Football stats experts WhoScored delve deeper into the facts you need to know about a German international defender linked with Liverpool…
“His yellow card”, Jurgen Klopp said, was his reason for taking off Dejan Lovren at half-time when his Liverpool side were two goals to the good at Southampton on Sunday. In his place came Martin Skrtel, who ultimately succeeded in costing the Reds all three points at St Mary’s. Minutes after his introduction, Skrtel gained his own place in the book having conceded a penalty for a foul on Graziano Pelle.
While Simon Mignolet spared his blushes to deny Sadio Mane from 12-yards, Skrtel didn’t aid his cause, with the centre-back at fault for Mane’s second and Saints’ decisive third goal of the game in a 3-2 defeat. An underwhelming display to say the least contributed to a WhoScored.com rating of 4.7, the fourth lowest of all outfield players in the Premier League this season. While Skrtel was one of Brendan Rodgers’ first choice centre-backs, the 31-year-old Slovakian could be one of the first to be shown the Anfield exit this summer.
The signing of Joel Matip has already been confirmed, but he is unlikely to be the last defensive arrival when the transfer window re-opens. Conveniently following Skrtel’s cataclysmic half of football, Liverpool have been linked with another centre-back in the form of Niklas Sule. The gargantuan German may not have performed to his full potential this season, but at 20 years of age, there is plenty of time to improve.
Given Hoffenheim’s perilous position in the Bundesliga, no player for the side has exactly covered themselves in glory this season, though performances have improved since Julian Nagelsmann’s appointment last month. Indeed, Sule has provided the foundations with which to build upon in Hoffenheim’s recent up-turn in form.
Sule (2430) is one of four outfielders – one of which incidentally is Matip – to play every minute in the Bundesliga this season, which is all the more impressive considering Sule sustained a cruciate ligament rupture in December 2014.
Widely regarded as one of the hottest defensive prospects in Bundesliga, interest from Liverpool comes as little shock. Former Hoffenheim attacker Roberto Firmino would be all too familiar with the youngster’s ability, while Klopp is another who would be well aware of Sule’s talent as a result of his time as Borussia Dortmund boss.
Of course, the young defender’s lack of speed could well be cause for concern given Klopp’s preference to adopt a high pressing approach. However, what Sule lacks in pace, he makes up for in a commendable ability to alleviate pressure on his side’s goal. Sule has made more clearances (169) than any other player in the Bundesliga this season, bringing to light the proactive side of his game.
Furthermore, Sule is a centre-back who would go to any length to ensure his goalkeeper is rarely troubled, with the German willing to put his body on the line for the good of his team. Again, only soon-to-be-Liverpool centre-back Matip (25) has blocked more shots than Sule (24) in Germany’s top tier this term, reinforcing his statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘blocking the ball’.
Given Mignolet’s indifferent form between the sticks, a player of Sule’s talent would improve Liverpool’s defence, with his commendable reading of the game masking his lack of speed. With Matip on board, one would not put it past Klopp to raid the Bundesliga for Sule, particularly if Hoffenheim fail to consolidate their spot in the top-flight of German football this season.
For more stats on Niklas Sule, click here to view his WhoScored.com player page