Who, if anyone, should make way for Johnson in the Liverpool team?

With Glen Johnson likely to return to first team action this weekend it means either one of Jon Flanagan or Aly Cissokho will drop out of the starting XI.

Glen Johnson looks set for a return to first team action this weekend for Liverpool after spending a period on the sidelines. His fairly swift return may have initially come as a bit of a surprise as manager Brendan Rodgers said he would be out for an indefinite amount of time in order to get the player 'right.'

Johnson has had a couple of injury problems this season - an ankle issue he picked up against Manchester United in September kept him out of the side before he was struck down by illness ahead of Liverpool's defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the league in September and his form since he returned hasn't been up to the standard you would expect from the England international. 

For much of the season, the full-back positions have been changed around somewhat, especially since Jose Enrique picked up a knee injury earlier on in the season. If Johnson were to come back into the side, it will be on the right, meaning that if Jon Flanagan plays he'll be on the left side of the defence, where he had an impressive spell in the side in the run up to Christmas before sustaining a hamstring injury.

So, what do the statistics say about the three players vying for full-back positions in Brendan Rodgers' starting 11 in the near future? 

NameTeamPosTotal Tackle / appsAppsMins
Jon Flanagan Liverpool DF 3.00 11 889
Aly Cissokho Liverpool DF 2.46 13 1,027
Glen Johnson Liverpool DF 2.12 17 1,441

The above statistic is probably of little surprise for Liverpool fans to see. Flanagan has been a defender that has positioned himself well when he has played either on the left or the right and has relished the challenge against opposing full backs and wingers. He times his challenges well and is steadily gaining a reputation as a tough tackling defender. Aly Cissokho has got through his fair share of challenges which may surprise a few people. There is a reasonable explanation for Glen Johnson averaging less than the two of them [though only Kolo Toure other than Flanagan and Cissokho average more tackles a game] as he is more at home in getting involved in Liverpool's attacking play than Flanagan or Cissokho.

NameTeamPosWon Tackle / appsAppsMins
Jon Flanagan Liverpool DF 2.27 11 889
Glen Johnson Liverpool DF 1.88 17 1,441
Aly Cissokho Liverpool DF 1.46 13 1,027

The above statistic however probably proves why Cissokho isn't the most popular of players amongst Liverpool fans. Though there are signs he can challenge for the ball well, he doesn't seem to be that clinical when it comes to winning his challenges, whereas Flanagan and Johnson seem to win a higher proportion than the Frenchman and the Reds look defensively more solid in the wide areas as a result.

NameTeamPosBlocked Cross / appsAppsMins
Aly Cissokho Liverpool DF 1.00 13 1,027
Jon Flanagan Liverpool DF 0.45 11 889
Glen Johnson Liverpool DF 0.24 17 1,441

A surprise? Maybe not. Cissokho hasn't looked the most comfortable going forward, perhaps why there have been occasions this season that Brendan Rodgers has played other players out of their natural position but ahead of him. What it does display is that Cissokho feels more comfortable as backs against the wall type defender who likes to stay on his feet when up against an opponent - therefore it is of little surprise that he gets more blocks in. 

NameTeamPosInterception Won / appsAppsMins
Glen Johnson Liverpool DF 1.65 17 1,441
Jon Flanagan Liverpool DF 1.55 11 889
Aly Cissokho Liverpool DF 1.08 13 1,027

Yet again, this probably isn't a surprise that the two more forward thinking of the trio of full backs Liverpool could select for this weekend's clash against Swansea have won more interceptions. This perhaps because the Reds do like to push their full-backs up the field at most opportunities, and as already mentioned the fact that Cissokho is the most reluctant of the three to press high up the field. 

In a home game like the one Liverpool face at the weekend against Swansea City, Brendan Rodgers may want his full backs to get at the opposition early on, and given how highly Rodgers speaks of Johnson in terms of the phrase 'you don't know how much you miss him until he's not there', he would seem a certainty to start if fit. 

Though Cissokho looks to have improved in recent weeks, he may be the man to miss out.

image: © kong niffe

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