Stats: Who should replace Henderson in the heart of the Liverpool midfield?

Lucas Leiva

With the midfielder suspended for three matches after his red card against Manchester City, Brendan Rodgers has a decision to make.

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson will miss three crucial matches in their title run-in after he was dismissed in the closing stages of the Reds’ 3-2 win over Manchester City for a challenge on Samir Nasri.

Henderson has become an integral part of the Liverpool midfield this season and has been renowned for his pressing, technical ability and tactical awareness – he is a player that opponents don’t really like facing.

So, that will leave a void in the side for the visits to Norwich City and Crystal Palace – and the crucial home match against Chelsea at Anfield.

The candidates to replace the 23-year old are Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva – though with the extent of Daniel Sturridge’s hamstring injury yet to be revealed, both of them could come into the side with a slight change of system.

So, who is best equipped to replace Henderson in the middle of the park?

Of course, it could depend on the game. For a game like Chelsea, Rodgers may want the player that offers him a bit more steel and fight in the middle of the park, but for games like Norwich City and Crystal Palace he might want someone who is likely to open up a stubborn defence.

Neither Allen nor Lucas are strangers to first team action under Brendan Rodgers. Injuries have sometimes forced the Northern Irishman’s hand – but here is a look at how the two midfielders have done so far this season, and the qualities they bring to the Liverpool midfield.

  TeamPosOutfielder BlockAppsMins
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 7 23 1,624
Joe Allen Liverpool MF 2 20 1,118
  TeamPosWon Tackle / appsAppsMins
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 2.39 23 1,624
Joe Allen Liverpool MF 2.10 20 1,118
  TeamPosDuel Won / appsAppsMins
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 6.22 23 1,624
Joe Allen Liverpool MF 4.65 20 1,118

On all of the defensive aspects, Lucas seems to come out on top against the Welshman but that may have been down to the fact he has played the more defensive midfield role for much of the first half of the season - also the more minutes on the field could be a contributing factor. The Brazilian seems to be stronger than the Welshman in terms of his presence and willingness to get stuck into the challenges. Lucas has made more blocks and wins more duels per game - but there isn't a lot of difference as to how many tackles each player wins.

  TeamPosTotal Scoring AttAppsMins
Joe Allen Liverpool MF 12 20 1,118
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 4 23 1,624
  TeamPosFinal Third Entries / appsAppsMins
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 4.96 23 1,624
Joe Allen Liverpool MF 3.35 20 1,118
  TeamPosTotal Fwd Zone Pass / appsAppsMins
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 23.96 23 1,624
Joe Allen Liverpool MF 17.00 20 1,118

Here is a selection of the more attacking elements to their game, and Joe Allen appears to be the player who is more willing to have a shot at goal out of the two. Henderson has scored four goals and has seven assists to his name so he brings something to the side going forward as well as his work in the Liverpool engine room. However, Allen does enter the final third on fewer occasions than Lucas, nor does he make a pass in that part of the field as frequently as the Brazilian.

One factor that could sway the decision the Welshman's way though is the amount of times he recovers the ball in the attacking third in the field. Per game it is more than Lucas (0.25 compared to Lucas's 0.09). 

Most of the statistics point to Lucas playing in the side, but statistics don't exactly account for style and the make-up of the side. What Brendan Rodgers opts for remains to be seen on Sunday lunchtime at Carrow Road.

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