Ryan Gravenberch: Can He Be The Reds' Number Six?
Does the data give us any indication of his optimal future role
When you see reports saying that Jürgen Klopp and Pep Lijnders wanted Ryan Gravenberch, it tells us that they have a specific plan for the player. Even after such a turbulent summer transfer window for Liverpool, the ending was sweet with the signing of the coaching staff’s long-term target.
After getting Wataru Endo in the middle of August, James Pearce relayed specific information that the Reds are looking out for a multi-functional midfielder rather than an out-and-out number six. In Gravenberch, they have got the exact profile of a player who can operate in multiple positions and be equally effective (or at least that’s what his past and talent says other than an unfortunate year at Bayern Munich).
The question is - will Gravenberch be suited to playing as a six in the hybrid system that allows Trent Alexander-Arnold to move into midfield in possession? Or will he be used as a box-to-box number eight, fighting for his place against the likes of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai? Is there a role for Endo amidst all this?
This article will attempt to answer the above questions with the help of the numbers and some eye-caught observations (latter is more of an opinion based on the stats).
Gravenberch vs Liverpool’s Current Midfield “Pivot”
Although very early in the season, Klopp has preferred to play Mac Allister in the six position with Alexander-Arnold tucking in to make a midfield pivot in different phases of team possession. Endo was tried instead of the Argentine for the Newcastle United game, but that experiment lasted 29 minutes because Virgil van Dijk got sent off and the team had to revert to an orthodox 4-4-1 shape with Trent at right-back.
Let’s take a look at Gravenberch’s numbers of the past two seasons compared with the numbers produced by Mac Allister and Alexander-Arnold. The games Mac Allister played as a six are included.
Ignore the Gravenberch column to start with!
Look at the difference in passing numbers between Mac Allister and Alexander-Arnold. The latter is attempting more passes, creating more chances, attempting more passes towards the final third and receiving more progressive passes than the former. The former, on the other hand, has a greater pass accuracy rate because he has not been asked to do the heavy-lifting in terms of creating chances and taking risks on the ball without bothering about lowering the pass accuracy numbers.
Since Trent does not stay in midfield off the ball, his tackling numbers in that area isn’t worth noting. The recovery numbers are great.
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