Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Is Jon Flanagan Ready to Replace Glen Johnson as Liverpool's First Choice Right-Back?

As the complications regarding the contract of Glen Johnson do not look to end soon, the good news is that Liverpool have developed a player in their ranks who can be an apt replacement of the veteran English defender.

Jon Flanagan, the 21 year old Liverpool youngster, has been one of the highlights of this season, among numerous other highlights and it is not premature to say that Liverpool have a prospective superstar in their team. Although he made his debut in 2011, it is only in this season that he has played a fair number of matches and is in contention to play a vital role for the team in the remainder of the season.

Johnson, on the other hand, has had his fair share of mistakes in a Liverpool shirt and thus the delay by the management to offer him a new contract. The remarkable thing about Flanagan is his versatility. Although he is primarily a right-back and thus a direct competitor of Glen Johnson for that spot, he is more than useful at the left back position and has more than made up for the less than satisfactory display from both the left-backs of the club, Jose Enrique and Aly Cissokho.

Provided Liverpool strengthen the left-back position next season, keeping in mind the Champions League, it would be a direct clash between the veteran Johnson and the rookie Flanagan for that single place in the team. And this is where manager Brendan Rodgers and the others have to make a stern call on whom to play as the first choice right-back next season onward.

We can take a look at their performances from this season to give us a better idea as to where they stand going into the next season, which arguably would be one of the most important seasons for the club in quite sometime.

Glen Johnson had remained injured for a sizable number of matches this term and that has affected his performance to an extent. But even after that his statistics are impressive and they show that the Englishman has won 56% of tackles that he has committed himself into. He can boast of an average pass accuracy of 83%, which is crucial considering his knack of bursting forward and helping the attackers.

Glen Johnson's stats (Source: Squawka)
His average defensive actions per game show a number of 5, which is not something to boast of, but for a wing back, it is difficult to up the number radically.

He has often made sparkling runs down the flank and thus created 19 chances in total for his side. But at other times, he has taken the task of shooting the ball on himself, which has not been helpful to him or his side and undone a lot of good works from the team. His shot accuracy of 50% validates his incapability as a finisher and it is high time Rodgers directs him to distribute the ball with world class finishers such as Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge upfront.

When we talk about Jon Flanagan, the first thing that should be kept in mind is his tender age of 21 and the fact that he is still in his learning curve. 

Considering that, he has an average number of 6 defensive actions per game, a number that needs improvement but shows the early promise. Flanagan shows the attitude and mentality of a classic English defender and never shies away from a challenge, in spite of not having the best physique around.

Jon Flanagan's stats (Source: Squawka)
Although he has just won 45% of the duels, still it must be kept in mind that he has attempted 84 duels in total. 38 times he has tried to take on an opposition in an aerial battle and has succeeded 17 times. But with Liverpool giving away too many goals from the from dead ball situation, there is dire need of a defender with the capability of heading the ball and Flanagan can fill that vacancy.

Flanagan also can be handy going forward and he has already scored once this season playing 14 games. He has also made a number of moves forward and has made the Anfield faithful to believe that he can make the right-back position his own in future.

However, coming back to the question, it would be too premature to let Johnson go and restore the faith in Flanagan in totality. As impressive as he has been in his early days, he is still inexperienced at the European level and that will come with age and the right mentoring. Johnson, on the other hand, has been a loyal lieutenant of the club for a long time now and his services could prove to be vital in a year when Liverpool rub shoulders with the greats of Europe.

We firmly believe that Flanagan is the future, but it would need delicate handling and above all time to make him one of the best in the times to come. 

This is a guest blog. You can follow more of the writer's work at Alive for Football.