Alberto Moreno is one of the most aggravating players on Liverpool football club. He has matches of brilliance only to follow them up with matches where he is nowhere to be found defensively. In fact, these swings can occur in the course of a match and can prove to be fatal for his side’s chances. Moreno is not a terrible fullback but his positional awareness is extremely poor. Still 23 years old, the little Spaniard has the time to develop this aspect of his game, but unfortunately, Liverpool fans and manager Jürgen Klopp may not be willing to wait until he figures out that he needs to contribute as a left back not as a left winger.
Moreno’s defensive statistics were very strong for the 2015-2016 season. He averaged a stellar 2.7 tackles, 2.1 interceptions, and 1.7 clearances per match. All of these numbers were superior to his teammate Nathaniel Clyne, except for the number of clearances per match. However, these numbers do not accurately illustrate Moreno’s weaknesses defensively. When the Spaniard is correctly positioned, he is a strong defender. In fact, Moreno won six more tackles than Clyne in Premier League action despite starting five fewer matches. However, the big “if” in that statement is that often times Moreno is caught way out of position, opening up the entire left side of the defense. For example, in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final against Villarreal, Moreno did not track back from the offensive third, leaving Kolo Toure woefully susceptible down the left side. As a result, Villarreal winger Denis Suarez was easily able to make a run down the flank before setting up his teammate Adrian Lopez for the easy tap-in. That error cost Liverpool that match, and even though the Reds were able to dominate the second leg, I am sure everyone around the club would have been resting much easier going into the next match at 0-0 rather than down 1-0. These mistakes cannot occur in matches where so much is on the line. Good teams will and have exacerbated Moreno’s positional weaknesses and for Liverpool to compete at the highest level of European football, the Reds cannot have a defensive hole at left back. Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of Moreno’s game is that he is an adept tackler with fantastic timing on his tackles, but he too often does not even give himself the chance to show his aptitude in this side of the game. The Spaniard is a fine player, but his mental lapses let down his team and causes fans to overlook the positive attributes he brings to the team.
Moreno’s biggest strength is his pace. This gives him the ability to move into the final third, providing support for Liverpool’s attacking players. The offensive side of Moreno’s game is a big part of what he brings to the left back position. The Spaniard recorded a solid pass completion percentage of 81% on passes that averaged 19 meters. Once again, these numbers are superior to Clyne’s numbers in 2015-2016. However, this is an aspect of the game in which Moreno is actually better than Clyne. Moreno’s ability to provide dangerous crosses off his powerful left foot combined with his electric pace is extremely challenging for the opposition to handle. These traits allowed the Spaniard to record four assists in the Premier League (five in all competitions) while also creating an incredible 62 chances. For comparison, Tottenham right back Kyle Walker encompasses many of the same traits as Moreno, but he was only able to create three assists and 34 chances. Furthermore, Moreno also supplied seven more successful crosses than Walker in five less Premier League starts. Moreno’s contributions in the final third cannot be questioned. His willingness to support the attack is elite, and with his defensive abilities continually plaguing his performances, perhaps Moreno’s Liverpool future lies on the wing rather than in defense.
After Moreno’s poor defensive performances, rumors have been swirling that a number of left backs may be heading to Merseyside this summer. Although it is widely believed that any potential signing would be brought in to provide the Spaniard with additional competition for his left back spot, Moreno’s dynamic attacking abilities combined with the Reds’ need for wing players may lead to the Spaniard moving further up the pitch. Even though Moreno still faces his struggles in front of goal his pace and strength in delivering crosses into the box can be extremely useful. The Reds currently lack a true winger outside of the raw Jordon Ibe and Sheyi Ojo. Although Moreno may face a learning curve at the position, the attributes he currently possesses can immediately be effective for the Reds. In addition, he can use his defensive background and pace to close down opposing defenders in Klopp’s gegenpressing. If the Reds are able to bring in a new left back that is able to usurp Moreno to the starting left back spot, Klopp should consider moving Moreno to the wing. This position would better utilize Moreno’s strength while bolstering a weaker area of the Reds’ squad. Moreno will likely never become a regular first team defender on a team with the aspirations Klopp has made realistic to expect in Merseyside. Putting him on the wing would be a win-win situation for both parties—hopefully Klopp and the Liverpool coaching staff evaluate this option for Moreno’s future.