he now has a brilliant song to boot.

3. Xherdan Shaqiri (RW/CAM)

Average rating: 7.34 (↑0.47)
Best performance: 8 (RSB H, CAR H, FUL H)
Worst performance: [Xherdan’s two worst performances have been substitute appearances which I will not even list because he does not deserve criticism]

While some debated the relative merit of signing Xherdan Shaqiri in summer, there were few who questioned the exceptional value his £13 million price-tag would represent.

Far from just offering a welcome rotation option though, “Little Shaq” has one goal or assist in every 77 minutes in the Premier League this season, and may present Liverpool’s greatest source of creativity. I even heard whispers of “Xher-dan Sha-qi-ri// Dun-Dun-Dah-Dun-Dun” to the tune of “Bob-by Fir-mi-no” in the Kop last week. A well-earned, if unimaginative, song.

4. Andrew Robertson (LB)

Average rating: 7.16 (↑0.06)
Best performance: 9 (PSG H)
Worst performance: 6 (CHE A, NAP A)

Robbo performs well and consistently, best left-back in the league etc., you’ve heard it all before. Following Liverpool’s “nightmare run” of fixtures, culminating in a goalless draw at home to Manchester City, it seemed that the Scotland captain may have lost his way a little, but three clean sheets and two assists in his last five games have put him back on track.

5. Gini Wijnaldum (CM)

Average rating: 7.07 (↓0.02)
Best performance: 8.5 (RSB H)
Worst performance: 5 (NAP A)

Liverpool’s best performing central midfielder this season, Gini seems to have added another dimension to his previous tag of “big match player”, with big performances a. At home to Brighton, the Dutchman excelled as the deepest in a midfield three, at home to Red Star he excelled in a “double-pivot” alongside Fabinho.

6. Alisson (GK)

Average rating: 6.78 (↓0.07)
Best performance: 8 (CHE A, NAP A)
Worst performance: 5 (LEI A)

Alisson has adapted well to English football, and has left some egg on my face considering I wrote an article this summer detailing how and why he might struggle to do so. Only Tottenham (yes, I was surprised too,) have a better xGA to actual goals conceded separation: Liverpool’s xGA is 9.7, but Alisson has only actually let five goals in. An incredible upgrade on last year’s options.

7. Mohamed Salah (RW)

Average rating: 6.71 (↑0.17)
Best performance: 8 (CAR H, FUL H)
Worst performance: 4.5 (NAP A)

It hardly feels like two weeks ago that Mo Salah’s slump was deep and inescapable, but he is now just two goals behind Sergio Aguero, who leads the Premier League goalscoring charts.

With Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino failing to find last year’s consistency tin the way that Salah has recently, Liverpool’s Egyptian King is the highest-rated member of our front three at this stage of the season.

=8. James Milner (CM)

Average rating: 6.64 (↓0.26)
Best performance: 8.5 (PSG H)
Worst performance: 5 (NAP A, RSB A)

A poor run of form for Liverpool’s vice-captain has led to a successive sizeable drop in his average rating. In September- with Milly on a great run of form- I wrote that, “James Milner has continued to display his creative prowess in Liverpool’s opening four games, setting up two goals directly and playing his part in a fair few more.”

However, this “creative prowess” has been nowhere to be seen recently, with his tame efforts to punt balls into the Red Star box in Belgrade a particularly disappointing display. On my way to the Fulham game I heard one Liverpool fan suggest Milner had been our best player this season, I considered showing him my database to prove otherwise.

=8. Naby Keita (CM)

Average rating: 6.64 (-)
Best performance: 8 (WHU H)
Worst performance: 5 (NAP A (Keita played 15 minutes but looked awful before injuring himself))

Is Naby lucky to be this high? Yes, but this is a result of the fact that he was only on the pitch for 15 minutes of Liverpool’s two worst displays this season- losses in Naples and Belgrade. Analysing that, I would be tempted to suggest that even if the Guinean is yet to hit the heights he showcased at RB Leipzig, Liverpool’s midfield is worse off without him.

=10. Sadio Mané (LW)

Average rating: 6.62 (↑0.09)
Best Performance: 8 (WHU H, CAR H)
Worst performance: 5 (NAP A)

After a brilliant start to the season, Mané will likely be disappointed with his performances since September. All the same, six Premier League goals as well as one in Europe is a very respectable return, midway through November. Even when not at his best, Mané often looks like Liverpool’s most dangerous player and a sudden jump back into form would not seem unlikely.

UPDATE: I had commented on how it was essential that Liverpool sorted out Mané’s contract situation, while writing this article. That being done is incredible news for the club, and should tie the Senegalese to Anfield for the rest of his prime.

