Liverpool saved a fortune under Jürgen Klopp, who will leave behind four choices that will improve Levi Colwill
Come summertime, Liverpool is going to be a truly brave new world. Jürgen Klopp’s departure will upend presumptions that have been ingrained for over ten years.
Of course, there is the obvious doubt about how a new coach will make things appear on the pitch. But as a result, the transfer market is also impacted, which means that the concept of a “Liverpool signing” itself may be ready to undergo a significant transformation.
Even though there are fundamental parallels between Xabi Alonso’s and Klopp’s playing styles, there are differences between the two players that can make Klopp a more desirable contender. Undoubtedly, a player who plays like Rúben Amorim is unique.
However, prowess in the air has been a crucial factor to consider when evaluating any center-back transfer target, at least since Klopp took over. The goal of Liverpool’s aggressive press is to either create a turnover or make the other team’s defenders launch it long, but this strategy only succeeds if the red-clad defenders can be counted on to win their games.
In this field, Virgil van Dijk has long been a pioneer. Indeed, based on FBRef’s analysis of aerial duel win percentages this season, the Dutchman leads the Premier League (among those who have played a significant amount of minutes) once more with an incredible 82.6% of his duels won. It is nearly useless to compete with him.
It’s simpler to see why Liverpool was reported to have shown interest in Chelsea’s Levi Colwill this summer (HITC) after taking a cursory look down the list. He is ranked a creditable twenty-first in the league, slightly above the magical seventy percent threshold that usually turns a player into a very realistic transfer target for Klopp.
You would think aerial dominance would be a desirable attribute in a center-back regardless of the manager, but maybe not nearly as vital as it has been to Klopp. However, Colwill’s native status is something that would undoubtedly be useful to any contender for the Liverpool leadership.
Nevertheless, despite the “pure profit” Colwill would have brought as a homegrown player, Chelsea had no interest in selling him last summer. Even though his ranking is rather high, Liverpool has good reason to believe that it has saved a significant amount of money.
That’s because there are other Liverpool players that rank near the top of the list when it comes to winning aerial duels, besides Van Dijk. Amazingly, Klopp has five players in the top 10 of the Premier League, all of whom have a big advantage over Colwill. Actually, Liverpool leads the table by a single digit margin. Joe Gomez, who has an 80.6 percent win percentage, is right behind Van Dijk.
That is noteworthy for two reasons. First off, Gomez is a homegrown talent. Second, similar to Colwill, he has played a large portion of the season at full-back, where headed duels are typically thought to be more difficult to win. If the Chelsea prospect was hoping to use this as an excuse, his Liverpool counterpart has soundly rejected that point.
Joël Matip, who ranked third for Liverpool, is tied for sixth place. Before the injury, he had won 73.7% of his aerial duels this season. Naturally, there is a catch: given that Klopp’s current contract is slated to expire at the end of the current campaign, it’s possible that he won’t be leaving this gift for his managerial successor.
Don’t worry, though, as Ibrahima Konaté comes in tied for seventh place and wins 73.3% of his aerial encounters. He is still only 24 years old, so he is definitely one for the future. In theory, he and Gomez could continue Liverpool’s theme of aerial domination.
However, Jarell Quansah could disagree with that. With a rate that is exactly the same as Konaté’s (and, oddly, the only non-defender to make the cut, Lewis Cook), he has also earned a spot in the top 10. And it’s his rise to prominence that really gives the impression that Liverpool was better off without Colwill.
Less than a month separates Quansah and Colwill. Liverpool has seen quite clearly this season that its own homegrown talent can more than hold his own at the top level, having not really put a foot wrong, even if the Chelsea man has more senior playing experience.
The truly good news is that Quansah possesses the same diverse skill set that attracted people to Colwill, even though Klopp’s replacement may not be nearly as hooked on aerial duels. Not only is he one of the league’s best passers, but he also excels in possession, with substantially above-average averages for successful takeaways and progressive carries.
For his heir to use, Klopp has truly found a treasure. Colwill would have been a massive hit at Liverpool, but the Reds will enter the next season with (at least) four players who have an advantage in a crucial area. In the end, the new manager will be able to use the money saved better as he begins to shape the team in his image. We’ll have to wait and see what it might be.