In all of the January discussion surrounding Liverpool’s front three and what might transpire in the future, Luis Diaz came out of Porto obscurity to sign for the Reds for a €45 million fee. The Colombian wing wizard has wasted no time in settling into his new team, which just so happens to be one of the greatest club teams in the world, stealing the show nearly every time he plays. Here is our analysis of Luis Diaz’s start to life at Liverpool, and why he’s perfect for the Reds.
LIVERPOOL’S FRONT THREE NEEDEmbed from Getty Images
Despite the vast array of talent Liverpool have in their attack, the consensus among the wider football community was that Jurgen Klopp and co. needed to consider their striking options not for the present, but for the future. The legendary triad of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are all out of contract at the end of the 2022-23 season, and there’s a very real scenario that all three could depart the club by the time the summer of 2023 rolls around. Diogo Jota has been firing on all cylinders since arrival from Wolves in 2020 and has perfectly exemplified the club’s high pressing system. But others like Takumi Minamino haven’t worked out to the same extent, and reinforcements are evidently needed to bolster their attack in preparation for the inevitable.
As a result, we identified potential solutions to this dilemma during the January transfer window, even mentioning Luis Diaz’s name in our discussion over who could be the Reds’ Sadio Mane replacement. Jurgen Klopp agreed, and played his part in securing the signature of the rapid Colombian before the window shut close. What we have since come to realize since Diaz’s signing is that not only is he an excellent Sadio Mane replacement, but he can play anywhere in the front-line and fulfill different roles when required. Instead of scouring the market for three new attackers, they’ve potentially found a three-in-one deal in Diaz.
LUIS DIAZ’S STYLE OF PLAYEmbed from Getty Images
A high-pressing, mobile, energetic sprinter, Luis Diaz perfectly fits into Liverpool’s intense style of play. He’s practically a carbon copy of Sadio Mane in so many ways, from defensive work effort all the way to raw running power and dynamic dribbling.
Starting with his defensive side of the game, Diaz is an absolute warrior. He’s quick to race back in defensive transitions, and he’s never afraid to put a foot in and win back possession for his team. A combative 1v1 battler in an attacking sense, the Colombian holds his own magnificently when going the other way. He’s won 1.03 tackles per 90 so far at Liverpool, and his pressure success is up to 45.5%. The Colombian has also completed 8.28 pressures in the attacking third, and 1.72 blocks per 90 since his arrival, vastly outdoing Mane and Salah’s average numbers over the course of the season. Having just three Premier League matches under his belt makes for an incredibly small sample size, but it’s undeniable that his start to life at Liverpool has been incredibly impressive. And not just for what he’s done from a defensive perspective.Embed from Getty Images
Diaz not only looks similar to Mane in defensive work rate, but also in attacking quality and intent. Like Mane, his finishing boots aren’t screwed on quite right, but he still finds the back of the net with relative regularity. His 14 goals in 18 matches during his final few months as a Porto player in Liga NOS speaks for itself, and was a big reason why the Reds went in for the wing wizard. Since joining Jurgen Klopp’s team, Diaz has bagged just 1 goal in 6 matches across all competitions. But his attacking intent is uber impressive, highlighted by his desire to take shots and make his way into the penalty area. The Liverpool man has hit the target with 41.9% of his shots so far, while also leading the way with both total shots and shots on target per 90 with 4.12 and 1.72 respectively. His xG, goal total and goals per shot ratio could all improve, showcasing Diaz to not be the most proficient in front of goal. This is certainly the one thing they needed to knock off with their Mane replacement, but we’re only three games in, and the 25-year-old will improve. That much is obvious, given that his energy and willingness to shoot are still important qualities, that can create great opportunities for Liverpool to have just one more dangerous engine in their attack. In fact, in giving the Reds more options, he’s even pushed Sadio Mane into a centre-forward role, and made the life of Diogo Jota incredibly difficult since his arrival.Embed from Getty Images
Not only is Diaz active in front of goal, he’s also active with the ball at his feet. The dynamic dribbler loves to take players on, and oozes class in a speedy-sense that is difficult to stop. Nearly impossible to dispossess, the Colombian has fantastic awareness about when to speed up vs. slow down, when to take heavier touches vs. softer ones, and when to cut inside vs. speeding down the by-line. He’s slightly more one-dimensional in dribbling power than Mohamed Salah, despite our use of the word ‘dynamic’. But given how strong his right foot is, that’s not really a problem.
In terms of how he fits into the overall system, Diaz is also fulfilling all of his key tasks remarkably well. He expertly holds the width as the centre-forward drops in deep to pick up the ball, while simultaneously understanding how to rotate and shift around the field in correspondence with his teammates. In defensive phases, you may see the Colombian stay high and wide, even if the ball bypasses him, allowing the Reds to quickly counter-attack via the wide areas. In other moments, you’d be sure to see him linking up with the others in Liverpool’s 4-3-3 defensive shape, that sometimes can shift into a 4-1-4-1 in their low-block. Then when you give him the ball, he wants to get at his nearest defender, and make their life of a living nightmare.Embed from Getty Images
An incisive passer and speedy dribbler, Diaz even has many of the qualities needed for a natural centre-forward. The 25-year-old is excellent with his back to goal, completely capable of holding up play and using his strength to shield the ball away from pressure, before bringing others into the game. We know this because of the wing wizard’s incredible intelligence to recognize moments where he’s unable to progress forward, swiftly turning around and passing backwards instead. We also know this fact from his ability to receive progressive passes in a near Mane-like fashion, with 11 progressive passes received since he joined the club.
