A good replacement?: Comparing the numbers of Saul and Wijnaldum

Liverpool appear to be seriously interested in signing Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul as a replacement for Gini Wijnaldum.

This window has been a very strange one from a Reds standpoint.

It had been obvious for some time that Wijnaldum was on the way out. Usually, Liverpool get their business done nice and early, especially when they know exactly what they need.

They reportedly are hoping to sign a replacement for the Dutch star, but are going to wait until later in the window to do so. The priority right now is a forward.

At first, it seemed like Florian Neuhaus was the most-likely midfield signing. Then, it was Renato Sanches.

Now, it is Saul.

News broke of Liverpool interest last week, before reports of an official offer being submitted this weekend.

There is still a long way to go, but it is worth taking a look at whether Saul would be a good replacement for Wijnaldum.

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Here, RTK will crunch the numbers of the last three seasons and compare and contrast the two midfield stars.

Saul and Wijnaldum have similar styles

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

We have compared the numbers from 2018/19 until 2020/21.

Wijnaldum was 27 at the beginning of the 18/19 season, while Saul was 23. So, Wijnaldum was in his prime during this period, while Saul is only coming into his now.

Yet they still profiled fairly similarly.

The Holland star’s job at Liverpool was all about keeping things ticking over. Showing for passes, retaining the ball, working hard, being in the right place at the right time.

Saul can do all of that too. He wouldn’t make it in a Diego Simeone side if he couldn’t.

The Spaniard has more goals and assists in this period, despite it not being his main job. He has 12 goals and two assists, compared to Wijnaldum’s nine and zero.

Wijnaldum attempted more passes and had a higher completion rate. This may be down to Atletico’s more direct style.

Photo by Manu Reino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Saul takes more risks with the ball, which is hardly a surprise given how risk-free Wijnaldum is.

Neither player really likes to run with the ball. Wijnaldum attempted 1.89 dribbles per game, while Saul attempted 0.99. They both do their running off the ball.

Finally, Saul makes more tackles and interceptions. He was making 3.64 per 90, compared to the new PSG man’s 1.83.

So, while Wijnaldum is slightly safer in possession, it is likely due to the role that he was given.

We have no doubt that Saul could do the same job if asked to do so, or something completely different if that is what Jurgen Klopp decides.

He may not be an ultra-exciting attacking midfielder, but he is top-class at what he does.

Let’s see if Liverpool decide that he is the right man for the job.

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