18 Feb 2008

The proof of Javier Mascherano's negative impact on Liverpool FC? A failure to win 65% of league games with him in the team.

Liverpool FC have gone backwards as a creative force since Javier Mascherano arrived at Anfield, and some pretty compelling statistics back up this contention. Mascherano is undoubtedly a fine defensive midfielder, but those that continually deify him and proclaim him to be the answer to Liverpool's problems need to acknowledge the reality of his impact.

Quite simply, Liverpool’s league season has been killed by too many draws and an inability to break down defences. Additionally, the quality of Liverpool’s attacking play has been shocking at times, with the team struggling to consistently create real goal-scoring chances.

It is only February, and the team has already wracked up an astonishing 11 draws in the league. To put this in perspective, the club’s recent history should be considered. As such, below is a list of league draws by season for this decade:

00-01 – 9 draws
01-02 – 8 draws
02-03 – 10 draws
03-04 – 12 draws
04-05 – 7 draws
05-06 – 7 draws
06-07 – 8 draws
07-08 – 11 draws

It is no surprise that in Gerard Houllier’s darkest days, the team was achieving a similar number of league draws. However, this was over a WHOLE SEASON! Rafa’s team of 2008 has amassed 11 draws already, and there are still 13 league games to go!

There will inevitably be more draws, and if it continues, Liverpool of 2008 could surpass Bob Paisley’s side of 1981, which drew 17 league games in one season. Incidentally, in 1981, Liverpool finished 7th in the league.

In Rafa’s first three years in charge, Liverpool averaged around 7 league games drawn each season. This season, that figure has jumped massively. The question is, why?

Javier Mascherano is why.

Mascherano offers nothing creatively, and the team effectively carries a passenger when attacking, as Mascherano just defends and does nothing else. Furthermore,
the whole team is more defensive and cautious when he plays, as the following figures prove:

Premiership: 2007-08

Games - 17
Wins – 6
Draws - 9
Defeats - 2

Liverpool have failed to win 65% of league games involving Mascherano this season. That’s 11 out of 17 games without a win.

All Competitions: 2007-08

Games - 27
Wins - 13
Draws – 11
Defeats – 3

In all competitions, Liverpool have failed to win 52% of games involving Mascherano. That’s 14 out of 27 games without a win.

Premiership total – Liverpool

Games - 24
Wins – 10
Draws – 12
Defeats – 2

Taking all of Mascherano’s Premiership appearances since arriving at Anfield into account, the figures are equally damning: Liverpool have failed to win 60% of games. That’s 14 out of 24 premiership games without a win.

Premiership record - West Ham

Games - 5
Defeats – 5

Is it any wonder West Ham wanted to get rid of Mascherano? He played five games and was on the losing side in all 5!

Premiership total – Liverpool + West Ham

Games - 29
Wins - 10
Draws - 12
Defeats - 7

The most compelling statistic is this: Mascherano has played 29 premiership games (Liverpool and West Ham combined) and 19 of those games have been draws or losses.

19 out of 29 games!

That’s 65% of premiership games without a win.

It is no coincidence that as soon as Mascherano became a regular in the side, Liverpool started drawing lots of games. I would argue that the reasons for Mascherano's negative impact on the side are as follows:

1. He is a limited player in that he defends and does nothing else.
2. He offers nothing going forward.
3. His range of passing is cautious and limited.
4. He cannot creatively control the pace of the game.
5. He is not a match-winner.
6. He does not score goals.
7. He does not create goals.

In his entire club career of over 60 games, Mascherano has NO GOALS and a measly ONE ASSIST.

When Liverpool need to break down stubborn defences, Mascherano is clearly not the answer, which is one of the reasons why Liverpool have struggled creatively this season.

Of course, Mascherano is not the only player to blame, but when Anfield is crying out for creative players, I still fail to see the logic in such an expensive purchase.

Having a central midfielder who does nothing except defend should not be an option. There will be those who point to Claude Makalele as an example of a defensive midfielder who doesn’t score or create. Granted, but that type of player is arguably a dying breed, and in Liverpool’s case, it is OBVIOUS that the team needs a different type of player.

Without exception, teams that employ defensive midfielders like Mascherano always have excellent attacking options across the rest of midfield and up-front. Prime examples include AC Milan (Gattuso), Chelsea (Makalele) and, most famously, Brazil (Dunga).

