Liverpool FC

Kylian Mbappe just proved Liverpool may have dangerous new attacking plan

Liverpool FC

Liverpool only have seven players at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and it seems apparent they won’t all see too much playing time either. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jordan Henderson were unused substitutes in England’s opening game against Iran while Fabinho is often in and out of the Brazil side.

Virgil van Dijk captained Netherlands in their 2-0 win over Senegal, and his central defensive partner from club football, Ibrahima Konate, represented defending champions France in their 5-1 victory against Australia. Both have played surprisingly little international football when viewed in the context of their careers.

The Senegal match was Van Dijk’s 50th for his country, meaning he has the second fewest caps of the 32 captains at the World Cup. But that’s a wealth of experience compared to Konate, who made just his third appearance for Les Bleus on Tuesday evening.

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France are well stocked in his position, in fairness, as they are across the field. Konate has suffered with injuries at times too, else he might have featured more than he has.

And while it must be acknowledged that Australia are the weakest side in Group D – though being underrated didn’t stop Saudi Arabia against Argentina – the Liverpool centre-back put in a fine performance. His defensive partner and former RB Leipzig teammate Dayot Upamecano topped his numbers in most categories, but he still made some impressive contributions.

Most importantly, Konate was defensively sound. He was the only player on either side to win every single duel which they contested, with four in the air and three on the ground. The 23-year-old also made six recoveries, the joint-second most in the match, with one classified as a ‘high turnover’ as it occurred within 40 metres of the Australia goal.

Arguably more impressive was his work on the ball. Progressive passes are defined as completed efforts “that move the ball towards the opponent’s goal at least 10 yards from its furthest point in the last six passes, or any completed pass into the penalty area.” They are not something Konate has generally delivered across his career; he provided 2.9 per 90 with Leipzig and has averaged 3.3 at Liverpool.

His figures, while slightly higher, are almost the same for passes into the final third. Yet the Frenchman delivered 10 of those against Australia and six progressive passes. Most intriguing from a Liverpool perspective were the two long diagonal efforts to the left flank, which can be seen in light blue on the image in the above tweet. Those two excellent passes went to Kylian Mbappe.

This is not another ‘Mbappe to Liverpool’ argument (though it would obviously be marvellous if he did decide to quit Paris for Merseyside and drastically trim his wage demands). The reason those passes brought the Reds to mind is that they have a speedy left winger of their own in the shape of Luis Diaz.

Due to their respective injuries, the Colombian hasn’t shared…

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