Kolo Toure: An improvement to the Liverpool squad? LFC CB Comparison

Kolo Toure: An improvement to the Liverpool squad? LFC CB Comparison


With a new manager and philosophy, Liverpool came into the 2012-13 season facing a number of issues in the squad that needed addressing. Whilst Jamie Carragher’s advancing years made the need for a centre-half evident, the Agger-Skrtel pairing was still seen as one of the more effective combinations gracing the premier league and in Sebastian Coates, Liverpool seemingly had a promising young defender on the books.

What transpired throughout the season means the club now faces a markedly different situation 12 months down the track. Martin Skrtel lost his place in the heart of defence following a poor run of form that culminated in Liverpool’s shock loss to Oldham in the FA Cup. With Sebastian Coates equally as ineffective that game and only used sparingly throughout the season, it was left to the retiring Jamie Carragher to take up the slack, a luxury now no longer available to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

With this in mind, Liverpool have acted quickly to snap up former Manchester CIty and Arsenal centre-back Kolo Toure on a free transfer, making him the first player from the Ivory Coast in the club’s history. Many are seeing the move as a way to fill the void left by Jamie Carragher’s retirement. Whilst comparisons to the former Anfield stalwart are inevitable, the real point of interest will be how he stacks up against the remaining centre backs he’ll be meeting face-to-face at Melwood come July 1st, so I took a look at the statistical performance of Liverpool’s new centre-back quartet* last season to find out.

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Defensively, Toure’s stats show him to be solid if unspectacular in most areas compared to his new peers. He won a higher percentage of 50-50s on the ground than both Coates and Skrtel and had a tackle success rate of 73.68%, higher than Agger but significantly less than Skrtel and Coates, who averaged 85.29% and 83.33% respectively.

The area of greatest concern is Toure’s low 40% success rate for aerial 50-50s, particularly given Liverpool’s struggles last season against big, strong strikers like Lukaku, Benteke and even Oldham’s Matt Smith. His height is a notable factor – standing at 1.83m, he is significantly shorter than Agger, Skrtel and Coates, all of whom tower over 1.9m.

On the plus side, Toure does bring some reliability to the table, having impressively not made a single error that led to a shot, let alone a goal last season. This bodes well for Liverpool, as one of the big frustrations of last season were defensive errors. Long periods of possession and dominance would be punctuated by individual mistakes that would lead to chances and goals. This is one area where Martin Skrtel stood out for being particularly poor, making 5 errors that led to a shot, 2 of which resulted in goals. In contrast, neither Toure, Agger or Coates made a single error that led to a goal.

From an attacking perspective, Rodgers likes his defenders to be able to play out from the back, meaning that passing and holding on to possession are key. All four players performed reasonably well in this regard, Toure being marginally the weakest with a pass completion rate of 88%. He also lost possession less often than both Agger and Coates, though he lags behind Skrtel who only lost the ball every 520 minutes.

Of course, what Kolo Toure brings to the table can’t be fully reflected in statistics. Rodgers cited Carragher’s leadership and “ability to organise and manage inside the game” as key things previously lacking when he wasn’t in the side and the signing of Toure goes some way towards addressing the lack of these intangible characteristics. Toure has captained Arsenal, Manchester City and the Ivory Coast during his career and having won 11 trophies in his career to date, including league titles for both his previous Premier League clubs, Toure will bring a much-needed winning mentality to the squad.

All that being said, whilst reliable and experienced, Toure does not seem to represent the jump in quality that Liverpool need to push on and challenge for a Champions League Spot. The fact that Liverpool is still seemingly linked to every notable centre-half in Europe attests to this. He will be a useful squad player, particularly if Skrtel leaves the club as he has intimated in recent days, and the fact that he has arrived on a fee transfer means the opportunity cost is low. Even so, A younger, more commanding centre-back must surely still be on Liverpool’s shopping list this summer.

*One thing to note is that each of the centre backs in question had varying amounts of game time last season. Daniel Agger was almost ever-present, playing 3100 minutes, whilst Martin Skrtel racked up 2079 minutes, the bulk of those being in first half of the season. Toure was not first-choice at Manchester City, but still managed to play 917 minutes over 15 appearances, whilst Sebastian only managed 233 minutes across 5 appearances. With this in mind, particularly for Coates, the statistics have the potential to be misleading but I’ve used them as indicative benchmarks as they broadly can be seen to reflect what transpired over the course of the season.

[box_light]All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com –Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.[/box_light]