Wataru Endo

Wataru Endo the difference between success and failure for Liverpool this season

Liverpool completely overhauled their midfield during the summer transfer window.

  • Published before Liverpool's win over Southampton in the FA Cup.

The Reds signed World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, they brought in Dominik Szoboszlai for a club-record fee for a midfielder (£65million), the highly-rated Ryan Gravenberch was added to the squad after Jurgen Klopp managed to pry him away from Bayern Munich after a long pursuit and VfB Stuttgart captain Wataru Endo was added to replace the experience lost when Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Fabinho departed.

The decision to pivot to Endo having missed out on Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia raised a few eyebrows.

Yet as Liverpool head into March sitting top of the Premier League table having already won the Carabao Cup, there’s an argument to be made that the Japan international is the signing of the season.

Not just for the Reds but across the entire English top-flight.


The 31-year-old has been one of Liverpool’s best players this term having seamlessly adapted to life in England. He missed out on being named Player of the Match in the Carabao Cup final with match-winner Virgil van Dijk winning the award for a second time.

But the No3 was arguably just as important as the skipper in the win over Chelsea at Wembley.

He bossed a midfield area containing two £100million players in Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez.

Manager Jurgen Klopp singled him out for praise in his post-match interview, saying: “Waturu Endo! Oh my God! He walked through the ceremony with the stiffest legs I’ve ever seen.”

The Liverpool boss will be feeling validated having pushed for the 2019/20 champions to sign him.

When asked about the move when it was announced, Klopp said: "If he's not 30, firstly, I am not sure we get him. Second, he was always on my list, just usually we don't sign players of this age group.

"He is obviously a top fit and we will have a lot of fun with him. I'm really sure he can help us immediately, which is super-cool because the season already started. So, he will show how good he is on the pitch and I can't wait to have him around."

A huge performance at Wembley

Endo played 120 minutes in the final, he was the only senior midfielder to do so.

He attempted 68 passes against the Blues and found a teammate 91% of the time. The diminutive midfielder won four of the six tackles he attempted, recovered the ball on 12 occasions and won 12 of his 19 duels.

He finished the game alongside the inexperienced duo of Bobby Clark and James McConnell in the middle third. He didn’t babysit the duo, he simply supervised things as the senior man.

Wataru Endo's heat map vs Chelsea

Endo didn’t miss a beat. He’s not missed a beat since moving to Merseyside.

Liverpool’s domestic record with their No3 starting is, to be blunt, quite ridiculous. The Reds have played 15 games with him in their starting XI and won 13 times, drawing the other two. They average 2.53 goals per game and concede just 0.73 goals.

Without him from the off, Liverpool have played 19 matches. They have won 12, drawn on five occasions and lost twice. Their goals per game average drops to 2.42 while they also concede more goals (1.11 per game).

Statistically speaking, Liverpool are more of a goal threat and better defensively when Endo starts.

He’s playing the role that Klopp envisaged for him.

In Endo’s announcement video, the German manager can be seen saying the following: “We really need you and your heart and your legs and your football ability and your football brain. Your desire, we need it. We have a really good team. Ready to work, but very offensive.”

His influence extends to others

Endo brings balance to the team. He also has a direct impact on Mac Allister.

With the former VfB skipper in the team, the Liverpool No10 moves into more of a familiar role as opposed to the defensive midfield role he’s been tasked with for large periods this term.

Klopp likes Mac Allister at the base of the midfield but it does prevent him from adding value to the team with his final third contributions.

Alexis Mac Allister shakes hands with Jurgen Klopp

Over recent weeks, Mac Allister has been able to get more involved in what is going on in the final phase. And Liverpool have been scoring goals galore.

The Premier League leaders secured back-to-back 4-1 wins in the English top-flight. They defeated Brentford at the Gtech Community Stadium and then dismantled Luton at Anfield.

Mac Allister scored against the Bees having made a run into the penalty area before calmly converting his shot, despite being under pressure, to give Liverpool an all-important second goal on the day.

He wouldn’t have found himself in such a position had he been anchoring the midfield.

Alexis Mac Allister's pass map vs Luton

In the win over Luton, Mac Allister claimed two assists. He set up the opener for Van Dijk to power home a header before lashing in a cross for Cody Gakpo to divert into the net just moments later.

Again, he wouldn’t have found himself in a position to assist the second had he not been freed up by Endo.

On Sunday, Mac Allister carved out three chances against Chelsea. His game has been tweaked by the introduction of Endo. He’s seeing less of the ball but doing more in the final third.

It is a fair trade-off, all things considered.

With Curtis Jones out until the end of March at the earliest, Thiago not expected to make an appearance again this season and the return of Stefan Bajcetic still up in the air, Endo is going to be a key player for the Reds during the final stages of the season.

He may rotate with Mac Allister as the deepest midfielder for the Reds or he may be promoted to anchor the midfield permanently with the Argentine being part of the shuffle higher up the pitch due to the injuries.

Keeping Endo fit could really be the difference between success and failure for this Liverpool team.

Who would’ve thought that in the summer?

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