How Ibrahima Konate compares to current Liverpool center-backs
Liverpool’s Premier League title defense was delayed by two serious knee injuries from first-choice center-back Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
The pair are expected to spend most of the season on the sidelines, leaving a considerable void in the heart of Liverpool’s backline.
Jurgen Klopp has admitted he would like to add a new center-back, but finances are unlikely to be there for a buy in January.
However, the Reds have been linked with a move from RB Leipzig center-half Ibrahima Konate. So, is he the man Liverpool need?
The Merseysiders have been shrewd and meticulous in the transfer market for the past few seasons, traditionally buying players based on how they fit into the Liverpool mold and improve, instead of signing large sums of money at the top. of their powers. The summer addition of Thiago Alcantara was arguably the first time under Klopp that Liverpool bought an already world-class player.
With Van Dijk and Gomez set to return to the first team as starters next season, Liverpool won’t instantly sign a first-choice center-half, rather a promising defender, initially third-choice, with the potential to become a regular starter. over the years.
Konate meets these criteria; he’s a player they can develop. He is only 21 and his injury history means he has only one full season of senior football under his belt.
However, this injury record is concerning given the challenges Liverpool have faced this season. The defender was sidelined for 27 games in the 2019/20 season due to a torn muscle fiber, before missing nearly five months in 2020 due to a hip flexor problem. He is currently sidelined with an ankle injury – quite the latest catalog for someone just 21 years old.
Liverpool’s recent approach has entered the market because it had to be, not just to buy. Along with their financial restrictions, this is part of the reason the Reds are expected to have a relatively calm January window despite their shortages in the central half; they don’t want to be panicked in a purchase, they want to land a candidate who ticks all the right boxes.
One of the reasons Liverpool were cited for cooling their interest in Bayern Munich’s David Alaba was that he did not meet all of their criteria for a center-back; one of which was his height. At 1.8m, the Austria international was considered marginally too short, compared to Gomez (1.88m), Van Dijk (1.93m) and Joel Matip (1.95m).
Standing at 1.94m, height is a box Konate ticks. This requirement is to aid air capability – an obvious necessity for a central defender. In terms of aerial duels won throughout his career, the RB Leipzig man averages 2.6 per game (via WhoScored). His highest came in the 2018/19 season – the only full season of senior football he has managed so far in his career – where he averaged 3.6 aerial duels per game.
That’s less than Van Dijk, who has averaged 4.5 throughout his career. However, this is slightly higher than Gomez and Matip, who have an average of 2.1 and 2.3 respectively.
In other key defensive areas, Konate continues to be relatively similar to the current harvest of Liverpool’s center halves. In terms of average tackles per game, Konate (1.6) leads both Gomez (1.4) and van Dijk (1.1), but is slightly improved by Matip (1.9).
In terms of interceptions, his 1.5 per game average matches that of Gomez but is slightly below Van Dijk (1.8) and Matip (2.2). However, Matip and Van Dijk’s career averages are being pulled up by their respective spells at Schalke, Celtic and Southampton, where the pair are said to regularly average more than two interceptions per game each season. In no season at Liverpool have they averaged more than two interceptions per game.
In possession, Konate is a game for current Liverpool center-backs. The average precision of his career passes is 80.7%, compared to Van Dijk (86.6%), Gomez (83.7%) and Matip (83.2%). The passing accuracy of every Liverpool center-back has improved with age, suggesting Konate also has the makings of a competent center-half to play the ball.