=10. Fabinho (CM)

Average rating: 6.62 (↑0.12)
Best Performance: 7.5 (RSB H)
Worst performance: 5 (ARS A)

It is nice to finally have some data on Liverpool’s new Brazilian. Fabinho’s strong performances at home to Red Star and Cardiff led to some great excitement, but these were followed up by a dismal showing at the Emirates, where he seemed to really struggle with the big-game tempo. Still, the former-Monaco man has shown Jurgen Klopp that he offers something different and exciting in that deeper role or as part of a ‘double pivot’.

12. Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB)

Average rating: 6.61 (↓0.06)
Best Performance: 8 (SOU H)
Worst performance: 5 (NAP A)

WIthout performing badly, it would be fair to argue that Trent has underwhelmed a little at times this season. Sure, that may be because the other members of Liverpool’s backline have performed so well, and Andrew Robertson has looked better both offensively and defensively on the opposite flank. Trent is of course only 20 years old though, so the consistency he is showing should by no means be undervalued.

=13. Roberto Firmino (CF)

Average rating: 6.50 (↑0.09)
Best performance: 8 (TOT A, PSG H, RSB H
Worst performance: 5 (NAP A)

Feel like shit just want 17/18 Bobby back x.

Seriously though, I believe Firmino is struggling because of the lack of summer break he had, with Brazil reaching the World Cup Quarter-Finals. Hopefully, staying in the UK for the most recent international break- Brazil played in London and Milton Keynes- will prove to be a blessing for his fitness.

=13. Divock Origi (CF)

Average rating: 6.50 (N/A)
Best performance: N/A
Worst performance: N/A

Divock ‘Big Cock’ Origi came on during the desperate spell in Serbia, and looked slightly more threatening than most of our frontline had that evening. That is the very short story of his season so far.

15. Jordan Henderson (CM)

Average rating: 6.39 (↓0.07)
Best performance: 8 (PSG H)
Worst performance: 5 (CHE H, CHE A, NAP A)

Not much has changed since my last summary of the club captain’s season so far, with him missing a chunk through injury. Henderson has turned up for some big games this season, particularly the visit of Paris Saint-Germain, but it feels more and more as though the leader of this team only has the number ‘4’ on the back of his shirt, and no ‘1’ preceding it.

16. Dejan Lovren (CB)

Average rating: 6.38 (↓0.12)
Best performance: 7 (MCI H)
Worst performance: 6 (CHE H, HUD A)

This seems harsh on Degsy: he has not really made any mistakes when called upon this season. Nevertheless, Joe Gomez’s development has been so great that it is now impossible to feel comfortable when a clearly inferior Lovren is in that central defensive role in Gomez’s place.

17. Daniel Sturridge (CF)

Average rating: 6.27 (↓0.33)
Best performance: 9 (CHE A)
Worst performance: 4.5 (RSB A)

I mean, this seems all round fucked up. As I pointed out at the start, this is the flaw of the ratings system. With these formulae, Sturridge’s mediocre performances as a starter far outweigh his incredible impacts off the bench.

Since the last international break, his starts have produced a disappointing 6 at Huddersfield and a horrible 4.5 in Belgrade. When he came off the bench at home to Red Star, on the other hand, he earned an immediate 8 as a creative force. Is the rating system messed up? Perhaps. My apologies.

If each individual appearance had an equal weighting (rather than each on-pitch minute), Sturridge would be on an average rating of 6.65, placing him ninth in the squad.

=18. Nathaniel Clyne (RB)

Average rating: 6.00 (N/A)
Best performance: N/A
Worst performance: N/A

I really get the impression Nathaniel Clyne’s time at Liverpool is up. Thanks. Goodbye. Move on.

=18. Simon Mignolet (GK)

Average rating: 6.00 (N/A)
Best performance: N/A
Worst performance: N/A

Ditto.

=18. Joel Matip (CB)

Average rating: 6.00 (↓0.50)
Best performance: 6.5 (SOU H, CHE H)
Worst performance: 5 (RSB A)

A goal and clean sheet at home to Southampton suggested that Matip could fill in for either Joe Gomez or Virgil van Dijk if needed against smaller teams. A very poor display in Serbia suggested otherwise.

21. Adam Lallana (CAM)

Average rating: 5.38 (N/A)
Best performance: 6 (RSB H)
Worst performance: 5 (RSB A)

If Adam Lallana were to leave now he would be remembered fondly by most Liverpool fans. For a while, early on in Jurgen Klopp’s reign, the former-Southampton man was a pivotal cog in the gegenpress machine.

Now though, we seem to be watching a man decimated by injuries, with no end product and who is out of his depth. At the best of times, he seems lightweight, slow and ineffectual.

22. Alberto Moreno (LB)

Average rating: 5.33
Best performance: 7 (RSB H)
Worst performance: 4.5 (CHE H)

Since his unbelievably bad display against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup, Alberto Moreno has recovered some dignity with a couple of decent decent displays: from the bench against Red Star and when starting against Cardiff.

Even so, the Spaniard’s inability to defend during that second victory caused Liverpool to lose their record of not having conceded at Anfield since February. At this point you just ought to accept that Moreno is what he is, and that is very unlikely to change.

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