In short, Luis Diaz makes for a near perfect striker for any club to have, let alone a club like Liverpool that’s tailor-made for his style of play. An exceptional dribbler who is so incredibly capable of winning 1v1 duels, Diaz gives Liverpool a Mane altnernative, without even needing to take the Senegalese superstar out of the lineup.
PLAYER COMPARISONEmbed from Getty Images
In justifying why Luis Diaz is such a perfect fit for the Reds, in addition to identifying his key areas for improvement moving forward, we thought it would be best to examine how the Colombian compares to Liverpool’s top talismen. Here is how the 25-year-old sizes up against Liverpool’s illustrious front three.
GOAL & SHOT CREATION
Despite his small goal tally, Diaz compares extraordinarily well to Liverpool’s current favoured front-three. He’s completed more key passes, shots, and shots on target per 90 since arriving than Klopp’s other options, which highlights his energetic activity and desire to carry some of the weight on his shoulders to lead Liverpool from an attacking perspective. He also comes out on top in shot-creating actions with 6.21 to Salah’s second place 4.59. His production in front of goal needs to improve, but doesn’t differ drastically from Sadio Mane this season – who finishes last in three out of the six categories. Importantly, he’s shown himself to be an incisive passer and capable chance creator, despite not assisting a goal in his six matches so far. The goals and assists will come in time, especially if the Colombian continues to create and shoot at the rate he’s achieved so far.
Before going into the stats, it’s important to note that we’re not seeking out stats that specifically favour Diaz. He’s just been that good. The 25-year-old leads the way (albeit from a small sample size), in five of the seven categories examined here – including smashing the others in anything to do with his passing. This could be down to a slightly safer approach, with the most medium-length passes attempted per 90 (14.8) but the least long passes per 90 (1.38) in our study. He’s completed 100% of his long passes so far in England’s top flight, suggesting that he has the intelligence to recognize when to play a pass that covers greater distance, as opposed to when to play it safe. Encouragingly, he’s also been progressive with his passes, including in finding his teammates in dangerous positions in the penalty area. He’s also helped to progress his team up the pitch through his delicate receiving – outperforming his mates by at least 15% in ‘passes received percentage’. While he’ll settle for second on dribbling percentage and third for progressive passes received, the signs indicate again that he perfectly fits into Liverpool’s system and style of play – comparing excellently well to the numbers of Mane and Salah.
When it comes to the defensive side of the game, Luis Diaz’s start to life at Liverpool has been remarkable. Always in the right place to pick up loose balls, the Colombian vastly outperforms his teammates in the area of ‘recoveries’ – with nearly 3 more loose balls picked up per 90 than his comparisons. Perhaps most imperatively, he vastly outdoes Mohamed Salah in nearly every defensive category. This is partially down to the Egyptian’s role in quick attacking transitions, but also due to the discrepancy in work ethic and defensive desire. Diaz is simply more of a workhorse, and more akin to Sadio Mane in that ‘never stop running’ energetic vibe. While his insane pressure success percentage will undoubtedly decrease as time goes on, his start is awesomely auspicious, particularly when you consider a high percentage of his pressures have come in the final third. Showcasing those centre-forward like qualities again, he’s also been more than decent in the air, beating Salah’s numbers by almost 10%.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Luis Diaz can keep up this incredible run of form, but it’s remarkable how well he’s fit into Jurgen Klopp’s plans in such a short amount of time, without any time at all to get accustomed to life in the Prem.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
An energetic work-horse with a ‘never stop running’ mentality, Luis Diaz has made a remarkable start to life at Anfield. The dynamic dribbler, wing wizard, shot creating extraordinaire has struck fear into every right-sided defender he’s come across, with clubs still figuring out the best ways to deal with the tricky Colombian; while simultaneously contending with all else Liverpool have to offer. This is a near impossible task, and one that only makes the Reds more clinical in front of goal. In fact, if Jurgen Klopp goes on to win another title with Liverpool, we may look back on the signing of Luis Diaz as the difference. But regardless of what’s to come, the 25-year-old has made an excellent start to life with Liverpool, certainly making a claim to be one of the top signings of the 2022 January Transfer Window, and fitting in like a dream to Jurgen Klopp’s plans.
So there it is! Why Luis Diaz is perfect for Liverpool. Be sure to check out more of our Player Analyses, Data Analyses, and Scouting & Recruitment articles. Also be sure to follow on social media @desmondrhys & @mastermindsite, to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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