Liverpool boast the best defensive record in the Premier League so far this season – but the question of who should be Virgil van Dijk’s regular partner remains unanswered.
Van Dijk has started every single Premier League game so far this season, playing almost every minute, and the effect he has had on the Reds’ fortunes has been well documented.
However, he’s had not had a regular partner this season, with Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip all playing alongside him at different points. Here’s how the trio’s stats compare:
Liverpool have made headlines for their defensive record and set an all-time club record with nine clean sheets in their opening 12 games, but standards have dipped slightly recently.
Still, Jurgen Klopp’s men have kept 13 clean sheets from 24 games in the Premier League so far – three more than the next best teams, Chelsea and Manchester City. In total, they’ve conceded just 14 goals.
The best centre-back in world football? ⚽🌍
Virgil van Dijk marked his 50th @LFC appearance with a clean sheet on the weekend, so we've broken down his impressive stats since joining last January. 📊
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 17, 2019
Gomez has had the longest run in the team this season, and their slight dip from a defensive standpoint correlates with the injury that’s kept him out since early December – the Reds have kept just one clean from their last six games without him, in all competitions.
In the 12 games Gomez has started, Liverpool have kept seven clean sheets, conceding just four goals.
In comparison, they’ve have kept just one clean sheet in the five matches that Matip has started, conceding five. However, he did feature in the impressive, vital 1-0 win over Napoli that saw Liverpool progress to the Champions League knockouts.
Klopp regularly turns to the Cameroonian as an extra man in defence when the Reds are seeing out a game, but it’s not always been the best strategy – for example when Spurs rallied to score in injury-time and nearly win a penalty in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Wembley back in September.
Lovren was Van Dijk’s first-choice partner at the back in the latter half of last season, but a combination of Gomez form and injuries have seen him play fewer matches this term.
From the Croatian’s nine league starts this campaign, Liverpool have conceded five and kept five clean sheets.
Of the nine league matches that Lovren has played in, Liverpool have won seven, drawn one and lost one – their only defeat of the season so far, away to Man City in early January.
Other results with Lovren in the backline have included the 5-1 over Arsenal, the 3-1 against Man United and goalless draw at home to City.
Matip had a 100% win record in the league this season until Wednesday’s match against Leicester. It’s four wins and a draw from five starts for him, although none of those games have included opposition from the Premier League’s top eight.
With Gomez starting, Liverpool have won nine and drawn three (Chelsea, Arsenal, City) of 12. Occasionally, such as the draw at the Etihad, Klopp has opted to use the young Englishman as a right-back.
Liverpool have picked up 2.44 points per game when Lovren has started, 2.5 with Gomez, and 2.6 with Matip.
In terms of tackles, Gomez averages 1.5 per 90 minutes. Lovren is at 1.3 whereas Matip appears less imposing, with just 0.5. As a reference point, Van Dijk’s average for tackles is 0.9 per 90.
Lovren gets dribbled past almost once per game, averaging 0.8. Gomez falls to one-in-two at 0.5, and Matip to one-in-five.
Van Dijk, on the other hand, underlines his brick wall reputation with the mindblowing stat that he’s yet to be dribbled past in the league, after 24 games.
Sit down, and don’t get up.
Lovren perfectly timing his tackle on Sterling yesterday! pic.twitter.com/6EmsRhbDkd
— Allezson Becker (@AllezsonB) October 8, 2018
Gomez averages 1.2 interceptions, while Matip averages 2, and Lovren 0.7.
For fouls, Gomez averages one per game, Matip’s ratio falls a little to 0.8, whereas Lovren commits just 0.3 per 90.
Lovren and Matip have been booked once each in the league, while Gomez has been booked twice. None of their defenders have seen a red card so far this season.