Liverpool's Most Underrated Players This Season
Whichever way you look at it, 2013/14 has been a season of quick progress for Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool.
The Reds are now showing the type of consistent points-winning form that puts them “in the conversation,” as Rodgers put it in an interview with BBC Sport.
Although defeats at Manchester City and Chelsea over the festive fixture schedule put Liverpool back into fifth place and six points off league leaders Arsenal going into 2014, they are increasingly being contemplated as an outsider in the most tight Premier League season to date.
Contributing to Liverpool’s success story have been a number of players who have gone under the radar of the mainstream media, but are winning the praise of Liverpool fans for their strong performances this season.
Whilst the world raves over the superb goalscoring records of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, and more recently, the rejuvenation of Jordan Henderson, there are other players in the team that deserve their share of the credit, too.
It looked in the summer as if Skrtel’s days at Liverpool were over. A loan move to join former Reds boss Rafa Benitez at Napoli seemed a foregone conclusion.
With the arrivals of Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and youngster Tiago Ilori in the summer, and Daniel Agger being made vice-captain, Skrtel looked to have fallen back in the defensive pecking order.
However, under Rodgers’ evolved style of football, Skrtel has enjoyed a revival and has become Liverpool’s first-choice centre-back.
There are still moments in which Skrtel is caught out of position, and his struggle to deal with set-pieces is one shared by his teammates.
However, the Slovakian international has looked a strong force for Liverpool this season, making superb tackles and recovering wide open space left by the sometimes distant Sakho.
Skrtel has adapted to Rodgers’ change from possession-based to attacking-minded, passing football with more improvement than any other at the club.
According to Squawka, the 29-year-old boasts a 92 percent passing accuracy record, and wins 58 percent of duels—67 percent in the air.
After a slow and injury-dogged start to his career at Liverpool since making the switch from Swansea in 2012, Allen is now making a good case for a permanent first-team place at Liverpool.
After his woeful miss in front of goal against Everton back in November, Allen returned to the side for the 5-1 win over Norwich at Anfield in early December.
He has since redeemed himself with a succession of excellent performances, providing Liverpool’s midfield with some fresh excitement.
Allen has the pace and agility that both Gerrard and Lucas lack, enabling him to cover all areas of the pitch, picking up balls and playing them off—ultimately turning a defensive play into an attack.
According to Squawka, during December, Allen has a 87 percent pass accuracy record and has created five chances.
The Welsh international must now look to become more confident in attacking positions, and improving his 54 percent average duels won record.
Allen’s second-half injury against Chelsea on Sunday will be of concern to Rodgers for January’s run of fixtures, though the return of Steven Gerrard should soften that blow.
This has allowed Mignolet to be relieved of the pressures of settling into life as Pepe Reina’s successor—difficult shoes to fill for any goalkeeper, never mind one so young as 25-year-old Mignolet.
Even questionable errors against Manchester City and Chelsea this last week didn’t prompt any negative feedback from the Liverpool camp.
Mignolet has made some critical saves for the Reds this season that are ultimately as good as goals.
The campaign could have started very disappointingly for Liverpool had Mignolet not kept out Jon Walters’ late penalty for Stoke City at Anfield on the opening day of the season.
In November, Mignolet was the difference between Liverpool getting a point out of their Merseyside Derby trip to Everton, and not.
He has also adapted very well in the face of a constantly changing defensive line-up in front of him and some consistency in the second half of the season would prove useful all-round to the Reds’ defence.
According to Squawka, Mignolet makes an average of 2.19 saves per goal conceded, has an excellent claim success rate of 97 percent, and has kept five clean sheets.
Should Mignolet continue his impressive form, and with a little improvement in Liverpool’s back four, he should soon be considered one of Europe’s best goalkeepers.