Indeed, the same is true for the Argentina national team. When Mascherano plays, the rest of the midfield and forward players are genuinely creative and offer a major goal threat.

In some ways, Mascherano is the right player in the wrong team. Liverpool will *never* be a free-flowing creative force under Benitez, which is what is needed for Mascherano to be *necessary* for Liverpool.

Unfortunately, as has been proved time and time again this season, Liverpool have deseperately poor creative players, and those that ARE creative have their craft strangled out of them by the Benitez's tactics. As such, the whole team is ultra-cautious and too defensive-minded, meaning a player like Mascherano is superfluous and unnecessary.

In contrast, a midfielder like Xabi Alonso is *exactly* what Liverpool need for the following reasons:

1. He can dictate the pace of play and set-up attacks AS WELL AS DEFEND.
2. He chips in with goals and assists (Average of 8-10 goals/assists per season).
3. He has an impact going forward as well as in defence

Again, it is no surprise that with Xabi in the team, Liverpool win more games and draw fewer games.

I have been arguing all season that Liverpool should let Mascherano go and use the money to buy creative, attacking players.

There are many central midfielders out there who can defend as well as Mascherano AND offer something in attack. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous.

Xabi Alonso is such a player, but he seems destined to leave after Benitez’s monumental mismanagement of the player.

Alonso is a quintessential Liverpool-type player, cut from the same cloth as the likes of Jan Moby and Ronnie Whelan – an exquisite passer of the ball and an asset to any team serious about challenging for honors.

Furthermore, an examination of Liverpool's midfielders over the last 30 years reveals the obvious fact that, with the exception of Didi Hamann, there has NEVER been a midfielder who just defended and added nothing else.

Even Hamann offered more of a creative threat than Mascherano, and the German's ability to move forward with the ball and set up attacks is also another thing in his favour.

The sad truth is this: Benitez has a depressingly cautious, defensive mentality, with the emphasis on not losing and preference for defensive-minded players. Javier Mascherano is symbolic of this, which is why he is the current midfield flavour of the month.

Conversely, Alonso is the opposite of Mascherano, and represents flowing, creative, expansive football, i.e. EXACTLY what Liverpool FC should be about. Such a style of play is, however, the antithesis of Benitez’s painfully dull Liverpool team, which is why Alonso will be forced out.

Javier Mascherano’s record so far in premiership football says it all: Play him, and you will invariably fail to win the game. 19 draws/defeats in 29 games is testament to that sad fact.

People need to stop sticking their heads in the sand and face the facts: Benitez and Mascherano are a recipe for dull, footballing drudgery. Mascherano plus a different, expansive manager who believes in creative, flowing football is a different proposition entirely.

If Liverpool stick with Benitez then Mascherano needs to go. If Benitez leaves, then Mascherano should stay...if the new Manager fills the team with exciting, effective creative players


  1. Yes.

    I personally would have liked the 18m to be spent on a creative player, or two exciting players. Oh well.

    If Liverpool get rid of Gerrard and use the money to fill the team with technically gifted creative players, then Mascherano will be worth it. At the moment, playing three central mids every game and one up front is just farcical.

  2. Makelele played the same role for Real, which played the attacking, creative style you favor.

    Counting the West Ham appearances is bad form.

    Also, how's his record in Red looking now?

    Selective statistics are shoddy blogging...

  3. I'm sorry to say this m8, but your talking out of your arse!

    If you are going to question signings then you should be looking at Kuyt and Voronin.

    They are two players that including transfer fees and wages will cost us a total of 20.5m! and their input in terms of what they are paid to do, is minimal.

    Mascherano was, is and always will be a holding midfielder, he has a decent range of passing and offers the best protection of a back four that you can get. Man utd have spent a total of 43m on hargreaves and Carrick, both of whom are holding midfielders and both of whom are not good enough to lace javiers boots.

    He may not offer a great deal in terms of creativity or attacking threat but thier are 5 other players ahead of him on the pitch who should be able to do that job.

    Rafa made the mistake of not signing a world class right winger either in the summer or in january, and it has cost us points.

    Pointing the finger at masch and using him as a scapegoat for our poor season is low. The responsibility for that falls on each team member and the manager, its a team game afterall.

