What Wataru Endo's mixed display against Brentford shows for Liverpool

Wataru Endo made just his second start in the Premier League in the 3-0 win over Brentford on Sunday afternoon.

Jurgen Klopp named his No. 3 in the starting XI to replace the suspended Alexis Mac Allister in what was a weakened Liverpool midfield.  

The Reds were also without Curtis Jones, Ryan Gravenberch, Stefan Bajcetic and Thiago, meaning Cody Gakpo joined Endo and Dominik Szoboszlai in a rejigged three. 

Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners and they also had another two goals disallowed for offside in what seemed to be a fairly one-sided game.

The stats don’t necessarily support that narrative though with the away side finishing with an Expected Goals haul that was almost identical to the numbers posted by Liverpool (1.71 to 1.68). Bryan Mbeumo missed a gilt-edged chance when he raced through in the first half and seemed to be caught between two minds on how to finish. In the end, his chipped effort was saved by Alisson. 

READ MORE: Liverpool 3-0 Brentford – Player Ratings

The hosts created three big chances with the Bees carving out two of their own. The away side also had more corners. Thomas Frank’s side managed 16 attempts on goal to Liverpool’s 17.

On paper, it was an even game. 

Klopp’s men showed their ruthlessness though to romp to a big victory. They are now just a point off the top heading into the game against leaders Manchester City after the international break. 

There was an extra focus on the midfield three following the draw with Luton and the loss to Toulouse. While an underwhelming performance from the trio as a unit would’ve been understandable in the circumstances, they surprised a number of people. It was easily Gakpo’s best showing in the middle third having been trialled there earlier in the campaign.

Endo had a game of two halves. In the opening 45 minutes, he looked significantly off the pace but he grew into the match. 

Jurgen Klopp even praised him in his post-match interview with BBC Match of the Day. The German tactician said: “Wataru Endo's performance was top. He saved our lives in many moments and was super disciplined. So many good moments. The wind made life difficult and they pressed so there were tricky moments but he was really good."

Perhaps Klopp is being a little too generous with his praise of the 30-year-old. 

He did an ok job anchoring the midfield but the stats don’t paint a pretty picture. The former VfB Stuttgart midfielder won just one of his ground duels and two of his five aerial duels. He committed four fouls and was fortunate not to pick up a booking. Brentford dribbled past him on two occasions and he looked a little lacklustre during certain transitional moments. He did win the one tackle he was credited with and he was successful with 86% of his passes. 

In fact, his pass map was fairly encouraging. Against a team as difficult to play against as Brentford, Endo kept the ball moving. He wasn’t flashy but he wasn’t in the team for that. You can see above that he just kept recycling possession in the opposition’s half as the Reds looked for openings. 

It is what you want from your deepest midfield in a game you are dominating the ball in. 

However, Klopp did single out a particular moment during his interview when he said Endo won an important header at the back post. And this header probably played a vital role in the clean sheet.

If you look at the image above, Virgil Van Dijk isn’t in the best position to deal with a ball being played across the Liverpool goal. He’s behind two Brentford players and if that back post header is won by the Bees, it is a potential tap-in for one of the two on the move. 

It is a big header by the Japan skipper.

It might not seem like much given we’re into the 90th minute and the Reds have a three-goal cushion but it gives you an insight into Endo as a player. He doesn’t switch off and he’s determined to keep the opposition out, regardless of the score. 

The showing wasn’t enough to keep his place in the starting XI when everyone is once again fit and available but it was a performance that suggests there is a decent squad player there if a few things are worked on.

He needs to win more of his duels but on the ball, he is good enough to play a role for the Reds. 

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