Much has been made of Liverpool’s recent form and their push for the title, whilst plaudits have regularly been rained on Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling, it is another young player who deserves more credit than he is getting.
Jon Flannagan has made 14 appearances for Liverpool so far this season, an increasing number of which have been in recent weeks. He has played 7 times at left back and 7 times at right back, highlighting his versatility. More recently he’s been employed at left back, with Glen Johnson playing in his preferred right back position. Whilst Flannagan’s chances were initially born out of necessity, with injuries to Johnson, Enrique and Sakho providing the chance, he has seized the opportunity with both hands and does not look out of his depth at the highest level. Flannagan is giving Rogers a selection nightmare when Enrique does return from injury, on current form it’ll be hard to leave the youngster out.
The 21 year old is making 3.6 tackles per game and an average of 1.6 interceptions whenever he plays. An area on which he could look to build on is his discipline, conceding an average of 1.4 fouls per game, isn’t the worst but it could certainly be improved. With a higher number of tackles, you’d expect a greater number of fouls as a general rule.
Flannagan is dribbled past on average 1.8 times per game, that’s pretty good for a full back. For comparison Southampton’s Luke Shaw is dribbled past just 0.6 times per game, but also makes fewer tackles (1.9) so maybe Flannagan dives in too often, making him easier to get past. Also it’s likely that teams will target what they see as a weak spot, but against Manchester United neither Mata nor Januzaj could get anything out of the left back.
Another reason for Shaw’s superior statistics is likely to be his strength, making him harder to get past, Flannagan at times looks a bit weak, which is perhaps shown by the fact he has won just 1.2 aerial duels per game (compared to Shaw’s 1.9). Full backs generally win less headers since fewer long balls are played out wide.
In Premier League games in which Flannagan has played Liverpool have lost just two (Arsenal and Hull), compared to three when he hasn’t been in the team. Whilst it’s fair to say that that record isn’t entirely down to Flannagan, and depends on the teams Liverpool have been playing, as well as other absentees and a handful of other factors, it’s interesting to note and not completely worth ignoring. The reason for the form is more likely to be that Flannagan’s inclusion has coincided with a settled back four and the defensive stability that adds is so crucial (and often overlooked).
Going forward Flannagan adds another dimension to the Liverpool attack, whilst he isn’t as adventurous as Glen Johnson, full backs pushing on has been a consistent feature of Liverpool’s style of play under Rogers. Flannagan has one goal to his name so far this season, which is in fact more than Glen Johnson, but has an average of just 0.4 shots per game and 0.1 crosses per game. Given that Liverpool aren’t the tallest team going forward, perhaps the small number of crosses shouldn’t surprise us, similarly there are many more accomplished finishers in the team so Flannagan can hardly be blamed for passing to others to let them have a shot.
Unsurprisingly for a player in a Brendan Rogers team, Flannagan has high pass accuracy (81.4%) and makes on average 37.6 passes per game. Rogers’ philosophy is based on building possession from the back and dominating games and these figures fit in well with that style of play. As does the fact that he only plays 1.7 long balls on average per game.
The fact that Liverpool have chosen not to make the loan move of Aly Cissokho permanent speaks volumes of Rogers' faith in Flannagan. Jon Flannagan is certainly a bright young prospect and Liverpool will be hoping he continues to develop at this current rate, if he does the Merseysider will be a favourite of the Kop for years to come.
Statistics courtesey of whoscored.com