Can Liverpool’s best midfield be determined by win percentage?

Jurgen Klopp has a wealth of midfield talent at his disposal, but does win percentage give an idea as to the best trio?

When it comes to Liverpool’s strongest 11, the midfield is often the aspect that sparks the most debate.

The back five has become fairly settled - with Joel Matip or Ibrahim Konate the only real conversation - while the front-line is generally five into three.

But the Reds midfield offers much more variation - and that invariably leads to much more disagreement.

Jurgen Klopp has leaned towards a ‘horses-for-courses’ style approach this season, changing his starting three regularly based on opposition.

Over 25 Premier League matches, the German has fielded 16 different trios, with only four making it past a single game.

But is there an argument to factor in win percentages? Or is the question even as simple as ‘the best three’?

A winning combo

Liverpool have won 17 of the 18 games in which both Thiago and Fabinho have started.
Liverpool have won 17 of the 18 games in which both Thiago and Fabinho have started.
Liverpool have won 17 of the 18 games in which both Thiago and Fabinho have started.

A midfield of Thiago, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson has been the most used and the most successful in the Premier League, winning five from five, while a trio of Henderson, Fabinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were starting for Liverpool’s only two defeats, against West Ham United and Leicester City.

The consensus is that Liverpool’s best midfield consists of Fabinho, Thiago and one other - and that is backed by the fact that Klopp’s side have won 17 of the 18 games in which the two have started, drawing once.

It’s not a perfect reflection of their performance - given that a start against Norwich is more likely to deliver a win than a start against Manchester City - but Naby Keita has the highest win percentage (83.3%) of the rest of Klopp’s midfield men.

Given that the 27-year-old’s box-to-box energy provides balance to a midfield containing the defensive Fabinho and a playmaking Thiago, Keita has a strong case for the third cog in the machine.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has the next highest win rate, with 12 wins from 15 starts (80%), while Curtis Jones (9/12) and Harvey Elliott (3/4) both hold rates of 75%.

Liverpool have won 17 of the 24 games in which Fabinho has started - a win rate of 70.8% - while Henderson’s 67.9% (19/28) and James Milner’s 60% (6/10) prop up the rest.

Win rates too simple?

Henderson’s win rate is at the lower end at just 67.9%, but it fails to acknowledge the difficulty of games played and the influence of someone like the 31-year-old from the bench.

Take the Champions League tie against Inter Milan, for example: Klopp started with Thiago, Fabinho and Elliott but saw his midfield overrun as the Italian side had the better of the game.

The game turned on 59 minutes when Keita and Henderson replaced Fabinho and Elliott, the two gaining control in the middle of the park and providing the base for the Reds to go on to win 2-0.

And the simple fact is that it has been incredibly rare that Klopp has had every option to pick from.

Thiago and Keita have the highest win rates but have only 23 starts between them, whereas Fabinho and Henderson both have win rates below 75% but have a combined 54 starts.

Liverpool’s best midfield is as much about reliability as it is about win rates - and it is as much about opposition as it is about anything.

Horses for courses

The key to having a wealth of midfield talent isn’t that you have so many options from which to pick your best three, it’s that you have multiple ‘best-threes’ to use from week to week.

Klopp’s ideal trio for April’s trip to Manchester City will be different to the midfield used in Wednesday’s game against Leeds United.

And the options can account for fatigue and injury, as well as inevitable dips in form - Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain were both poor in Saturday’s win against Norwich, but the introduction of Thiago on the hour allowed Liverpool to exert control over the Canaries.

The fact that debate is so rife is a testament to the recruitment and to the performance levels of the players, and with Klopp’s men still fighting on all four fronts, there can never be too much choice.