Give him wings, let him fly- Is Alberto Moreno the left winger for Liverpool?
If you listen carefully to the commentator’s remarks throughout the game, you will understand the enigma that Alberto Moreno is.
"And a cross comes into the box, oh, Alberto Moreno almost gets on the end of it."
Alberto Moreno isn't a bad player; in actuality, he's pretty good. His runs on the left are evidence of his quality; his dribbling, speed and distribution (crossing and interplay with midfield players) is even eye-catching at times. His wrongfully disallowed volley at St. James' Park in a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle earlier this season, was absolutely world class. And when it comes to striking it from a distance, he is certainly no pushover.
The issue? He's playing at left back. His love for forward runs often means he's caught out of position. He is highly dependent on his speed to recover back to his position. With Liverpool suffering problems at the back, the positional discipline becomes even more important.
Nathaniel Clyne, Moreno's counterpart on the right, has similar exploits on the right side of the pitch. However, the difference is Clyne's perception of position, maintaining an awareness of how much he'll have to do to in order to be able to return to his defensive duties.
"Liverpool caught out on the left again as their opponents move forward."
Moreno's runs sometimes not only leaves himself stranded, but his team scampering for cover. While he is pretty strong on the ball, his stature doesn’t allow him to have a real aerial presence (0.4 aerial battles won per game). To top it all off, his defensive decisiveness is questionable, committing to rash tackles at times when it’s simply unnecessary.
However, in all fairness, he has improved defensively: he’s averaging 2.9 tackles per game compared to 1.9 tackles last season. The number of fouls per game has also taken a dip to 0.9 from 1.3, while making 1.8 interceptions per match, up from 1.2 last season. His attacking game has also improved, with 1.8 key passes per game (up from 1.2) and an assist in all three competitions this season.
The above-mentioned weaknesses remain deeply etched in the minds of Liverpool fans because of the Red’s frailty at the back in recent times. Until the core of Liverpool's defence is rectified, it is essential that all deployed defenders contribute to defending the Liverpool goal.
The question we’re left with is simply, can Liverpool depend upon Moreno to have that discipline? Or does he have the flair to be played solely as an attacking player at left midfield or on the left wing? It’s an intriguing proposition, as his link-up play with the likes of Coutinho, Firmino, and Lallana in the final third shows real promise. He certainly offers more pace and creativity with the ball than Milner or the currently out of form/unfit Henderson.
"Unnecessary foul there by Alberto Moreno, a pretty rash and unnecessary challenge by the Spaniard.
The primary issue is the personnel who replaces Moreno at the back. Brad Smith and Joe Flanagan are direct options if the experiment is attempted this season, with Joe Gomez an option when he returns if the assessment is carried out in the summer. The young Englishman has played in the position before, not enough to confirm however not enough to consider him as a secondary option. But, the time he has spent there, he has looked a natural.
The secondary issue is the return of Lazar Markovic, who Klopp wants to have a look at this summer. If he is a part of Klopp’s plans, then Lazar’s preference for the right wing will increase competition for a developing Jordon Ibe on both sides. On the plus side, it will provide Liverpool with an additional player without having to go out and purchase another $15 million hit or miss.
However, if this isn’t a part of Klopp’s plans for the future then Moreno will need to improve defensively. At the age of 23 and with several other players for his position, the Spaniard has time and impetus to work with. Still, it's a proposition, that if implemented, might just benefit the Reds in the long run.