    If i was going to point a finger at one particular part of the pitch it would be the right hand side. I personally would like to see us sign someone like Ricardo Quaresma or Joaquin, someone who is capable of something different. I believe Ryan Babel will give us this in time, but he is young and still maturing.

    Masch is a great signing for us, and judging by how many teams around europe were after him, he must be doing something right.

    Hes a good lad, a leader, and a born winner. If you ask me, we need more players like him.

  4. 2ruered

    I concede that I was perhaps a little hasty in my judgement on Masch. Having said that, I have never doubted his ability - I just believed that such a large amount of money should have been spent on someone creative.

    I agree that the club need more players like Masch, and after the Man U incident, my respect for the guy has grown.

    Another reason I was against the signing of Masch was the fact that I'm not a fan of the 4-2-3-1 formation we're currently playing, and I knew that if he signed, then Rafa would go with his preferred valencia formation.

    I just hate the idea of having two holding midfielders. No successful Liverpool team in history has ever had to resort to this formation. The team that won 4 European Cups didn't need two holding mids in order to 'protect' the creative players, so why do we need it now?

    It all comes down to Steven Gerrard in my view. If he could play the central mid role properly (i.e. he had tactical and positional discipline) then there would be no need for two holding mids.

    Gerrard cannot play he position effectively, which explains why he has never formed a successful midfield partnership with anyone, for club or country. Thus the position in front of two holding mids has been created for him, which means we sacrifice a forward or another attacking player.

    This formation will work well against crap teams, but against anyone half decent, it comes up short.

    Despite everything, if I could make the choice now, I would have taken the best link man/winger you can get for 18m rather than Masch, for the simple reason that, Torres aside, the team lacks world class creativity.

    On another note, Liverpool have consistently been among the best teams in the league defensively for the last 8-10years. The team was not crying out for defensive cover at the time Masch signed in my view. If we were crap defensively and leaking goals, then I could've understood the urgency.

    Anyway - all's well that ends well. We've got him now, and I'm sure he'll do the business. And like you, I want him as the next Captain.

  5. I understand what your saying about the creativity in the side, we do need more technically gifted players.

    I think the whole thing with masch is, benitez is a long term admirer of him and had he been available at the time, he would have signed him ahead of alonso.

    The points you make for alonso ahead of masch are evident, but i also see the things ,masch has over xabi. He is a lot quicker, more determined, passionate, disciplined, dynamic, and given time (hes only 23) will no doubt
    score more goals.

    He has a "never say die" attitude which is something few in a reds shirt have at the moment (carra the exception)and i actually find myself getting excited when i see him sprint 60 yards to make a last ditch tackle.

    Combine him with a Fabregas or Van Der vaart and youll have the perfect midfield. Hes like the "marmite" of footballers and personally "I love marmite".

  6. I agree with you abouut Masch's qualities - now that we have him on a long term deal, I can see the positives. His winning mentality and never say die attitude is worth the fee all by itself, as this will be invaluable in the future, especially when he inevitably becomes our new Captain ;-)

    Re Alonso, I can't help feeling a slight sadness that Liverpool are not getting the best out of him. In his first season, he was amazing. Spraying the ball around all over the place and fantastically creative with it. Since then though, Benitez has tried his damndest to turn Alonso into a defensive midfielder, and this has taken its toll.

    Instead of allowing Alonso to be the focal poinnt of the team, he had to accomodate Gerrard, and Alonso's expansive, creative play was curtailed and he was forced to do the donkey work/covering work so Gerrard could be free to roam.

    It angers me that one of the finest passers of the ball in world football has been subjugated. If Liverpool had a manager who was all about attack and creativity, then Alonso would be the man right now.

    As soon as benitez saw that Alonso wasn't going to cut it as a defensive mid, Mascherano came onto the radar.

    It is no surprise that the likes of Barcelona are interested in Alonso - his style of play suits theirs because it's all about passing and attack.

    I fear that Alonso's days are rapidly drawing to a close at Liverpool, and it will ultimately be a wasted opportunity.

    Having said that, when Liverpool sell Gerrard and use the money to buy creative players, if Masch is still in the team, then we will see Liverpool unleashed as a proper creative force again.

  7. i kind of like the idea of alonso being the focal point of the team. it should help improve the team.something tells me that liverpool would never win the league with gerrard in the team. though he is good in his own ways but as kanwar says he lacks tactical discipline something which the liverpool manager has mentioned before.