As we put the bow on a season that has brought everything from reluctant optimism to gut-crushing heartbreak, it’s time to focus on the future of Liverpool FC. Today, I would like to make the case for one player who has been often (and in many cases deservedly) criticized but has nonetheless proven to have the potential to be foundational in Arne Slot’s Liverpool: Luis Diaz.

READ MORE: Arne Slot: The Perfect Match? by Zahid Haque
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Let me start by acknowledging what you are most likely already yelling at the top of your lungs while you hastily look for another article to read. The man lacks finishing. There is no way around that. Missed opportunities like the one at that Man City game will haunt us until we secure another Premier League title. But Diaz’s role in the squad is so much more than just scoring.

ENERGY

Diaz was incredibly consistent and energetic this season. Among regular starting players, in a season riddled with injuries and absences, Diaz was a key factor in keeping the team afloat. He played over 2,500 minutes in the Premier League, the most of any attacking player in the squad, second overall. Thus, Diaz was a key factor in turning fans and spectators alike from skeptics to believers this season.

ASTV Shorts: Diaz On An Island

In every game Diaz played, even haters would be hard-pressed to argue that he was not giving it his all. His energy down the left wing would keep defenders on their toes even if everything seemed lost. A key moment that perfectly exemplifies the level of energy and excitement that Diaz brought to the pitch was perhaps that stunning stoppage-time header against Luton Town.

It was a moment overcharged with emotion because of Diaz’s then-current personal situation (the kidnapping of his father), this is a perfect snapshot of Diaz’s true value to Liverpool. Only a special player can come in at the 83rd minute, facing a losing game as a visitor, with immense emotional baggage, and manage to score a goal and recover a point that seemed lost, all within 15 minutes. If that’s not heart, I don’t know what is.

TERRORIZING DEFENDERS

There are not a lot of dribblers better than Diaz in the Premier League right now. Per Footystats.org, Diaz has 62 successful dribbles this season (in the 97th percentile), and a success rate of over 54%. This means he has more dribbles and a higher success rate than Matheus Cunha, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Cole Palmer. Few players, such as Jeremy Doku and Mohammed Kudus, have a higher success rate. In Doku’s case, Diaz has substantially more minutes on the pitch. One wonders if Doku’s success rate would drop with more minutes played.

And such an effective dribbler is a weapon Liverpool should not dismiss easily. A player with the ability to dribble past Man City’s Rodri and Kyle Walker (at the same time) is a player who can break any defense and shift the balance at a moment’s notice. A player with the potential to create more opportunities for effective strikers/goal scorers to capitalize on is one to be cherished.

PASSING

Talking about creating opportunities, Diaz has a knack for this too. This might not be blatantly obvious by looking at his five assists this season in the PL, but the picture comes into focus if we look deeper.

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Diaz has 62 key passes this season, which places him in the 92nd percentile. That is more key passes than Alexis, Trent, and Robbo. Mo has 69. Even though this number might be skewed because of injury time for most of these players, we need to recognize that Diaz is a dangerous player to have in your attack. And one that can be incredibly useful once we have a more efficient front end.

DEFENDING

Finally, Diaz is a good defender (as an attacker), which is a perfect fit for Liverpool’s heavy metal football. Of our core attacking players, Diaz has been involved in (and won) more ground duels than any other attacker in the squad. Those figures are 405 and 165 respectively.

This is of vital importance in a team that functions on constant pressure. Attackers who can get in there and recover the ball, anywhere on the pitch, are the players that will create moments in which the rest of the team can shine.

Diaz is not the best player in the world. He is not the best player in the team. But he is a damn good one and we should not dismiss him easily.

No host, no trivia, all gas, no brakes American Scouser Podcast

No Timucin this week so no one to watch the kids…. and you get to see the result
  1. No host, no trivia, all gas, no brakes
  2. Well… We're Waiting!
  3. Thank you for calling, Please Hold For Arne Slot
  4. All Roads Lead To Mo
  5. Ugly Crying and Tissues
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