Fabian Balbuena was one of West Ham’s most low-key signings this summer but the signs are that he’s settling down well alongside fellow new-boy Issa Diop at the heart of the Hammers’ defence.
At the other end of the table, Joe Gomez has returned from injury to become an integral part of Liverpool’s now-stingy defence.
Not only that, the young Englishman is the subject of much excitement at international level; he would surely have been in Russia this summer if not for injury and is perfect for that right-sided centre-back role in Gareth Southgate’s 5-3-2.
But how do the two men compare? We’ve looked at the numbers to see how Balbuena’s impressive early season form compares to another man who has caught the eye at the top of the division…
We will look at the two men’s individual numbers to begin with; the context of their team’s stats and approach will come below.
Balbuena’s four blocks are more than Gomez’s three and he has made twice as many interceptions as the Englishman; 22 versus 11. Both Manuel Pellegrini and Jurgen Klopp prefer a high line and high pressure, but Balbuena is pinching the ball much more often.
Both men have won nine of their 14 tackles this term; but Balbuena has made 62 clearances to Gomez’s 23, as well as winning 20 headers to the younger man’s 15.
That said, Gomez is staying on his feet more often; only making five fouls and not picking up a yellow.
What do the numbers tell us?
The difficulty with judging defenders by the numbers is that the worse teams will have busier backlines. The Hammers are undoubtedly performing below Liverpool’s level, so that will skew the numbers.
It is interesting to note that both sides are trying to operate with a high line, however; which makes Balbuena’s extra interceptions impressive.
That said, a low-key recruit for the Hammers is posting numbers that can compete with one of England’s big hopes for the future; that’s a big coup for Pellegrini’s recruitment system. Long may it continue.