How missing out on Caicedo and Lavia has propelled Liverpool’s trophy charge

Liverpool ensured that Jurgen Klopp will leave the club having won a trophy in his final season after beating Chelsea 1-0 in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.

Much of the talk following the final has concerned the youthfulness of Liverpool’s team, with several teenagers in the side which finished the game. But among those youngsters was the experience of not only match winner Virgil Van Dijk but also midfielder Wataru Endo, who once again impressed in the centre of the pitch.

The Japanese international has made a fantastic impact at the club since signing in the summer but may not have been signed at all, had Liverpool pulled off a move for either Romeo Lavia or Moises Caicedo.

Caicedo was the subject of a club record bid from the Reds before the then Brighton man decided to join Chelsea, while Lavia too followed Caicedo in deciding to snub Liverpool and head to west London. That prompted Klopp and the club to move for the much older but much cheaper Stuttgart midfielder Endo, who signed at Anfield last August for just £16m.

At the time, it looked like a blow that Liverpool had to settle for the 31-year-old after missing out on the opportunity to sign two young, exciting and dynamic midfielders. But that perception has quickly changed after the way this season has panned out…

Endo’s excellence

Endo played all 120 minutes plus the added on time of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final win over Chelsea, anchoring a midfield which started with the experienced Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch alongside him but throughout the game featured youngsters Conor Bradley, Bobby Clark and James McConnell. “Wataru Endo, oh my god,” Klopp said after the game. “He walked through the ceremony with the stiffest legs I ever saw.”

His energy and experience among a team of youngsters was key to keeping Liverpool in with a chance of winning, before Van Dijk headed in late on. These were his match stats, as per Squawka…

Endo began his Liverpool career as a rotation option for Klopp. He started only two Premier League games prior to December 6 but since then has become an integral part of the title chasing side and became the first player since 2006 to play five games in 13 days for Liverpool. Of the 11 Premier League games that Endo has started for Liverpool, his side have won nine and drawn the other two – which were against Manchester United and Arsenal. Obviously this is not all down to Endo but there is a clear difference with him in the side from the start – with the 14 Premier League games he did not start made up of nine wins, three draws and two defeats.

His all action and combative style of play has been a huge asset for Klopp and has allowed the wealth of attacking talent at his disposal to flourish. Endo is constantly involved in the game when he plays – averaging 57.1 successful passes and 80.3 touches per 90 minutes while winning 6.22 duels per 90 minutes, according to FotMob. He is not a flashy player but one that does the simple things very well, providing balance alongside the more creative flair players in a Liverpool side which has already won one trophy this season and could win another three.

Unlucky Lavia

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Despite signing for the club last summer, Lavia’s Chelsea career is yet to even get going having been injured for almost the entire campaign. The Blues paid Southampton £58 million for the former Manchester City midfielder but so far he has played just once in the Premier League for the club – 32 minutes off the bench against Crystal Palace in December before getting injured again.

The good news for Lavia is that time is on his side. The 20-year-old still has plenty of years ahead of him to get back fit and prove he is worth the enormous price tag Chelsea paid for him but had Liverpool completed a deal for Lavia and he had the same injury prone season as the one he is having right now, they would no doubt be much weaker for it, compared with a fully fit Endo who is contributing every week.

Caicedo yet to deliver on huge fee

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Caicedo has not been playing poorly for Chelsea, but nor has he consistently shown the level of performance that you would expect from someone that cost £115m. At Brighton, the 22-year-old transformed from a £4.5m player into one of the Premier League’s best holding midfielders which prompted both Liverpool and Chelsea into bidding big money for him. That price tag was not just based on the money he is worth now, however, but also on the player he could become in the future.

But when it comes to Liverpool’s trophy charge this season, landing Endo and losing out on Caicedo has been a better outcome for Klopp. We do not know how the Ecuadorian would have fared at Liverpool and whether their better team and different tactical system might have allowed him to hit the ground running far better than he has at Chelsea, but at times Caicedo’s rawness has been exposed and Endo’s experience and calmness is much better suited to challenging for silverware right now.

Caicedo put in a good performance against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final but, like for much of the season, still looked uncomfortable and unconvincing in possession at times. He has made some costly errors this season, including giving the ball away against Wolves for their equaliser in Chelsea’s recent 4-2 defeat. If you spend that amount of money on a player, consistency should be a given.

Lavia and Caicedo could still become players worthy of the money Chelsea spent on them, and in a few years’ time the conversation could switch to what a coup it was that Chelsea pulled off the signings of both over rivals Liverpool. But there is no guarantee of that, and based on their shortcomings this season, Klopp’s chances of winning multiple trophies has been boosted by missing out on both youngsters which instead prompted the club to move for Endo.

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