10 Nov 2015

Stat-Shock: Sakho vs. Lovren/Skrtel. Who is Liverpool's most effective defender? Surprising truth revealed

Skrtel, Lovren, or Sakho: Who is Liverpool's most consistently effective defender? Sakho appears to be the flavour of the month, but as I've illustrated many times with irrefutable, objective evidence, Skrtel is the Reds' most consistently effective defender over the last three years. For whatever reason, some fans refuse to accept that, and insist that their individual perception is a more accurate gauge of effectiveness than factual, statistical evidence.

Clearly, that is nonsense, and the concept of 'I think, therefore it is' = arrogance and egotism, especially when that perception is grossly at odds with factual, objective, unbiased reality.

Individual perception is flawed and inherently unreliable, which is why statistics - and not subjective interpretation - are used to assess, categorise, and classify everything on the planet.

Football is no different. It's s a game of opinions, and those opinions often have a lot of validity. However, when it comes to comparative analysis, and establishing a factual, credible basis for the assessment of a player's ability, opinion is irrelevant in the face of objective facts.

Objective evidence shows that Skrtel is Liverpool's most effective defender. Throughout this season, I've constantly been shouted down by fans who've insisted that the follow statements are true:

* Sakho is Liverpool's 'best' defender.

* Skrtel is a 'poor' defender, and is worse defensively than Sakho.

* Lovren is Liverpool's worse central defender overall.

* Sakho makes more forward passes than Skrtel, and the average distance of his passes is longer.

These statements may be true in the biased, inflexible minds of some LFC fans, but as you will see below, NONE of these statements is correct. A few points:

* The period for comparison is last season, and this season so far. That provides a big enough sample of games for the statistics to be significant.

* I've used only Premier League stats, as these are the most prevalent and detailed stats available. Some stats are not obtainable for Cup and European games, which would leave holes in the analysis.

So, without further ado, here is the comparison. Read it and weep:


* Skrtel is inarguably Liverpool's most consistently effective defender. He performs better than Sakho in 11 different areas, including tackles, blocks, interceptions, and clearances, i.e. the primary role of a central defender.

* Skrtel also completes more BRICs per game than both Sakho and Lovren.

* Fans constantly swoon over Sakho's forward passing, but the fact is Skrtel completes significantly more forward passes, and overall, more of Skrtel's total passes are forward.

* Additionally, Skrtel achieves a slightly longer average passing distance than Sakho, which again blows this fan-led theory out of the water. The difference is minimal, but the point here is that Skrtel is notinferior to Sakho when it comes forward passing, which is what so many fans claim.

* Rather surprisingly, Lovren is also a more effective defender than Sakho in several areas, and he exceeds the Frenchman in aerial duels, ground duels, minutes per successful duel, and ball retention.

* Sakho exceeds Skrtel and Lovren in only two areas: Passing accuracy, and recoveries. He is also particular wasteful with the ball, and as the stats show, Sakho loses possession much more often than both Skrtel and Lovren.

* Also, with Sakho in the team, Liverpool win fewer games, concede more goals, and achieve fewer clean sheets.

* Now, whilst it's true that Lovren has made more mistakes that led to goals, that one fact in isolation is not enough to justify the 'worst defender' label. It's a poor stat, but it's balanced out by the other positives to Lovren's game (as shown in the table).

* In short, a player's overall effectiveness is not dictated by just one stat, yet some fans are fixated on Lovren's mistakes. Sakho is not a poor defender because he gives the ball away the most; similarly, Lovren is not a poor defender because he made 3 mistakes in 33 league games that led to a goal.

* As a comparison, Skrtel hasn't made a single mistake that led to a goal, either this season or last season. Yes, he makes the odd defensive mistake, but so does every defender on the planet, including the world's best. Mistakes are part of the game, but unlike Lovren (and Sakho), Skrtel's mistakes don't lead to goals.

There are plenty other conclusions to be drawn from the table, but the most compelling fact is this: Sakho is not Liverpool's 'best' or most effective defender in the league.

There is no evidence to prove Sakho's superiority, and the factual, objective stats show that both Skrtel and Lovren are (overall) more effective Premier League defenders for Liverpool.

End of story.

Don't get me wrong: Sakho is a quality player, and he may, in time, become Liverpool's most effective defender (maybe even by the end of the season), but that isn't the case now, or at any point since he signed for the club.

Of course, if anyone has objective facts to prove that Sakho is actually Liverpool's most effective defender, then I'm interested to see them. Outside a subjective, opinion-based conversation, the opinion that Sakho is the 'best' holds zero validity next to the irrefutable facts presented above.

It's not me who is right, it's the stats that are right.

Author: Jaimie K


Post a Comment